Uneducated Gentlemen: The Leaders and Businessmen of the Victorian Era
Changing Intentions of Public Education
The public education system in Victorian England was originally intended for the education of the poorer working classes, and the training of clergy (Landow, par. 2). The children of the upper classes were often educated at home by private tutors, and therefore it was assumed the public schools would be a place for members of the lower classes. Despite the original intentions of public education, the schools eventually became a primary means of helping to elevate the status of the middle classes. In fact, rather than being primarily concerned with the imparting of knowledge, “the whole educational process was designed to mold the student into a young Christian Gentleman” (Everett, par. 2). The middle and upper classes wanted to keep children of the working classes from being educated, perhaps as a means of social control, and thus according to Eric Hobsbawm, in 1897 less than 7% of academic secondary school students were members of the working class (qtd. in Landow, par. 4).
The Resulting Education of the Middle Class
The major schools in Victorian England included Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester, Westminster and Chaterhouse, and education at one of these institutions could have been followed by attending Oxford or Cambridge (“Victorian England,” par. 15). Before attending further education at Oxford or Cambridge education focused greatly on the classics of Ancient Greece and Rome. Students could then go on to possibly learn mathematics, law, philosophy, and modern history. Still the education was lacking as knowledge, “took second place to the maintenance of a rigid division between the classes” (Hobsbawm qtd. in Landow, par. 4). The result of a poor education meant that while children were developed into gentlemen, they were unprepared for the, “economic, political, and technological challenges facing contemporary England” (Landow, par. 2)....