Can you summarize chapter 1, "The One Thing Needful," from Hard Times?

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The opening chapter of Hard Times characterizes Thomas Gradgrind (who isn't actually named until the second chapter) as a severe and calculating man. He stands inside a classroom full of children and orders that they be taught "nothing but Facts." Mr. Gradgrind believes that nothing other than facts offers any real significance in the world, and he insists that he raises his own children with this same principle.

This chapter offers a detailed physical description of Mr. Gradgrind to further demonstrate how his beliefs affect him personally. He has a "square wall of a forehead," and his eyes are lost in "two dark caves." His voice is "inflexible, dry, and dictatorial," and his physical body is "squared" off.

He speaks again to the teacher of this classroom, demanding that facts be taught to the children above all else. The students in the classroom are reduced to "little vessels" who must be filled "to the brim" with "imperial gallons of facts."

This opening chapter is brief but establishes a dire setting where imagination, creativity, and spontaneity are diminished in the eyes of the school superintendent. The mood is somber as Mr. Gradgrind, a controlling figure, dismisses the idea that there is any place in education for discussion or debate.

It's also important to consider what a life based solely in "facts" produces: a stern and harsh man like Gradgrind himself. Perhaps children should therefore be offered more in their education than to sit complacently while their brains are filled with "gallons of facts" so that their lives reflect beauty and tenderness.

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