‘A Talk to Teachers’ by James Baldwin published on December 21, 1963 is a very brave and direct message to teachers on how they are contributing to the prejudice in society during that time period. Baldwin’s tone in this essay shifts frequently however, the constant tone that enhances his purpose of this essay is urgency. Baldwin’s urgency to make teachers change the prejudice view on “negros” and the false history that is being taught about African Americans. For he refers to it as “any negro who is born in this country and undergoes the American educational system runs the risk of being schizophrenic.
” Baldwin soon states his idea of what the purpose of education is “to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself. ” However, the reality of education during that time is far from where he wanted it to be. The paradox he uses is that if people are successful in thinking for themselves, they will soon realize the wrongs in their society and try to change them. Baldwin states “no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. ” He incorporates this paradox to show the harsh reality of society.
He appeals to pathos when giving an example of what it is like to be a black child who “is aware that there is a reason why his mother works so hard, why his father is always on edge. He is aware that there is a reason why, if he sits down in the front of the bus, his mother or father slaps him and drags him to the back of the bus. It begins when he is in school that he discovers the shape of his oppression. ” These sentences makes his point so much more powerful because it is brutally honest and paints a disturbing but realistic picture for the audience. This is also where his tone becomes more reflective and sad.
Towards the middle of his essay he uses his personal experience of being a street boy and uses repetition of “really” to emphasize how some qualities make a man a criminal in order to survive. By using his own experience and the words he used to describe the qualities of a criminal such as “cunning, ruthless, strong” it depicts how different, how much harder it was for blacks then it was for whites. The turning point in the essay is when Baldwin states “Because if I am no what I’ve told I am, then it means that you’re not what you thought you were either!
And that is the crisis. ” By stating this it recognizes the faults in the education system, and leaves the audience intrigued wanting him to elaborate on his point. This statement also unfolds the truth about education which is “if you lie about one aspect of anybody’s history, you must lie about it all. ” The last paragraph of his essay he changes his pronoun usage to “you” in order to make the audience realize that he has spoken his part on his feelings toward education and now it’s left to the audience to continue.
“It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person. ” He continues to end his essay with a bright and inspiring tone using repetition and the example of what he would do if he was a teacher. The ending is the most powerful part because it appeals to the reader in both logos and pathos when explaining how society should have been taught. Though it is clear that Baldwin uncovered the ugly truth about the myths of the history and how it is being taught to society, his essay enlightened many with his brilliant and inspiring words.