Education and schooling is not a prominent theme in Adeline’s memoir, as her home and family is, but she does write about it briefly in some instances. From these passages we can decipher her opinion on her schooling and education as a whole. From Adeline’s memoir I could see a change in her attitudes towards her school life. She first describes school as: ‘A terrible place. It was the rule of the rod, and parents had no redress. It was supposed to be good for us. The lessons were very monotonous. Reading, writing and arithmetic’. Though her early memory of school is not positive, she goes on to become a pupil-teacher and then spends her adult life as a secondary school teacher. Her change of heart about education could be due to how her education really affected her and her understanding that education is actually very important for working class children.
She begins her education at ‘The Cottages’ school in Dawdon. Of her experience here she writes, ‘It is a strange thing but I cannot recall one story or poem learned in those early days’. Adeline and her siblings also attended the local Sunday School, which was a ‘duty’ but one which she enjoyed thoroughly, in contrast to normal school, because of ‘the happy singing’. Her early education is described as ‘monotonous under the Londonderrys’, and she seems eager to leave school as she writes about the opportunities boys and girls had to take an exam to leave and go to work at age thirteen. I believe the turning point of Adeline’s education is when a new school is built, ‘The Council School’, which sparks an excitement in Adeline as she can use library books. Her apparent love of reading is a topic I will be focusing on in my next blog post but for now it serves as a motivator for Adeline to do well in her education. She is chosen to take the entrance exam for the ‘Upper Standard’ (Seaham Girls Upper Standard School, Princess Road). We see that she debates with her mother about this, as she writes, ‘So after quite a struggle Mother said yes, but with the added warning that if I was successful I must never grumble at the work, and I never did’. From this passage it can be seen that Adeline really values her education and is aware that it is a privilege to attend the Upper Standard School, knowing that she must work hard after being given this opportunity. She writes, ‘Two of us were chosen from our class at Dawdon and that was how it all began.’
Adeline’s parents have contrasting opinions on their children’s education. The memoir tells us that her father, ‘was no scholar.’ but, ‘He bitterly regretted this all his life and was determined that we should not be like him’. Her father did not attend school as his family could not afford it, and was not offered any other education opportunities. This shows the change over time and generations in schooling, and what was on offer for working class people in the late 1800’s. Adeline’s mother was less ‘determined’ for her children to be scholars, though not in a highly negative way. She had been raised to value domestic work more than school work and in Adeline’s mother we see a ‘teacher’ of a different kind. Adeline writes, ‘When you reached the top standard the boys got drawing and the girls sewing. A garment like a nightdress would be produced by each pupil and that was all. We learned all we ever knew about sewing and knitting from mother.’ She also reflects upon how educational ‘knowledge’ and her mother’s ‘wisdom’, which could be described as common sense, are valued differently. She writes, ‘she (mother) could read a letter but was otherwise no scholar, but we were all decent scholars yet she had more wisdom than we had’. I believe this is Adeline showing respect for her mother, though she was not ideologically ‘intelligent’, her wisdom of the home and domestic sphere is worth more than any education can provide. This representation portrays perfectly Adeline’s opinion of her education, whereas she knows it is valuable to her and her chosen profession, she continues to acknowledge that it does not define her life as a working class girl.
411 HODGES, Adeline, ‘I Remember’, MS, pp.250 (c.42000 words). Brunel University Library