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Paul Miloro

AP Lang, Block 2, Skinny B


Ms. Thompson
September 7, 2014
IJWBA Paper First Draft

On Rational Inquiry
In his essay, Rose asserts that the effect of poor schooling is one of stultification: Lacking
stimuli, ones mind is dampened, ones intellect dulled. The provided excerpt echoes this
sentiment, acknowledging the importance of proper instruction in the cultivation of an inquiring
and innately curious mind. Similarly, both reference necessity of forging an identity with such
information and the dangers of losing it should one reject the constant questioning of the world
around oneself. Nonetheless, the two passages are not entirely concurrent; though Rose would
agree with Baldwins statements on utilizing ones mind to its full extent, he would attribute the
intellectual dampening of students to internal struggles rather than, as the latter argues, the desire
of society for conformity.
The excerpt from A Talk to Teachers begins with the sentence with which Rose would
most fully agree:
The purpose of education, finally, is to create in an individual the ability to look at the
world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is
white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not (Baldwin, line 1).

Throughout his memoir, the former discourses at length upon the effect of poor education on
those same abilities; the generally abysmal quality of instruction resulted in the gradual
deterioration of Roses initiative, until he became a mediocre student and a somnambulant
problem solver (Rose, 2), thus demonstrating the potential harm that can be wrought by poor
teaching methods. In still more direct agreement with Baldwin, Rose details the effects of
MacFarlands lessons on the formers intellectual life, stating that he [had given] me a way to
feel special by using my mind (6) and had tapped my old interest and reading and creating
stories (6). This marked the re-awakening of Roses mind and the beginning of his journey on
the path that would eventually lead to his professorship at the prestigious university of UCLA; as
such, he would almost certainly identify with Baldwins statement as to the power of good
education.
Similarly, Rose would concur with the next of Baldwins assertions as to the forging of
ones personality: To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with the answers to
those questions, is the way that he achieves his own identity (Baldwin, line 4). The former
expresses similar sentiments, noting that, when students dismiss education, they also refute their
existence as an individual: What Ken and so many others do is[r]eject the frustration and
confusion by openly defining [themselves] as the Common Joe (Rose, 3). Such endeavors
invariably restrict such people to absolute conformity, simply because as the Common Joe,
they can possess to outstanding characteristics, no distinguishing features, nothing that makes
one immediately discernible from anyone else. As an example of the inverse, guided by the adept
MacFarland, Roses mental scope began to grow swiftly; his notes on the formers instructional
style and simple delvings into basic literature quickly become those of a fledgling literati (5),
who reads and ponders obsessively, taking great pleasure in discourse and reasoned thought, the

very image of a willful individual. The convergence of the both Roses and Baldwins
observations thus assures mutual agreement in terms of discussion.
However, the confluence of the two is marred by disagreement towards the final segment
of the Baldwin excerpt, as the latter asserts that society actively suppresses those that would
challenge authority and cultural norms, stating, What societies really, ideally want, is a citizenry
which will simply obey the rules of society (Baldwin, line 7). Rose takes the opposite
viewpoint, focusing on the plight of the individual in an under-stimulating environment, the
bottom of the pond (Rose, 2). From his descriptions of the characters in his surroundings, one
can conclude that those surrounding Rose were talented, from the Nembutal-enhanced swirls
(1) of Bill Cobb and Johnny Gonzales to the more philosophical inclinations of Ted Richard and
the rapping prowess of Tyrrell Wilson. The main point of I Just Wanna Be Average is simply that,
in poor soil, the latent abilities of students will fail to germinate, fail to sprout and grow, and thus
will remain locked away out of their grasp. Rose maintains that long-term exposure to this lack
of outlets for true talents and effectively forced labor in poorly-taught, uninteresting subjects
further dampens any internal brilliance in students and results in still further withdrawal from the
rigors of classwork. Baldwin instead argues that such abilities are actively restricted; in a
historical context, at the height of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement, it is logical that
Baldwin would take such a view. Such examples of interracial violence and events like the Red
Scare would cultivate the sensation that any radical viewpoint was being purposely eliminated,
and that those who questioned norms would be detained, jailed, or essentially exiled. Thus, Rose
and Baldwin contest the causes of underachievement, and, although they most likely concur in
that education is a vital factor, will nonetheless maintain that it is either passive dampening or
active repression, respectively, that is most at fault with low-level education.

As has been demonstrated, Baldwin and Rose would on most points be in alignment;
each would agree that education plays a vital role in the development of both an inquiring mind
and a distinct personality, but would reason differently as to the high propensity of students with
skills irrelevant to education being stymied by the latter system: Rose champions the reactions
and choices of the individual while Baldwin simply ascribes such a disparity to the will of
society. Regardless of ones views on the matter, it is impossible to deny the deep and profound
impact ones years of schooling have on ones mind, ones passions, and ones future.