Charles Dickens rolls in grave each time Scroogey ed reformers dismiss the effects of poverty
Publication Date: 2013-08-01
This is from Teacherbiz, July 31, 2013. Teacherbiz is a blog written by a public school teacher and fan of public education. Not a fan of privatization, high-stakes testing, or bad 'reform.' The blogger shows how A Christmas Carol offers a lesson about Scroogey reform.
Anyone familiar with Charles DickensĂ˘€™ life and works understands the extent to which class divisions in Victorian England influenced his writing.
Yes, you read that quote right.
In other words, food shortages, diseases, and money shortages were God's way of punishing people for their laziness and irresponsibility--and that poor people who married and reproduced were burdening society. This was a commonly-accepted belief in Dickens' time, so it's no surprise that much of Dickens' writing was in direct response to Malthus's philosophies and the government programs that supported them. Scrooge's reference to the "surplus population" is often cited as evidence of as much.
Perhaps the broadest societal warning in A Christmas Carol comes in Stave 3, when the Second of the Three Spirits uses Scrooge's own words from Stave 1 to reinforce the dangers of ignoring poverty. Two children, "wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable," emerge from within the folds of the SpiritĂ˘€™s robe--and Scrooge asks to whom they belong:
Though throughout the course of A Christmas Carol the spirits show Scrooge the large scope of poverty in England, the episodes involving children (Scrooge as a child at boarding school, Ignorance and Want, and Tiny Tim) have the most profound effect on Scrooge. It is through them that Scrooge understands the extent to which children are beholden to and affected by their circumstances--and the extent to which the adults in any society must improve conditions for children at any cost in order to have any hopes of improving society as a whole.
In today's American society, most people who dictate education reform policies are both 1) rich, and 2) quick to discount the effects poverty has on students' ability to thrive. Just as Scrooge does, they place supreme importance on financial gain--and at the same time, turn a blind and privileged eye to the very real and very crippling effects of poverty in our country.
The moral of this Christmas in July lesson: Scroogey reformers who seek to blame teachers (particularly those who teach in urban settings) for failures of society and claim that teachers use poverty as an excuse for studentsĂ˘€™ poor academic performance would do well to focus their efforts and money on improving societal conditions for children. They should open their eyes to and seek to improve the conditions in which many of AmericaĂ˘€™s students live. Only then will these children be able to succeed.
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