Challenges to Utilitarian Education: Matthew Arnold & Cardinal Newman…

This week we explored the ways in which writers and artists in the Victorian Age tried to undermine the prevailing utilitarian views on education. We have seen this presented very strongly in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times with his emphasis on the importance of Wonder and Imagination as counters to a world run on facts.


Matthew Arnold takes up Dickens’s cudgels with his radical vision of the way that a young Oxford Scholar decides to give up his ambition for “preferment” (prefer me! prefer me!) and embarks on a quest to learn the wisdom of the gypsies. And in the process, Matthew Arnold gives voice to his sense of what is so wrong with the stressed out way that modern people (including us!!) lead their lives.

John Henry (Cardinal) Newman, in very different ways repeats this message, but within the hallowed halls of the University. Newman believes that the University is a place where knowledge of a  kind -different to that utilised in the marketplace-  can be transmitted.He believes that Universities should be hallowed places where people cultivate their inner life, the life of the imagination, of the soul, through literature, philosophy and the arts.


So maybe, if Matthew Arnold’s scholar had accidentally run into John Henry Cardinal Newman he might not have had the same impulse to run away to the gypsies…. interesting thought!!!!


Blog Topics for Week 8


You are the scholar gypsy. Explain to your friends why you have decided to run away from conventional education.


Take one stanza from the Scholar Gypsy and carefully explicate its meaning saying how you think the language and form (stanza shape) contribute to the stanza’s power and effect.


Write a letter to John Henry Cardinal Newman telling him how much you appreciate his take on what a university education should be about.


Take one paragraph from Newman’s Chapter about Knowledge being an end in itself and explain its meaning in simple modern English.


Create your own topic based around any of the issues presented this week. You are of course encouraged to draw on your own personal experience in your blog.


  2 comments for “Challenges to Utilitarian Education: Matthew Arnold & Cardinal Newman…

  1. May 1, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Reblogged this on keithbracey and commented:
    Cardinal John Henry Newman who founded the Anglican Oxford Movement but then converted to Roman Catholicism and set up the Birmingham Oratory to tend to the needs of the poor and destitute of Ladywood, Hockley and Brookvale in Birmingham. When Pope Benedict visited Birmingham in 2010 to canonise Cardinal Newman with a huge convocation at Cofton Park in Longbridge in Birmingham where the Rover Car Plant used to make automobiles near Northfield as Newman is buried in Rednal nearby in Birmingham near to the site of a huge retail development at Great Park in Rubery in South Birmingham. JRR Tolkien’s grand nephew Tim Tolkien sculpted a metal statue of Cardinal John Henry Newman to commemorate this huge Roman Catholic religious event in Birmingham when we were hosts to the Pontiff and Leader of the world’s Roman Catholics which stands in Cofton Park in Lickey to this day…….Keith Bracey

  2. April 24, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Literature & Life Autumn 2018.

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