Education plays extraordinary role in the development of the human’s personality and lays the foundation for all future life. If well- structured, it inspires and provides desire for future achievements and revelations. On the other hand, it can block person’s ability to discover and create for a long period of time. Education assists not only in changing people’s lives for better, taking into consideration materialistic approach to the matter, but also helps to understand who we are and why we are here. It helps in realizing our inner aspirations, as well as moulds person’s identity, the unique quality that differentiates him or her from the other citizens of planet Earth. But it is essential to realize that bad education and unqualified teachers may just impose behavioral patterns, limiting their personal ability to think critically. This seems to be the only reasonable obstacle for people’s self-improvement through education, but after thorough investigation of the subject appears that race, class and gender also influence quality and essence of the education process.
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If the person feels himself or herself strong enough to overcome obstacles on his or her way to better life, he or she in the long run will definitely get the expected or unexpected gifts. When the person has the vision of the future, or simply has the imperturbable strive to absorbing knowledge, the outcomes can be miraculous. But obstacles can be truly hard to overcome.
Mike Rose in his autobiographic story “I Just Wanna Be Average” tells that his greatest obstacle during vocational education was unqualified teachers, who were not aiming to teach, but just wasted their time pretending to do something in classes. This is how he describes his teacher of Sophomore English: “…Parking cars was his night job. He had little training in English, so his lesson plan for his day work had us reading the district’s required text, Julius Caesar, aloud for the semester”. And after they finished reading, they started over and over again reading different chapters. What was that teacher aiming to? How was he planning to hold students attention and raise interest to the matter.
There were no discussions, no quizzes, and no compositions, in which students would be able to express their own thoughts and be evaluated. If teachers don’t know what they are doing, they are developing wrong ideas and ways of doing particular things in student’s mind. It is through the teacher’s frame of reference students perceive the subjects, and they should primarily love and be inspired with what they are doing, as only in this case they can inspire others.
While studying in school or college, the education is not the only thing people get in there. The environment has no less importance. Different students, different backgrounds and notions teach the life, how it is in reality. Rose says: “Rely on your own good sense. Fuck this bullshit.” But being among many races and personalities, it is very hard to keep that good sense of your own. And in this the good teacher can help a lot- to see what the person has inclinations to, to inspire go ahead and develop necessary skills. If the person has a sparkle inside, he or she always encounter the right teacher, no matter where.
Adrienne Rich in her speech delivered at the convocation of Douglas College in 1977 “Claiming an Education” opened the eternal question of equality between man and woman in relation to the education issues. First of all, Rich insisted that that whole education process is the intellectual and ethical contract between the student and the teachers, which should remain intuitive and dynamic.
And what the author pointed out is that there exists a huge gender problem with the education, as women are being excluded from the academic community. As men and women are now studying the same things in the Universities, they are receiving the materials from male teachers and male book authors, and their opinion on regard “history, their ideas of social relationships, good and evil, sickness and health, etc.” Rich accuses the education and sciences in sexist attitudes, as well as male professors who consider teaching in the college for women to be “second-rate career”. She also argues that many teachers have the tendency to eroticize their women students and tend to treat them more like sexual objects, instead of getting maximum ideas from their minds. In education system male-centered tradition is overwhelming and its principles are taken without any critical approach to the matter. Rich insisted upon the equality of attitudes to men and women, and called for “mutual seriousness about women, about language, ideas, method, and values.”
“Learning to Read and Write” by Frederick Douglass, as well as Maya Angelou and Shelby Steele raise the other question regarding possible obstacles to education, which I personally consider the most serious ones as they touch the most crucial ideas of human’s freedom. Frederick Douglass tells the story how he was the slave and still tries to learn something new. Actually, the problem was that he couldn’t read and write, but when his mistress taught him alphabet it was the start for his transformation. His owners were against his education, as they considered that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other”. And he read books secretly and “was that of making friends of all the little boys…I converted into teachers”. Douglass was exchanging bread for “more valuable bread of knowledge”. After he learned how to read, he started to widen his world view by reading books each free moment in his life and when he couldn’t be caught by his enslavers. And as far as he read, he began to think a lot about his destiny as a slave and couldn’t stand those painful thoughts and even envied his fellows “for their stupidity”. Then he started to learn how to write and that way wasn’t simple as well, but he finally succeeded.
Angelou elucidated a little bit another side of racial obstacle to education, by describing class differences and subsequent differences in the quality of education. She showed the unjust education system and the difference in the equipment and conditions in schools for Afro-Americans and white people, which were separate, of course.
At the same time “Whose Canon Is It, Anyway?” printed in New York Times on February, 26 1989, proposed the extensive criticism of two personalities William Bennett and Alan Bloom, which the author believe “symbolize the nostalgic return to what I think of as the “antebellum esthetic position”, when men were men and men were white, when scholar-critics were white men and when women and people of color were voiceless, faceless…”. We are all equal, regardless gender, race or class and basically possess the same ability to absorb knowledge, even though do not always have the same opportunities for this.
In the conclusion, I would like to mention When We Were Kings: Documentary of Muhammad Ali as the example of pure belief in changes, in bright future and in own nation. Muhammad Ali was the symbol of dignity and freedom during the peak of his popularity. He was the living legend, proud of who he is and overcoming all obstacles on his way towards the victory. He was the teacher and the master for millions and millions of Afro-Americans. And his actions spoke louder then words to show that there is always place for development for self-improvement no matter who you are and no matter what obstacles the person encounters on his way to success. —————————————————————————–
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