ISP 2030 Wk6-Wk8

Educational Experiences and the Dreams They Inspire:  Comparing “The Library Card” and “The Good Example” with the experiences of an ISP student.

              In this essay I will compare my own educational experiences with to those described in Richard Wright’s “Library Card” and Vicente Riva Palacio’s “The Good Example”.  The vast differences detailed will, I hope, encourage one readers to think about how lucky they are, and also to pick up a book!

              Growing up I was always encouraged to read books, for pleasure, for school, and for general knowledge, but I can trace back to just one relative that really helped turn me into a reader.  My Aunt Alison, even though she lived across the country in California, would always ask me what I was reading any time she wrote to me or talked to me on the phone.  When she was visiting us when I was 11 years old, she took me to a bookstore and had me pick out 5 new books for myself.  From that point on I was a reader and I loved it.  That day, I started reading young adult fiction in the form of “Sweet Valley High” books and from then on, I couldn’t read them fast enough.  My parents later joked that they might as well leave me in the library rather than driving back and forth every few days to get me more books since I would finish a book in just a couple of hours.  My Aunt Alison continued to encourage me to read as I grew up, sending me boxes of books throughout my time in junior high and high school.  Now that I’m an adult, I am still an avid reader, although now I have to fit a couple of books into each week around my career and now my classes too.  Plus, now I have to buy them myself!

              My experiences with being encouraged to read and given free access to all of the books I could manage is directly opposite of to Wright’s as written in “Library Card”, although we both developed a passion for reading.  While Wright had to lie and sneak in order to get books from the library, I was allowed to freely spend hours there and borrow as many books as I could manage.   The fact that even once Wright got the books, he was still questioned as to what and why he was reading those books, illustrates what a terrible time it was for the black people during that time in history.  Growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as a white child, I never experienced that type of restriction.  It’s sad that anyone would ever have to experience not being completely free, not considered to be an equal, and not being allowed to borrow books from a public library.

              In “The Library Card”, Wright goes through several educational experiences.  He learns that he must do things such as lie and hide in order to get to the books that he wants to read.  Once he gets to the point that he is able to get the books from the library with just minimal problems, he opens himself to a whole new world by reading books from authors with radical view points.  During his reading he discovers that he’s able to understand words that he doesn’t know by using the context of the text surrounding it and he also realizes that getting caught up in a book is easy to do.  One of the most poignant sentences in the piece to me is “…I went to work, but the mood of the book would not die; it lingered, coloring everything I saw, heard, did.”  This seems to be the point where Wright really learns that the written word is powerful.  Reading about different topics enables him to grasp what his mother went through, lets him really think about his options for life in the South and the North, and leads him to the realization that his reading puts distance between him and those around him.  At the end of the story, I’m not sure whether he wishes he’d never started reading and thinking about new things, or if he wants the books to keep taking him to new levels.

              If I compare my experiences growing up of being encouraged to read and always wanting to learn with “The Good Example” by Vicente Riva Palacio, it further shows me how lucky I had it.  In “The Good Example” thinking outside the box and learning things that were not strictly taught in the classroom were just not encouraged.  Riva Palacio’s entire story mocks the education system in the southern Mexican Republic.  The lessons taught in the story are all about memorization and all of the students parroting back what is said to them.  While there were things that I had to memorize in school, I was still encouraged as an individual and allowed different books to help broaden my mind.

              I think the point regarding education that is brought home in “The Good Example” is that when the only thing being taught is memorization, anyone can deliver the message.  Through outThroughout the story Riva Palacio tells us that the teacher, Don Lucas, considers himself a long suffering martyr, only enduring the lessons each day.  The thought that a pet parrot can learn all of the lessons taught by Don Lucas and then later ‘teach’ those lessons to other parrots further shows us what Riva Palacio thought of the education Don Lucas delivered.  The last line of the story, “Ever since then, and well ahead of their time, the parrots of that district have seen the shadows of obscurantism and ignorance disperse.” tells us exactly what the writer thought of the lessons taught in the school.  He’s telling us that the parrots of that area are now just as smart and educated as the children.

              When I think about what educational aspirations that I would like everyone on the earth to achieve, the main one is literacy.  I believe that the ability to read and comprehend is by far the most important skill that anyone can ever learn.  Being able to read and having access to any and all forms of the written world can take people to new levels of intelligence.  Having the ability to reach read gives people the skill to learn new things…if they can read instructions, they can teach themselves a new skill.  Reading can also be a means of relaxation and escapism when people are able to imagine themselves in different roles and places.  All in all, I think that being able to read is the one skill that can help bring everyone to a more level playing field, regardless of background.

              For myself, even though I took a 6 year break from college, I love school.  I love learning new things and I like being good at the things I take on.  I am excited to be back in college and not far away from achieving my Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies.  Eventually I may push myself to go after an MBA degree, but for now I will go with the short tem goal of my Bachelors degree.  Earning my degree does 2 things:  It gives me a sense of accomplishment and completion that I have been missing, and it helps increase my options in my career.  I love my current job, but I want to know that I have the required education to get myself into a new position should it become necessary either personally or professionally.

              From Wright showing us what it’s like to diligently go after knowledge through books when formal education is not available, to Palacio’s disdain for teaching through constant repetition, and finally to my own experiences of being encouraged to read and empowered by learning, it is clear that not all educational experiences are equal.  No one can say for sure what method of education is best out of the thousands available, however everyone should be given the chance to get an education in some way, shape or form.