Gradgrind

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Gradgrind is the name invented by Charles Dickens for the mill-owner and school board Superintendent in Coketown, the fictional setting of his novel Hard Times (1854).


Thomas Gradgrind is a successful businessman and mill-owner, later an M.P. He bases all education in his school on 'facts' - "cold, hard facts" - and such practical skills as statistics and other calculations, thereby hoping to 'grind' (a mechanical, painful process) his students into 'grad'uates. He discourages all imagination, "fancy", affections, and aesthetic appreciation, and shares this limited view of education with the teacher Mr. M'Choakumchild, whose satirical name in itself gives his character. In the course of Hard Times Gradgrind learns to see some of the limitations of his pragmatic, soulless approach. "Some persons hold ... that there is a wisdom of the Head, and that there is a wisdom of the Heart. I have not supposed so; but ... I mistrust myself now. I have supposed the head to be all-sufficient. It may not be all-sufficient; how can I venture this morning to say it is! If that other kind of wisdom should be what I have neglected, and should be the instinct that is wanted ..."