In this essay I am going to discuss the theme of schooldays and education in general. I will do this in relation to my study of the pre 20th century texts “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. I will also show how much the system has changed. During the 18th and 19th century mainly upper and middle class parents sent their children to Pe-ping (private) schools. The poor who could not afford education, which cost one pence per week, sent their children to church schools.
The classrooms were often bare except for an embroidered text; this text was religious and was meant to be uplifting. Many girls didn’t attend school. They were taught at home about practical things such as sewing and cooking but others did, as in Jane Eyre’s case, she was sent to Lowood for punishment. Poorer children were only at school for 2-3 years before they had to work for a living.
Only 20% of children actually went to school at all. The girl students at Lowood were aged from 9 to20 years of age. The older students often taught the younger ones.
At Lowood the pupils could socialise with the other pupils, but could not talk unless spoken to in class. However David could not as he was taught at home, he had no children to play with “As to any recreation with other children my age, I had very little of that” this was because Mr Murdstone believed that all children were bad influences towards David “The Murdstones made all children out to be a swarm of little vipers and held that they contaminated one another”.
There are many differences between pre 20th century and today. From my study it seems that pupils were taught and almost ruled by fear.
During classes at Lowood pupils were given several tasks and had to learn by heart. David also had to learn by heart but had difficulty remembering what he had learnt before “I began to feel the words I have been in infinite pains to get into my head all sliding away” this was because of the Murdstones “The very sight of these two has such an influence over me” this may be because of pressure and fear of what will happen to him if he couldn’t remember what he had learnt. The conditions at Lowood were unacceptable by today’s standards.
The pupils marched all day from meals to prayers to classes to the sound of clanging bells and teachers’ voices giving orders. Mr Brockelhurst, who owned the school, didn’t believe in coddling the poor. In his opinion the more the girls learned to put up with hardship, the more self-reliant they would be in later life. The building was in bad condition with cracks and crevices in the walls, “wind, whistling through crevices of our bedroom window had made us shiver in our beds, and turned the contents of the ewers to ice” and kept food to a minimum of porridge at breakfast which was only just edible, if not burnt.
Whereas David had a better time learning as he was taught at home in the second best parlour, “I come into the second best parlour” but the atmosphere was intimidating with the Murdstones watching over David and his mother. Teacher pupil relationships happen all the time in today’s schools with every pupil having a favourite teacher or one they can talk openly to. David did not really have someone like that unless you include his mother who was his teacher. Jane however did, Miss Temple.
Miss Temple ran the school and tried to do what she could to make things better for the girls. For example after the porridge was burnt, she tried to make it up to them by ordering a special treat of bread and cheese. Also when she finds out the truth about Jane, she invites Jane and Burns to share her tea and buttered toast. She also brought out a cake of her own and shared it with them. This shows that Miss Temple felt sorry for both Jane and Burns, and disagreed with the way they were treated.
The cane was used as corporal punishment around the country. This punishment was used on David who reacted strongly and emotionally. Through anger he bit the executor, Mr Murdstone who later sends a sign saying, “careful he bites” to the school that David attended. The same punishment was used in Jane and Burns’ case as they had signs of “Rebellious” and “Vain” hung from their necks and were made to walk in circles in the rain. This was because Burns had naturally curly hair; that was frowned upon in school and was considered to be vanity.
At the same time Jane was punished for being rebellious because she offered for her hair to be cut instead of Burns’. Both were punished in other instances, Jane when Mr Brockelhurst came to the school and singled out Jane, announcing to the school Mrs Reeds charge of her being a liar. He tells the other girls that they should not talk to her all day. Jane had to stand alone for half an hour in the middle of the hall on a stool. She felt humiliated at being singled out as a liar.
Burns gets punished for having dirty nails (although she didn’t explain that the ewers were frozen) and is sent to a room to fetch a bundle of twigs. She does this as if she is doing a drill. She gets the twigs and undoes her collar but shows no emotion as she is being struck, she does though when she is alone as Jane sees her putting away her handkerchief. “I looked narrowly as she emerged from the book-closet she was just putting back her handkerchief into her pocket, and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek”.
This was because she didn’t want to give Miss Scatchard the satisfaction of seeing her cry. In conclusion I believe that the system has changed dramatically and to great effect, every child has the chance to go to school, with no discrimination whether they are female or a different race. There is no physical punishment in schools; the only punishment given out is detentions, which parents are notified before their child stays behind.
The buildings are in great condition and the teachers are strict without being unfair to pupils. Parents have a say about the way their children are treated teachers can not take dramatic action at the spur of the moment, though teachers can stop a child from learning by sending the culprit out of the classrooms. Facilities have changed with technology, with nearly every school having ICT facilities. With lessons becoming “fun” by using computers, the internet, videos and other “tools” of education and recreation.