Emanuel left education at the mere age of 11 and a half years old to work in a coal pit and therefore his stay at school had been brief. He discussed education and schooling as something that was ‘not thought very much of among the poorer people’ portraying education to be irrelevant rather than as a necessity. Being pulled out of school to help assist with his family life also indicates that education may not have been significant compared to labour and helping to provide for the family. Although he left school at a young age, his attraction for an education is evident throughout his book.
When Emanuel attended school he stated that he could only remember learning a Methodist hymn at an Old Lady’s School suggesting that his time in school was not taken very seriously. However, it was not until after he worked til the age of ’13teen’ that he ‘began to feel very Strongley the desieries to learn to read’ His friends offered to help him, when he was bed ridden after an unfortunate accident while working, and therefore taught him the alphabet and numbers. However it was not until he enrolled in a night school that we begin to understand how education helped fuel and inspire his autobiography. Perhaps without this education, Lovekin’s biography would not even exist. His education did not just halt after he finished school, either, as he became very active with his Methodist Church. Emma Griffin suggests that although Emanuel Lovekin may have entered his working life at a young age ‘his community had alternative means of education, and, from youth to old age, Lovekin was deeply involved in these as both a student and a teacher.’ (pg. 168) Therefore his role in night and Sunday schools may have provided enough resources and knowledge in help writing his autobiography.
Lovekin’s schooling experience did not start out to be positive as he was pulled out at a young age. However with the passion to attend night school suggests that his education and ability to read and write may not have been just solely through schooling but through the Church, through his life in labour, through the chartist movement and through even becoming a teacher himself. Griffin suggests that ‘Night schools, book clubs and Sunday schools did not repair the damage caused by early entry to the workforce. They were a different kind of solution altogether.’ (pg. 168) Therefore these new alternatives brought so much to the cultural life of the working classes, evidently proven by Lovekin himself. These alternatives encouraged their members to have an active role in their daily lives and therefore these alternatives were able to transform ‘their most able students into teachers, managers and leaders’. (pg. 181) In addition to this, these alternatives ‘gave their students a taste of authority and smale-scale power. They instructed their members in the business of governance – knowledge which could easily be transferred to other causes.’ (pg. 181)Therefore Emanuel’s education was not only through schooling but instead it was through these other institutions which helped to inspire working class people to to take on other active roles in society.
Schooling and education may not be seen as a huge part of Emanuel’s autobiography, but to me it seems that it was on every page.
Griffin, Emma. Liberty’s Dawn. Hampshire: Yale University Press, 2014. Print.
Lovekin, Emanuel. ‘Some notes of my life’, MS, pp.32 (c.7,000 words). Extract in J. Burnett (ed.), Useful Toil. Autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s (Allen Lane, London, 1974), pp.290-6.