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A comparison of Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Franklin, and Ralph Waldo Emerson and their views on education.

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  • Feb. 21, 2005
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In our class, Survey of American Literature, we have read and analyzed the classic American works that have influenced and in some cases ingrained themselves into our country's identity and belief system. Among those studied has been Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, The American Scholar and Self -Reliance, and Frederick Douglass' Narrative. Each of these covers a vast amount of subjects that could be discussed, but one that proves most compelling is the topic of education. These three men, who come from different life circumstances and have varied philosophies of life, each came to define the uses of education in their own ways. However, they do all seem to express the notion that education can be used to empower one's self.

In Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, comes through to me as a perfect example of the American dream, that being the idea that no matter where you come from, you can achieve almost anything with hard work and dedication. Coming from a lower-middle class Boston family to being one of the most famous Americans of all time is the classic rags to riches story that he himself lived out. The way he achieved this was by being self-educated. When looking at Franklin's life, it could be said that he is a Renaissance man because he did so many things; he was a printer, a writer, an inventor, a scientist, and a statesman, and the only thing he had a formal education of was of printing.

This American dream that is still deeply ingrained in our society today though, always seemed to be a bit of a myth to me. I don't think it is right to say that if you are willing to work hard enough, you will always achieve success. Things are not that simple. Of course hard work can get you places, but some people work very hard their entire lives and still don't achieve success due to unfair circumstances. I would say that success is achieved not only by hard work, but also by the right circumstances and a bit of luck.

It seems...