Before I begin a grad school screed…

Congratulations, Terri and Matt!  And welcome, Baby Andy!

Here goes.

The English education system in the ninetenth century is extraordinarily confusing to me.

Public schools are what we would call private schools and indicate institutions like Eton and Harrow.  Primary, elementary, and secondary education do not refer at all to the grade or age of the student and refer instead to class.  Primary (or high) education usually refers to the classical education afforded to upper-class students (boys, I assume) who are expected to move on to the university.  Secondary education refers to the endowed or private schools attended by middle class children, and elementary education is for working-class students who usually leave the classroom for good before age twelve.  Ragged schools are for the poor.

And then there are the big pieces of legislation.  There was the Revised Code of 1862 that established payment-by-results inspections by HMIs (Her Majesty’s Inspectors), a regime of testing that eerily resembles No Child Left Behind.  And the Forster Act of 1870, when the variety of schools that comprised the English system — Anglican schools, Roman Catholic schools, schools founded by various Societies of Something — were all put under the jurisdiction of school boards.  The school boards were then abolished in 1902.  1903?  Somewhere in there.

I do realize that all of this is of interest to a very select few.  (Sophie maybe?)  But GOOD GOD I just want to write one tiny section of the fourth chapter of my dissertation.  I spent all day reading when I should have spent all day writing.  And… AND… this education confusion is compelling me to read Matthew Arnold.  I really don’t like reading Matthew Arnold.  It’s nothing personal.  He just makes me want to smash things.  (Even though my much-respected friend and colleague Jeff Jackson can make quips about Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy with a straight face.)

I think I may console myself by reading some Robert Louis Stevenson.  He always makes me feel better, because he writes about swashbuckling.  And he is my nineteenth-century author crush. 

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2 thoughts on “

  1. Yeah, the Victorian education stuff can be crazy. I’m going to have to immerse myself pretty heavily at some point, unfortunately, even though I could mostly care less about the legislative stuff. I like cultural history, dammnit!

    • Maybe by then I will have finished this chapter, and I’ll have summarized some of the important stuff for you!

      I’ve also found Wikipedia helpful for clearing some things up. But don’t tell Dr. Patten.

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