Culture and Anarchy is a controversial philosophical work written by the celebrated Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold. Composed during a time of unprecedented social and political change, the essay argues for a restructuring of England's social ideology. It reflects Arnold's passionate conviction that the uneducated English masses could be molded into conscientious individuals who strive for human perfection through the harmonious cultivation of all of their skills and talents. A crucial condition of Arnold's thesis is that a state-administered system of education must replace the ecclesiastical program which emphasized rigid individual moral conduct at the expense of free thinking and devotion to community. Much more than a mere treatise on the state of education in England, Culture and Anarchy is, in the words of J. Dover Wilson, “at once a masterpiece of vivacious prose, a great poet's great defence of poetry, a profoundly religious book, and the finest apology for education in the English language.”
Apart from his occupation as a poet and critic, Arnold earned a reputation during his lifetime as one of his age's most knowledgeable and influential advocates for educational reform in England. Born the eldest son of Dr. Thomas Arnold, a headmaster of Rugby and generally acknowledged as the innovator of the modern public school system in England, Arnold was inculcated with a liberal attitude toward education from an early age. During his formative years and as a student at Oxford, he embraced the reform-minded ideas of social thinker John Henry Newman. In 1851 at the age of thirty, Arnold was appointed Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools, a post he held for the next thirty-five years. In his role as inspector, Arnold became intimately familiar with the disadvantages and inequalities inherent in the educational system from the favored aristocratic upper class to the ignored and impoverished lower class.... [continues]
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