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I rise to the defense of these maligned Victorian schools.
on 24 June 2013
I've read the three 5* reviews testifying to the appeal of this book for child readers. Let that testimony go uncontested.
As an adult, I found the contents neither "fascinating and, at times, shocking", as one reviewer enthused. I found myself expecting & approving of many of the "shocking" features, such as children standing up when teachers enter the room, the memorization of long passages of poetry, and the like. Today's child-centered and impulse-oriented education has resulted in metal detectors at school entrances, armed guards patrolling corridors, drug dealings and plummeting literacy. This modern mix is so scary, I'd prefer to be in a Victorian school where things were kept orderly. My father wouldn't have found a Victorian school unfamiliar, and when he dropped out of his Chicago high school he brought with him an elegant handwriting of sensitivity and beauty that earned him compliments all his life. My mother recited long passages of memorized poetry into her 80s. Neither complained about the citizen's responsibilities instilled or about "lessons they'd rather not have learned" - to quote from the book's subtitle.
I wasn't out of order in hoping this book would be fun for me, and enlightening, too. I loved another book in this same children's serires, "Avoid being a Victorian Servant" which was full of wit, surprises and valuable knowledge . By contrast, this one was content to set up fat targets to disparage. OK, I don't contest the 5* reviews, kids enjoy it, but they've seen part of their heritage banged around and they've been given an unfair, one-sided view of Victorian education that prejudices them, in a backstairs way, against part of their country's past.