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Diligence. Creativity. Responsibility. Individuality. Cognitivity. All these traits are products of one’s education. There are two distinct definitions of “education”: the first definition centers around a traditional school setting while the second definition defines education as “an enlightening experience” according to the dictionary. The second definition encompasses a broader range of interpretations. Albert Einstein, the great German theorist, once said that “education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” In simpler terms, simply memorizing information does not define education.
Instead, education extends beyond the simple instruction of details: a person’s schooling coaches him or her to be a more insightful thinker. A conventional classroom setting or ornate school supplies are not compulsory elements of one’s education. But, a curious mind and the will to gain knowledge are the traits of an educated person. At the same time, education is not limited to a certain age group. There is no age where one will cease to acquire wisdom as formal schooling implies.
Consequently, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Frederick Douglass’ “Learning to Read and Write” from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” Paulo Freire’s “Banking Concept of Education” from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Eudora Welty’s “Clamorous to Learn,” all converge in the sense that one’s education is not limited to a formal school setting. As inquisitive creatures, humans demand knowledge beyond mere reading passages or math formulas; thus, education extends beyond formal schooling.
First, Eudora Welty’s formal education in “Clamorous to Learn” differs from the informal education Frederick Douglass receives as a slave, which is explained in his “Learning to Read and Write.
” Eudora Welty’s formal education is enforced unlike Frederick Douglas’s voluntary endeavors. As a result, Welty’s “enlightening experience” is less effective than Douglas’s. In her reflection piece, she recollects, “I did not then suspect that there was any other way I could learn the story of ‘The King of the Golden River’ than to have been assigned in the beginning to Mrs. McWillie’s cowering fourth grade…” (Welty 6). In this statement, Welty discloses that her formal schooling limited her to a specific curriculum. However, as an adult, she understood that there was no rigid framework for studies. Since teachers formulate lesson plans independently, their students do not obtain the same lessons as other classes. This differentiation restricts some students from having the liberty of learning concepts that interest them. Rather than permitting a student to pursue passions or hobbies, higher officials place a constraint on students by pre-planning their instruction. As a result, Welty’s education is enforced rather than voluntary. On the other hand, Frederick Douglass’ “enlightening experience” was an individual endeavor. Douglas, who once had his mistress’s support, was in a plight after she ceased to educate him. However, Douglas did not surrender to his limitations. Instead, in his narrative, he recalls, “This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge” (Douglas 2). One can assume that Douglas must divert from conventional manners to educate himself. Even in this quote, he explains that he would exchange food for knowledge from the young children. His actions convey that a formal school setting is not required to feed one’s curiosity. Some may even go to the extent to claim that Douglass’ education is more “nutritious” and “beneficial” compared to Welty’s because Douglass’ circumstances enlighten him about character, society, and the worth of freedom, thus, his education extends beyond a formal school setting.
Eudora Welty’s demanding upbringing mirrors Douglass’ regret of reading after he faces the bitter truth concerning his posture in society as a slave. Douglass’ literacy persuades him that “learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing” (Douglas 3). He learns about the sin of being able to understand his pitiful conditions as an African American man. As a result, hatred for his slave masters and anguish occupy his mind. Douglass’ “enlightening experience” compels him to face torment and unrest. This claim suggests that education entails struggle mentally and physically. Douglass’ hunger for knowledge places him in a physical brawl and, ultimately, a mental altercation with himself and society. On the other hand, Eudora Welty’s authoritarian childhood restricts her from enjoying her education. “Saying ‘might-could’ was bad, but saying it in the basement made bad grammar a sin” reprimands a teacher at Welty’s elementary school. This scolding validates the argument that skills and habits were imposed in Welty’s education. Rather than explaining the children’s poor grammar, the teacher rebukes and threatens them. This behavior, inappropriate and unacceptable, of teachers, in fact, discourages students from pursuing their interest. Ultimately, both Douglas and Welty’s education compel them to encounter distasteful moments. While Douglas faces a more serious physical and mental struggle, constant teachers’ rebukes discourage Welty’s motivation to learn.
Plato’s metaphor conditions us for the dictatorial ways of teaching expressed in Freire’s text. Freire encourages a revision to the oppressive manner of education where teachers suppress their students. He argues that education has transformed into a narration where teachers feed facts and details to students. However, the students do not “digest” the information, or in other words, thoroughly undergo an authentic “enlightening experience.” Instead, they memorize the details for assessments. Ultimately, the oppressors, teachers, impose ignorance onto their students who “accept their ignorance as justifying the teachers existence– but unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher” ( Freire 2). This statement clarifies that not all teachers enlighten their students. Instead, the “teacher-student” relationship is for namesake and the teacher’s justification for his or own purpose. Undoubtedly, this method of teaching is unacceptable. Hence, Freire advocates for a rectification of the learning process. He proposes the “problem posing method,” which advocates for student voice and a balance between the educator and student in the classroom (Freire 7). Ultimately, such change in the classroom is dependent on the voices of student. One must possess the individuality and confidence in order to be liberated from such maltreatment. Similarly, Plato’s allegory is a metaphor for education in which the prisoners are subjects to oppression. His piece extends the process of enlightenment beyond education. Readers can interpret his piece in terms of either education or life, in general. In the allegory, the prisoners are chained in a cave, and they face a plain wall where the light casts shadows of people walking past the fire; thus the wall displays a “puppet show” for them. The prisoners perceive the shadows as reality. In other words, the prisoners perceive reality as what lies in front of them. Unexpectedly, one prisoner is freed. He symbolizes the traits of individuality and persistence. He escapes the cave, but the sunlight is too intense for his eyes. After his eyes adjust to the intensity of the sunlight, the free prisoner recognizes that the shadows are not the truth, while the objects in the environment are. Here, Plato comments on the gradual process of enlightenment. In another scenario, Plato considers if the prisoner returns to the cave to narrate his experiences to the other captive prisoners. The other prisoners would make a mockery of him while accusing him of fabricating the details. The prisoners’ attitude validates their ignorance. Essentially, Plato comments on people’s will to establish change and step out of their comfort zone. In the allegory, he remarks, “…my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort…” (Plato 2). Plato concludes that one can only be liberated from oppression when that person manifests distinctiveness and persistence. As a result, Plato’s allegory conditions Freire endorsement for a revision in education. If Plato’s reasoning is applied to Friere’s argument, then one can deduce that students must advocate for themselves. If the students allow teachers to oppress them and prolong their ignorance, then the students are equally to blame. Plato’s allegory extends beyond education, and applies to everyone.
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