Revisioning the Scholarship Boy
Visioning the Scholarship Boy In “When We Dean Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision,” Rich describes the dilemma we all face as humans in our search for identity. Are we to allow the forces of the past to define us, or are we to transcend these forces creating a new identity? For Rich her struggle with a male dominated society causes her to redefine herself through writing. As the title of her piece suggests, Rich uses “writing as Re-vision,” a way to rewrite the past, effectively breaking free of tradition.
In “The Achievement Of Desire,” Rodriguez is faced with a similar crisis of identity, when faced with Hoggart’s concept of the “scholarship boy”. While this concept seems to represent the hold of authority over Rodriguez, he instead uses it in his search for identity, breaking the hold of authority over him. Rich writes, “until we understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves…. ”(Rich 18). In much the same way Rodriguez must understand the assumptions imposed by the concept of the “scholarship boy” in his quest for self-identity.
When examining Rodriguez’s struggle the following questions arise: Has Rodriguez broken free of the academic authorities in his life, which attempt to rigidly define his identity? Is he a “scholarship boy,” or something more? When contemplating these questions, we come to a surprising result; Rodriguez had used his quest for identity as a catalyst, allowing him to solidify his own philosophy of education. Throughout the achievement of desire Rodriguez uses the concept of the scholarship boy to express his philosophy of education.
While at first we see the scholarship boy as a mere caricature, eventually it begins to increase in depth, until finally we realize that Rodriguez is in fact talking about himself. Rodriguez writes: “In large part, however, the reason he is such a bad student is because he realizes more often and more acutely than most other students – than Hoggart himself – that education requires radical self-reformation. ”(529) In this passage we begin to see pieces of Rodriguez’s philosophy of education. For Rodriguez, a successful education exists as a force of inevitable change.
This change often pulls one away from their native culture, integrating them with society. Rodriguez states, “ Radical educationalists meanwhile complain that ghetto schools oppress students by trying to mold them…the truer critique would be just the reverse: not that schools change ghetto students too much…they change most students barely at all. ”(529) For Rodriguez a proper education inevitably “molds” the student. The emphasis in the American educational system on “creativity and originality” ultimately hinders the success of the student.
Rodriguez furthers his philosophy on education with his views on imitation. For Rodriguez imitation i “From the story of the scholarship boy there is no specific pedagogy to glean… he makes clear that education is a long unglarorous even demeaning process……. Great quote to set up another paragraph For rodriguez, education need not be a pleasurable process. While thescholorship boy seems a negative story in reality it is a necessary one in terms of education. For the student of immigrant parents to become educated he must be ripped from his native culture
Rodriguez reveals; “A primary reason for my success in the classroom was that I couldn’t forget that schooling was changing me and separating me from the life I enjoyed before becoming a student. ”(516) During the beginning of his life, Rodriguez lives as the “scholarship boy”. Rodriguez writes, “I lacked a point of view when I read. Rather I read in order to acquire a point of view. ”(527). Furthermore Rodriguez writes “I knew too much (and not enough) to be able to write anything but sentences that were overly cautious, timid, strained brittle under the heavy weight of footnotes and qualifications.
I seemed unable to dare a passionate statement”(531). After these realizations Rodriguez searches for an answer to his shortcomings in academic literature coming face to face with Hoggart’s concept of the “scholarship boy”. For the first time Rodriguez begins to question himself, framing these inquiries through the concept of the “scholarship boy” Through questioning himself Rodriguez finally comes to terms with himself allowing a synthesis to occur, applying his skills of abstraction to his problem of identity.
Rodriguez writes “And yet, positively: the ability to consider experience so abstractly allowed me to shape into desire what would otherwise have remained indefinite. ”. Rodriguez takes this synthesis further concluding “If, because of my schooling, I had grown culturally separated from my parents, my education finally had given me ways of speaking and caring about this fact”(532). Rodriguez goes further to illustrate his transformation, by contrasting his thoughts as a “scholarship boy” with his thoughts in the present.
Rodriguez writes “ Faithfully, I wrote down all that they said. I memorized it: “The praise of the unlettered by the highly educated is the primary theme of ‘elitist’ literature” But, “the importance of the praise given the unsolitary, richly passionate and spontaneous life is that it simultaneously reflects the value of a reflective life. ”(532). To Rodriguez this quote falls perfectly in line with his own conclusions from his experience, the wisdom of learning to balance the two opposing forces in his life. Yet as a scholarship boy these words mean nothing to him.
Rodriguez writes, “But there was no way for any of it to mean very much to me. I was a scholarship boy at the time, busily laddering my way up the rungs of education. ”(532). Throughout “Achievement of Desire”, Rodriguez maps his transformation from a “scholarship boy”, to someone with his own authority. It is possible to see a similar transformation occur for Rich when we examine “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision”. For Rich the final step of this transformation is through her act of writing about her struggle.
Rich writes, “Moreover if the imagination is to transcend and transform experience it has to question, to challenge, to conceive of alternatives, perhaps to the very life you are living at the moment. …. For writing is re-naming. ” (Rich 23). It would seem that a final piece of evidence for Rodriguez’s transformation is “Achievement of Desire” itself. Rodriguez’s ability to write about his struggle allows him to use the transformative power of the imagination, effectively using writing as Re-Vision.