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Caleb Jacobs
Ms. Thompson
AP Lang Skinny A, Block 2
January 31, 2015
IJWBA Essay
Society Just Wants You To Be Average
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think
critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.- Martin Luther
King Jr. The school system Rose was in is flagrantly flawed and represents exactly the
issue that Baldwin discusses in the excerpt from A Talk to Teachers, that of society not
wanting to produce critical thinkers that education is designed to. Support for this
includes Rose not receiving education on his level, as well as other students being
beaten into submission. These two facts combine to show that Rose would agree with
Baldwins thoughts.
Rose was unable to get the education he needed in order to best take advantage
of his innate skill. He was above average, but placed into the wrong track by a clerical
error. He then couldnt get out until a teacher noticed him several semesters into high
school. After having his placement corrected, he could no longer keep up with the
harder classes due to being stunted in development previously. Meanwhile, other
students were beaten into submission, and forced to desire being average. Formerly
they were all unique and distinct: for example, Ted Richard was philosophical but
athletic and as a result forced into being an athlete and nothing else. Ken Harvey gave
Rose cause to name his essay by uttering the line I just wanna be average in

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response to a parable about working hard. Students were required by the system to
become uniform and average to escape the monotony of the program. Students were
also sometimes literally beaten with ebullience because they stood out for whatever
reason, such as Roses last name leading to him being beaten by his teacher.
Baldwin speaks of what the purpose of education is. He then proceeds to draw a
conclusion from that explaining that society doesnt actually want what education
produces, explaining why the quality of education tends to be so poor. This comes with
an implication that Roses experiences arent an isolated case of below-average
quality education, but rather a paradigm that society strives for all education to
approach.
Roses experiences therefore agree with Baldwins observations. Baldwin says
that the society wouldnt want educated, unique thinkers, and the school clearly tries to
remove superfluous critical thinking capacity and in its place install ornate and
ostentatious information regurgitation. The school is oppressive and hinders the
students from learning, which Baldwin also would say is trying to keep students in line
with what society wants.