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What are the different attitudes that the various teachers
and students have towards education in Alan Bennett's play
the History Boys? (Up to page 40)
It is clear to say that the attitudes towards education alter greatly between the various
teachers and students in Alan Bennett's play the History Boys.
One of the most peculiar and interesting characters to look at in the History Boys is
Hector. Hector is the teacher devoted to infusing his students with a love of books,
words, and even the necessary un-necessaries of life. He manages to override all
stereotypical aspects that one might find in a teacher and shows the audience a
completely new way of teaching and through this conveys his own view on education.
Hector's supposedly teaching the boy's `General Studies' but his definition of 'General
Studies' includes a French conversational class set in an imagined "brothel", regular
renditions of Gracie Fields' classics and an ongoing bet with the boys as to whether he
can guess the names of the films they act out for him. "Now. Some silly time. Where's
the kitty?" By using moneys Hector motivates the students to learn different films in
the hope of one day finding a scene that Hector cannot recognise. Upon looking inside
the kitty Hector discovers there "sixteen pounds" showing the audience that the money
has accumulated over the many times that Hector has played and won this game. This
large sum of money makes the boys the more eager to win by learning new films and
"make [themselves] more rounded human beings." This is a clever plot by Hector who
manages to teach them things that they might not want to learn and yet do, on their
own accord, with this fun game in their minds.
Hector does not seem to care much for A-levels and describes them to the boys as
"those longed for emblems of your conformity". By saying this Hector tells the boys
that achieving good A-levels does not make them individual and does not make them
stand out from the crowd. Hector is always pushing the boys to think for themselves
and be open-minded. We are told "he does not care much" for the term "mind-set", this
is because he does not agree with the mind being set on anything and instead it should
be open to new ideas. Hector correctly tells Mrs. Lintott that she "gives them an
education" and that he "gives them the wherewithal to resist it" by constantly making
the boys think outside the box.
His teaching methods are peppered with a vast array of quotations from history and
literature, so much that the boys themselves don't realize when they incorporate
quotes into their everyday lives "You were quoting somebody. Auden.' `Was I sir?
Sometimes it just flows out, brims over.'" By using the metaphor of quotations
brimming over the audience realise just how much the students know thanks to Hector.
They are no longer able to keep the knowledge in their heads and so it spills out of
their minds when they speak. This is the effect of education that Hector was probably
aiming for and the logic behind Hector's actions can be summed up with a quote by A.E.
Housman `"all knowledge is precious whether or not is serves the slightest human
use"'. This philosophy is the basis of Hector's teaching and possibly even his life.
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Another curious character to study is Irwin and his view on education. Similarly to
Hector Irwin pushes the boys to "flee the crowd" and say more than just the status quo
answer. Although unlike Hector, Irwin teaches this with a different aim in mind, getting
the boys into Oxbridge.…read more
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getting through the exams, like Rudge. Scripps tends to question everything he is told
and does not accept things just as they are told to him, this side of his character is very
appealing to both Hector and Irwin. Even though he is very religious he questions
religion itself "they recon you have to love God because God loves you. Why?".…read more