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PROMPT: Analyze the process used by three author (Douglass, Alexie, Malcolm X) in their quest to learn to read and write. Include in your analysis how you can apply the lessons learned by these authors in your own education.
R. Barrera; ENG 52; June 11, 2012
“The Processes of Learning to Read and Write”
As children start school, the first thing they teach them is how to read and write. It can be tracing letters or reading picture books with a couple of words, but everything is set up very easy for them to use. Alexie’s “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me” Douglass “Learning to Read and Write” and Malcolm X’s “Learning to Read” have a very different learning experience. They describe the oppression certain they have when they learned something new. In there cases, it is learning to read and write. All three authors have a mold that is already set out for them but because they beat their oppression it makes them great writers and great examples for minorities today.
For most people in school it is expected for you to do your best when you are in school. It is a different story for Indians, they are expected to step aside and let others get an education. You can say Alexie is just there to fill a seat, but he decides he is not going to follow these steps, he has goals. Alexie first develops the idea of learning to read from his father, his father loves books, any book he can find. This catches Alexie's attention, but he soon figures out it is not easy for him. “A smart Indian is a dangerous person, widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike.” (Alexie, 17) Next, the author has to fight for his education, Indians have to duck their heads and dumb themselves down with non-Indian teachers and classmates because those are the expectations for them. Alexie decides that he will exceeds those expectations, survive as he says, and teach himself to read and write. Soon, he read anything he had a chance during school recess and lunch and after class assignments. This truly shows his dedication to reading and writing, showing other that he is not going to let the pressure of his surroundings stop him. Now, he helps Indians survive their oppressions and see the great benefit of learning to read and write.
Douglass process all started with slavery initially, he was a black child in 1818 whom his mistress decides to teach him how to read. This soon becomes a problem because they soon realize the danger of an educated black slave. Douglass continues to learn behind his owners back, he hides books and bribes children to teach him what they learned at school. It became a huge problem for him. The more knowledge he has the more he finds out about slavery, the more it angers him. He is a slave that knows what is going on around him and he could not do anything about it. It got to the point where he envied other slaves because they knew nothing but to work. After, Douglass soon sees the light at the end of the tunnel when he learns about abolition, this brings him hope. By struggling without supplies and oppression from people around him he shows you surrounding and obstacles are not a reason to give you.
Malcolm X is known for his radical separatist philosophy, but before all of that he only has an 8th grade education. While in prison he goes through a process learning to read and write. In the beginning, X picks up any book he can find even if he can only read half the words in the books. He soon realized he needs to put more effort in his reading so he requests a dictionary. He also requests pens and tablets, X said, “I’d never realized so many words existed!” (258). Soon, eager to learn X decides to stay up and practice the words in the dictionary. X wants to understand all those words so he self-teaches himself with repetition and pictures X uses everything he learns to change how the world thinks and brings hope to his people.
There were many connections between the three stories. The authors all went through certain opposition to reach their goal. For example, in Alexie's essay, he feels that there was a mold already set out from him. He is the dumb Indian or the Indian that will not fight back. He does not have it that way he answers questions and read books anytime he had a chance. In Douglass essay, he also has a mold set out for him. He is a slave for life that did not need an education. Lastly, Malcolm’s essay has the same connection he is an uneducated black man so he decides to go out on his own and learn how to read and write on his own.
I also notice that all three authors were minorities an Indian man and two black men. This helped me understand the concept that there was nothing expected from the authors. Also each author found ways to outsmart the people around them in order to reach their goal. Douglass and Malcolm both live in hostile environment; they could have been killed at any time. They learned to survive in that environment and learned how to read and write with all of the dangerous people around him. These connections made it easier to understand the process the author made in their essays.
I really like the three essays and I found certain things that really related to me. Alexie’s expectations are brought down because he was not white. Most people already have a plan set out from him but he prove them wrong. In my community there is a low expectation for everyone and anyone. Most girls end up pregnant and drop out of school, so the same is expected for me. No one makes it to college and they end up getting a mediocre job at McDonald's. I decided to do both things at the same time, I have my mediocre job and I decide to go to school. Just like in all three stories going through difficult situation makes the accomplishment even better. For example, Douglass, outsmarts other people in order to reach his goal. Same with getting a college education you have to use different tactics to be able to juggle both things at the same time. I felt much related to all three stories because it takes a lot of the author to obtain what they wanted.
In conclusion, each author had a certain process that they had to go through in order to achieve their goals. Alexie and Douglass both had their life set for them without their choice. X and Douglass were both in hostile environment that could have cost them their life. All three authors made a choice to learn in their circumstances. These essays connect to anyone who is told that they can not do something without a valid reason. The authors surpass the expectation for them and the reader believe that they can too.
Perhaps I have misunderstood the prompt, but your essay doesn't seem to be focused on discussing the "process" of the three authors you discuss. Your analysis of Alexie's process is apparently limited to the sentence describing his reading "anything he had a chance [to] during school recess and lunch and after class assignments." Your essay doesn't seem to have any analysis of Douglass' process. Perhaps there's nothing else about that "process," but if there is you presumably ought to write about it. As it is, you seem to be focused instead of summarizing some of the obstacles faced by those authors. You discuss their circumstances rather than their process. Your essay does go on to compare those circumstances, and you seem to learn something from that comparison, but it's not clear to me that doing that is doing what was asked.
The other major problem with the essay is the number of language errors. Some of these are due to a failure to proofread (such as "give you" for "give in," but your writing could also obviously benefit from your undertaking a fairly rigorous review of English grammar and mechanics, while also reading good English prose everyday. Presumably if you are at college, you are already doing the latter. If your college offers a course in English grammar, you might consider taking it, but you can also use some of the many online resources, including, for example, Purdue University's online writing lab, at the following URL: