A leader is a person who takes charge of their own life by self education. Sherman Alexie and Malcolm X demonstrate leadership by trying to further their people. In Sherman Alexie’s essay “Superman and Me” he demonstrates how influential education is to him. Once Alexie was able to read he wanted to show how smart he was in the classroom. However, the other Indian boys kept trying to keep him quiet because they were expected to be stupid. This infuriated Alexie because until his people became educated they were going to continually be taken advantage of. In Malcolm X’s essay “Learning to Read” he explains how education made him the person that he is today. After Malcolm X became literate his whole world changed. Up until he started reading he believed that the best way for African Americans to gain civil rights was to use violence. However, after reading the history of his people and how they had been taken advantage of, he realized that the best way to gain rights was through knowledge. Both of them try to lead their people to educate themselves. Education was necessary for Alexie and Malcolm X to overcome the disadvantages in their background because they were able to learn about their histories and became examples to others.
Both Sherman Alexie and Malcolm X had obstacles to overcome in their past. For Alexie, it was that of his childhood “classmates whom fought with him daily” (pg 13). Alexie was constantly trying to speak up during class and participate but the other children told him to keep quiet. The Indian children were accepted into society if they were submissive and struggled in the “non-Indian world” (pg 13). The people on the reservation lived this way for generations believing that their place wasn’t in the classroom and that they had to fail. Malcolm X had to overcome not only his personal obstacles of poverty and illiteracy but also the abuse of his people. X only had an eighth grade education and throughout all of his schooling he was never taught how to read. After X taught himself how to read in jail he started learning about the abuse that his people had endured. X said he would never forget “how shocked [he] was when [he] began reading about slavery’s total horror” (pg 286). This was only the beginning of all the cruelties he soon learned had been inflicted upon his people.
After Sherman Alexie and Malcolm X educated themselves they were able to go back and lead their people to change. Alexie visited the Indian schools in an effort to show the children that education should be accepted not feared. He teaches creative writing and poetry to the children in an effort to spread the importance of education. He said that the children whom read many books and stared at him with bright eyes and arrogant wonder were “trying to save their lives” (pg 14). By becoming educated they would no longer be prone to being taken advantage of any longer. With out education these children will lead the same lives as their parents have, filled with hard labor and small wages. Malcolm X’s view on education is stronger than most because he had lived a life with his eyes closed until the day that he was able to read. Once he became literate he realized how much easier his people’s lives could have been if they had been educated. They would have been able to clearly see how wrong their situation had been for so long. X said that “with every additional book that [he] read he was given a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America” (pg 289). He is saying that the only way to keep his people from being mistreated is to educate them. With education they will gain opinions and the knowledge to understand how helpless they are without it.
Education was necessary for Alexie and Malcolm X to overcome the disadvantages in their background because they were able to learn about their histories and became examples to others. Throughout both their lives and struggles each of them realized that achieving their goals were impossible without education. My advice to a new college student who would like to become a leader would be first to take charge of their life and identify the problem they need to resolve. A leader has a clear vision of achieving specific goals. They attack their obstacles head on and inspire others through their examples.
Samuel Cohen. 50 Essays
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. Print