What kind of student is Richard Rodriguez? Essay
Essay 1: What kind of student is Richard Rodriguez?
In The Achievement of Desire, Richard Rodriguez describes himself as being “a very bad student” (515-6). However, Rodriguez is not referring to the stereotypical image one would automatically assume, the one who doesn’t do any of the assigned work, fails examinations, and lacks the motivation and eagerness to learn. Rather, he is referring to the kind of student described as “The Scholarship Boy” (516). Said character is described by Rodriguez as “the prized student – anxious and eager to learn.
Too eager, too anxious – an imitative and unoriginal pupil” (516). Which leads to ask, what kind of student is Richard Rodriguez?” Rodriguez is the “Scholarship Boy”. Rodriguez read books to attain knowledge; he never questioned authors and whether or not they were correct in their arguments. To him, “the information gathered from a book was unquestioned” (524). He read for pleasure as well. However, his way of educating himself through books would lead him to his own miseducation.
Although very successful academically, his opinions were not his owns, he would quote famous authors, “take something else from Frye or Empson or Leavis. He even repeats exactly his professor’s earlier comment. All his ideas were clearly borrowed” (528) Such attributes in a student are benign.
One cannot attempt to become educated by copying the ideas of others, by mimicking and paraphrasing their thoughts. Rather, in my opinion, a student should harvest their own ideas. Use what knowledge they’ve attained from their readings and experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. In order to be educated, one must know how to make sense out of whatever one has learned. Rodriguez would ask his grammar school teachers to recommend him books. About this experience he says “any book they told me to read, I read – then waited for them to tell me which books I enjoyed” (519). This goes to show that he, from a young age, valued the educational opinion of others – primarily his grammar school teachers whom he “came to idolize” (518) – and never questioned it. In my opinion, a good student questions what is being taught, analyzes and doesn’t become completely submissive to what is being fed to him by educational institutions. A good student, although attaining the knowledge given to him, makes reason of it. In fourth grade he asked his teachers to recommend “important books” (525) for him to read – “adult books” (525). He disregarded any book that may have seemed childish. Such categorization of “childish books” with educational unimportance is not beneficial to any student. It creates a narrow point of view of what should be considered a good book and a bad book.
In my opinion, children books are just as beneficial as any other genre, because it enforces morale and ideas that very often go unnoticed. It wasn’t until his college years in which he read books such as Alice in Wonderland, or Huckleberry Finn. “Instead, I read The Scarlet Letter and Franklin’s Autobiography. And whatever I read I read for extra credit.” He says, “Each time I finished a book I reported the achievement to a teacher and basked in the praise my effort earned” (525.) Rodriguez placed high importance on adult books, because he enjoyed the attention he received from his teachers upon reading such books. Throughout “The Achievement of Desire” Rodriguez identifies himself with the “scholarship boy”. And I agree; Rodriguez fits very well into the definition of a “scholarship boy”.
A term he acquired while “leafing through Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy” (517). Although his education through his use of books has gotten him far and brought him “academic success” (527), because of his longing to be educated he “vacuumed books for epigrams, scraps of information, ideas, themes – anything to fill the hollow within” in order to make him “feel educated “ (527). This never enabled him to challenge himself by stepping out of his comfort zone of memorizing instead of learning what he read, to harvest his own thoughts and opinions; rather he collected that of others and quoted them. Rodriguez was the kind of student who knew all of the right answers, for the wrong reasons.
He uses his education to transform him not into the best version of himself, but into what he sees would be ideal. “He has used education to remake himself” (528). Perhaps one of the most important things to address why Rodriguez is the kind of student he is would be to explain his upbringing. He was raised in a working class home by Mexican parents, he was encouraged by his parents to attain as much of an education as possible, in order to have better opportunities than they had. They sent their three children to good schools, “paid tuition they couldn’t afford” (521), and spoke English at home. Although grateful for his parent’s effort, Rodriguez couldn’t help but feel “embarrassed by their lack of education” (520). This led to him to remake himself through his education, which only ended up separating him from his culture and create a wedge between his family life and that of his education. In his case, I would say that this is the foundation of him becoming a “scholarship student”. Simply because he didn’t want to be something he would be ashamed of. This ironically, makes many “scorn him” (528). It is frowned upon by those who don’t appreciate someone who has abandoned his true identity to become someone else.
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