Why is Dickens' Hard Times still relevant to a contemporary audience?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I am going to pivot a bit here and argue that Dickens' work is really important for teachers. Mr. Gradgrind is the modern embodiment of a teacher who only believes in a form of high stakes standardized assessment.  Gradgrind believes in "facts, not fancy" and teaches in this manner without any deviation.  In the modern discourse of education, we can see similar strains in school districts and administration that places inordinate value on standardized testing, cutting back Arts programs, extra curricular activities, and even Physical Education programs in order to "teach to the test."  Hard Times is relevant in that Dickens constructs an educator that loses sight of the idea that learning does not solely reside in traditionalist forms. There is learning in the emotional realm, artistic domain, and even in an absorption of the reality that governs the world and the voice needed to add to it or modify it.  When Louisa criticizes her father for failing her in her education, it is a warning to all teachers who do not consider "the whole child" in their pedagogical approach to instruction.  As we constantly seek to determine how better to educate our children, Dickens' work through its depiction of Mr. Gradgrind can prove highly relevant and meaningful in what not to do and thereby enable us a better path on what to do.

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