A Talk to Teachers

by James Baldwin

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What common barriers to education do Westover in Educated and Baldwin in "A Talk to Teachers" identify, and how do they think these barriers can be overcome?

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One example of a barrier to education that both Westover in Educated and Baldwin in "A Talk to Teachers" identify is the fact that the instruction of children always takes place within a social framework and is designed to further the ends of the society in question. Baldwin gives the example of children educated in the moral values of the German Third Reich, while Westover has the personal example of her father's extreme isolationist beliefs.

Connected to this barrier is the fact that education is often mixed with abuse, either through the inculcation of damaging beliefs or in a more direct physical form. Baldwin talks about the way that Black children are given the message that they are inferior through education. Westover shows how her education was marred by the abuse of her father and brother.

Finally, both writers discuss the way in which education is often out of the control of the one being educated. The decisions which will be crucial to their future are taken out of their hands. However, the most powerful solution either writer can offer is that the student must take control of their education. Baldwin insists in closing that "this child must help her [America] to find a way to use the tremendous potential and tremendous energy which this child represents." Westover shows through her memoir how she took control of her life by fighting for her right to an education independent of her family's beliefs.

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