Information on the discussion group can be found here
Vol. II. Chapter VI. The Nature of Gothic
Leader: Jonathan Memel
PhD Candidate, University of Exeter
John Ruskin’s appendix to The Stones of Venice, ‘Modern Education’, provides a number of discussion points for Victorianists interested in education, training and democracy.
Ruskin begins by attacking a model of education which prizes classical learning over applied, practical knowledge. He states that teaching should better prepare students for their role in the world. He hopes for a time after educational reform where an ‘Eton boy’s mind [is] as sensitive to falseness in policy, as his ear is at present to falseness in prosody’. A discussion of vocational-focused education and training would be fruitful here, with reference to Victorian notions of ‘useful knowledge’ and Ruskin’s role at The Working Men’s College.
Ruskin goes on to argue against one standard of education being applied universally. ‘Among all men, whether of the upper or lower orders, the differences are eternal and irreconcilable’: this insight informs Ruskin’s view that schooling should be as varied as possible. Education’s purpose is ‘making what is best out of them’, and this ‘best’ depends upon learners existing aptitude and circumstances. This connection between one’s born situation and learning provision is, I think, worth challenging against the egalitarian view that connections between classes and their established sectors of work are better ignored in the schooling process. Online contributors may disagree, arguing that Ruskin is more radical in this chapter; seeking to profess the skills and ways of life of the working classes over that of the educated, governing elite. After all, he ends the piece by asserting that ‘millions of peasants are therefore at this moment better educated than most of those who call themselves gentlemen’.
Chapter can be downloaded from here.