In the readings for this week, the topic of education was discussed from two different points of view. The topic of slavery and the lives surrounding African Americans during the Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement was also discussed. Throughout this essay both points of view will be argued as well as how they affect learning in today’s society.
Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington consisted of life after slavery and the extent of education after slaves were freed. From a very young age, Booker T. Washington was interested in education and went through trials and tribulations in order to achieve one. He traveled to the Hampton Institute, which was a school for colored people five hundred miles from his home. With little money and only basic skills learned from previous jobs, he set out to achieve his goal. After a few years at the school he became a teacher and began to pass to others that which he knew was important for the black race. He later spent a majority of his time on building a new school in a little town called Tuskegee, Alabama. With the support of both the white and black race, money was raised in order to develop the Tuskegee Institute for blacks. The teachings of the institute consisted of industrial education which allowed for the students to learn trade skills in order to further their development. Booker T. Washington is known as one of the most influential black leaders in American history and was well known for his public speaking and was asked to speak at many important expositions and meetings.
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois consisted of essays which spoke about the thoughts of blacks. The readings consisted of hardships faced for education, and the development of schools and universities. One essay included Du Bois’s views that conflict with Washington‘s. Washington’s views on education were much different than Du Bois and so were his views on the relationships between whites and blacks. Early on Du Bois saw being black as a hardship that hindered his race from getting an adequate education. He later spoke of ways in which to achieve that education and the importance of doing so. In his essays he also stressed the importance of teachings other than industrial ones.
Du Bois was the first ever African American to obtain a Ph.D. from Harvard. He wrote numerous books and was also a very influential individual throughout history.
As a Caucasian female in today’s society I consider myself very lucky for having all that I have and all that I have grown up with. Sadly, as time passes slavery isn’t talked about as much and it is forgotten how hard it was for African Americans. It is a well known fact that there was mistreatment. But it is rarely talked about how difficult it was for slaves to learn and that includes everything from brushing their teeth to making their beds. Formal education was not an option for slaves and education of just the basic necessities of life weren’t often learned as well. In Washington’s (1901) book it is noted that even as a child slave, there is little time for attention from the mother due to the duties she had to attend to as a slave, therefore there was lack of any instruction (p. 2). Thankfully slavery ended long ago and education of all kinds is much more attainable today then in the past.
As a future adult educator, the readings have helped me to see education in a different light. African Americans had some hard times and even today that remains the same in some situations. From reading Washington, I didn’t realize what had to be done to establish a school. It took over twenty years for the school to reach the level that Washington and others had planned for it and it still continued to be a work in progress. It amazed me personally how well the whites treated Washington. I mentioned before how slavery was never a positive topic to discuss, but when reading Up from Slavery, I believe that it was the first time that I had actually read something heartfelt associated with the treatment of slaves. It was amazing to read how much the white people donated to the development of the school for the blacks. That, in comparison with today’s society just goes to show that some things never change and the need for money remains the same. Du Bois didn’t see whites as being as influential and helpful as did Washington. He also didn’t agree much with the topics that Washington focused on in his teachings.
Looking at the way that Washington taught from an educators point of view I think that he had the right idea in mind. Teaching individuals to learn ideas other then that of those in textbooks helps the individual to learn more to help them advance. I enjoy how he explained that by learning these things you are giving back to the community as well as to yourself (Washington, 1901, p. 74). Keeping yourself clean and keeping your space clean is also a valuable lesson that is to be learned and is an idea that is obviously beneficial. Du Bois (1903) had a different idea of what should be taught and aimed more toward “book learning” (p. 12). I believe that book learning is very influential and that education would be nowhere without it today. There are so many subjects and so much information involved that it would be hard for students to learn without them. Together I think that both Washington and Du Bois had good ideas about what should be taught. Both are important and you can see how they both have had an effect on today’s education.
In relation to education and learning, one point in Washington’s book that I found to be very interesting involved the situation where the whites did not learn basic tasks because the slaves were always the ones to do them. Washington (1901) said:my old master had many boys and girls, but not one, so far as I know, ever mastered a single trade or special line of productive industry. The girls were not taught to cook, sew, or to take care of the house. All of this was left to the slaves. (p. 9).
After the slaves were set free, who was to do these things? He said, in a way, that his master had to learn things new just as the slaves. And the slaves had to learn how to handle the responsibility of being free. I thought this was an interesting point cause the slaves were seen as inferior, yet they in some aspects had more skill then that of their master’s and mistress’s.
In conclusion, both of the books were interesting and helped me to view education differently. It also gave me a better outlook on the development of black schools. I enjoyed Up from Slavery better because it gave me a new outlook on the way slaves were treated after they were set free. The Souls of Black Folk was good too, but it was a lot harder for me to read. You can see from the reading that both individuals worked hard to further the development of education for African Americans. You can also see that both Washington and Du Bois were intelligent men who came from nothing and made something of their lives. It is definite that they both are an inspiration to not only blacks but to whites as well.
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