It is difficult to imagine how the world, as people know it now, would function without people’s skills in writing and reading. All the technologies, scientific inventions, and discoveries, and research and social-philosophical advancement would never be possible if people could not use linguistic means to exchange ideas, thoughts, and knowledge. The importance of learning and engaging in educational interventions for human intellectual development has been broadly addressed in the fields of educational studies, pedagogy, and andragogy. Some outstanding and influential people of America have emphasized the ways in which literacy changed their lives and provided them with freedom of mind despite the oppressive lack of bodily freedom. Language, in its written and spoken forms, defines the limits of human intellectual capabilities, social activity, and developmental tendencies on a personality level. In this paper, the readings by Frederic Douglass, Malcolm X, and Esmeralda Bermudez are used to explore the importance of literacy in human life. It is argued that knowing how to read and write contributes to human freedom, allows an individual to expand the limits of worldview, and minimizes the chances of being controlled.
Importance of Continuous Learning for Obtaining Freedom
People who can read and write are more difficult to control. Indeed, when a person has a well-defined idea about the world, how it should function, and what place this personal occupies in it, their decision-making is difficult to control or influence in a harmful way. As Douglass states, his life in the house of his master was very difficult since he, as a slave, was deprived of the benefits of learning (100-101). The mistress’ husband was particularly interested in Douglass’s lack of knowledge and literacy because it would undermine the whole idea of slavery. Therefore, by “shutting him in mental darkness,” the master and his wife intended to keep their slave obedient (Douglass 100). Indeed, the philosophical ideas and worldview that might have developed in an educated mind would be more difficult to control and deprive of freedom.
Consequently, ignorance leads to obedience and allows for oppressors to control those who are in a diminished position, which is why intelligence is a key to freedom. A person can perceive the thoughts and knowledge of others from books by means of reading. Then, they can form their own thoughts and ideas in writing. These skills provide endless opportunities for a learning mind not only to explore the world but also to change it. For example, Douglass writes about his impression of a book he was reading, where “the slave was made to say some very smart and as well as very impressive things to his master” (102). The things he said were decisive for his life because “the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part of the master” (Douglass 102). Thus, knowledge granted the slave freedom, which he so much wanted.
Similarly, Malcolm X, a prisoner who wanted to become articulate, acknowledges the emancipatory capabilities of education. He states that up to the time when he learned to write and read, he “never had been so truly free in my life” (Malcolm X 2). Indeed, Malcolm X refers to learning in prison as the way to free himself since while been engaged in studying, he did not even think about imprisonment. In fact, anyone who has read books and explored the numerous alternative worlds portrayed by writers’ minds would agree that language in the richness of its lexical and imagery features expands the scope of one’s imagination and provides room for new ideas and thoughts.
Literacy as an Essential Asset in Human Development
Within the introduced framework of thinking about writing and reading, knowledge of language predetermines the limits of human perception of the world. Malcolm X writes that he was proud to write many words at once and, moreover, to write “words that I never knew were in the world” (2). Indeed, the very method, which this writer used to educate himself, entails a paramount idea behind the vital role of language in the life of people. The dictionary he received from the prison’s school was like an encyclopedia, from which he learned not only how to write and the meaning of the words, but also numerous facts about the world. The fewer words one knows, the more limited they are in their worldview. Therefore, expanding one’s vocabulary, learning new linguistic units, morphological patterns, and syntax ties allow one to accumulate factual knowledge and develop critical and abstract thinking.
Food for the body is as essential as knowledge is for the brain. Frederick Douglass learned to read from poor white boys in exchange for bread, which they so lacked. The writer states that “this bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge” (Douglass 101). Therefore, his effort to obtain access to knowledge allowed him to succeed. Moreover, finding ways to learn is motivated by an individual’s desire to learn. The scarcity of resources for education is more motivational than the abundance of such. Modern kids are often forced to learn, especially at an early age. In modern days, people perceive learning and education for granted without adequately acknowledging the vital importance of literacy and knowledge in human existence as social entities. The efforts Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass made to achieve their intellectual freedom contributed to their cherishing of every opportunity that would improve their skills.
It was fascinating to read these writers’ essays written in immaculate and sophisticated language while learning the hard ways they accomplished to master their literacy. Douglass describes his first attempts to learn letters while observing ship carpenters marking the parts of the ships (103). The smallest pieces of information he managed to collect resulted in his success as a prominent thinker, talented writer, and influential activist. Similarly, Malcolm X achieved significant results in teaching himself to read and write, which allowed him to explore the world in a significantly different light than he had perceived before. Thus, having developed their literacy skills and intellectual abilities not only gave these individuals access to human accumulated knowledge but opened opportunities to become influential thinkers themselves.
Learning and Mentor Influence and Concluding Points
As the described experience of the writers implies, role models are very important in education. Indeed, Douglass copied the writing of Master Thomas in his copy-book, which ultimately shaped his writing skills (104). For Malcolm X, his desire to be as good at writing and expressing his thought as his acquaintance, Bimbi, was (1). Indeed, as Bermudez emphasizes, human learning occurs as a result of numerous influences, some of which, like parents’ examples, build a solid foundation for further advancement.
In my life, learning and education have always played an important role. My teachers and parents are my main motivators, whose achievements I was able to observe and learn from. I have always strongly believed that people who are passionate about their knowledge and skills in any field and who demonstrate talent are perfect role models who motivate them to learn. I cherish my opportunity to learn how to read and write at an early age because I managed to accumulate substantial knowledge about the world, which I would not be able to obtain without literacy. Therefore, freedom of mind can only be achieved by means of learning how to read and write, which are the stepping stones of intelligence that opens doors for opportunities.
Bermudez, Esmeralda. “On the Shoulders of Our Parents – the Cooks, Nannies and Gardeners – We’ve Traveled Far.” Los Angeles Times, 2020, Web.
Douglass, Frederick. Learning to Read and Write. 2020. Web.
Malcolm X. Learning to Read. 2020. Web.