Education: Causes and Effects
In many situations, higher education separates people from their families, social backgrounds, and cultures. This often causes mixed emotions, awkward feelings, and other conflicts. Some of these conflicts are described in works such as “Aria” by Richard Rodriguez, and “The Right to Write” by Frederic Douglass.
“Aria” comes from the biography of Richard Rodriguez, the son of two Mexican immigrants. He describes his struggle to grow up in a primarily white, English-speaking area. As a young child knowing less than fifty English words, Rodriguez began his schooling in Sacramento, California. He not only faced the obstacle of mastering the English language, but also that of fitting in socially with a classroom of wealthy white children.
To Rodriguez, the English language and the Spanish language represented something different. English was the language used to communicate with outsiders. It was a tool for survival, and held no personal
meaning. Spanish, however, was the key to his comfort. Hearing spanish brought Rodriguez feelings of love, acceptance, family, and security.
Throughout his life, Rodriguez had mixed feelings about his parents. “They were nobody’s victims,” he said of his parents. “Optimism and ambition led them to a house (our home) many blocks from the Mexican south side of town. We lived among gringos and only a block from the biggest, whitest houses.” This reflects Rodriguez’s feelings of admiration and respect towards his parents as a young boy. However, as Richard grew older, language became a real problem for him. He developed negative feelings towards his parents because of their English. He felt a sense of embarrassment around them in a social atmosphere. He says, “It was troubling for me to hear my parents speak in public.” Hearing them speak broken English also brought him a feeling of insecurity. “It was unsettling to hear my parents struggle with English. Hearing them, I’d grow nervous, my clutching trust in their protection and power weakened,” said Rodriguez.
The language barrier was a disadvantage for Rodriguez because it created a barrier between his home and public. He felt comfortable at home, speaking Spanish with his family, as he had his whole life. However,
he became hesitant to go into public at all because of his language.
He says, “I’d rarely leave home at all alone or without reluctance.” The language barrier affected Rodriguez both emotionally and socially.
As and adult, Rodriguez became an award-winning writer. Despite the emotional and social problems that Rodriguez dealt with earlier in his life, he learned to adapt and use the English language for his advantage.
In “The Right to Write,” the situation is much different. Frederick Douglass, the son of a slave woman and white man, tells his story about learning to read. As a slave, Douglass was forbidden to read by his master. His mistress, however, was a kindhearted woman who taught him the alphabet. She started teaching him to read, but before long her personality turned hard and cold. Influenced by her husband, she no longer allowed Douglass to read. This would not stop him though. He would sneak newspapers or any type of reading material that he could get his hands on. He even turned to the poor white children of the neighborhood for help. Douglass would give them bread in return for reading lessons. Eventually, he was fully capable of reading and writing.
Education opened Douglass’s eyes to the wrongs of slavery and what