The Process of Learning
Think back to the time you were just a little kid learning to read and write: have you ever thought about how difficult this was? Well, imagine not being able to learn these skills not because you were mentally incapable but because the law prohibited you from learning. This is exactly what happened to Frederick Douglass. Many times we take these skills for granted even though others have struggled with barriers we are not faced with today. Although Frederick Douglass took many steps to learn to read and write many years ago some of these steps still apply today in order to learn something new. Through his experiences in “Learning to Read,” Frederick Douglass demonstrates that the learning process occurs in steps which require hard work, tricks, and both internal motivations and external opportunities. His thoughts also suggest that being educated can be very powerful. In order to convey that learning is a process with multiple steps Frederick Douglass uses words such as “first step” (192). He refers to the “first step” being the fact that his mistress gave him a glimpse into the world of intellect and opened his mind to reading and writing. By the time she stops instructing him he has already discovered a desire to learn. Because he numbered the step, it is accurate to assume that there must be more steps following the first one and that the process of learning is much more complicated. He also states that his mistress gave him “the inch” (192) by teaching him the alphabet and that she would not be able to keep him away from taking the “ell” (192), which back then was the equivalent of forty-five inches. His figurative language suggests that there are more inches or steps that he must take in order to get to forty-five inches which can resemble the completion of learning something new. In Douglass’s case learning the alphabet was just the beginning of the process of learning how to read and write. According to Douglass many of the...
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