What is the "crucial paradox which confronts us here?"

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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James Baldwin, in "A Talk to Teachers," states the following:

Now the crucial paradox which confronts us here is that the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society.

The text, published in The Saturday Review on December 21, 1963, was a speech delivered by Baldwin on October 16, 1963 under the title "The Negro Child-His Self Image."

That being said, Baldwin is addressing teachers in 1963 regarding the problems associated with a child, his/her society, and their education.

The paradox which Baldwin refers to in the speech/text is the one which exists where a child must come to recognize the numerous questions in life which they must desire to answer for themselves.

Unfortunately, as proposed by Baldwin, society does not necessarily want children who ask about their own identities. Instead, societies wish their children to simply obey the rules the society puts into their lives.

Therefore, the paradox which is created is one where education must combat societal rules. Teachers are expected to give students the ability to question and find answers to those things which confuse or concern students. That being said, society would be much happier with life existing as it does without questioning why society exists as it does. While the questioning expands the minds of the youth, this questioning can also weaken a society.

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