Essay on To Be a Gentleman or to Be Free

Submitted By bratel45
Words: 1070
Pages: 5

Jake Bratel
Intro to Writing
To Be a Gentleman or To Be Free Education now is something that is a way of life, just as eating is. However historically, education was one of the only ways to stand out in society, to be a ‘gentlemen’. Hsun Tzu and Frederick Douglas, though worlds apart, share many similarities on their view of education and what it should be like; at the same time, each text contains key elements that show how different their views can be and the reason behind it. The similarities are quite simple to obtain through these two texts. Education was something that never ends and gets you everywhere in life. Hsun even states in his text that “learning should never cease” (9). To him education is the only mechanism that could alter human nature and change you as person. Which seems to be the same for Frederick; education changes a person. If a slave were to be educated they could begin to make more connections to things that are wrong and right rather than being an animal and not even knowing one’s age. A slave that is passive and weak has the possibility of “forgetting himself, and that is when disaster occurs, the weak naturally end up bound” (Tzu 10); the disaster being that a naïve slave working under his master thinking there is no other way. While the strong headed slave “bears up under the weight” (Tzu 10) figuring there is more to life and what is going on isn’t moral. As important as education is to these two great historical figures, it doesn’t come easy. In my opinion Frederick had it much harder than Tzu for resource and material wise but “achievement consists of never giving up” (Tzu 11). Hsun goes on to talk about not being able to cut through rotten wood if you give up but you can carve and inlay stone when you do not stop. Frederick inlayed a stone road to freedom with his perseverance. What was amazing was that even with his minimal education Douglas could see the link between learning and a desire for freedom. I wish the two were alive now so I could see how much Hsun would adore Frederick. Douglass states that “education goes hand in hand with freedom” (Douglass 46) which is not word for word what Tzu believes but he feels that if you don’t educate yourself or want to educate yourself, you become bound up in nothing but tragedy where you are stuck; a slave to society, not knowing left from right. Education changes you as a person, children born among the Han people…and Mo barbarians cry with the same voice but as they grow older they follow different customs” (Tzu 9). That concept came as no surprise to Douglass either, as he stated freedom and education are linked. Making education a lifestyle is the last connection to similarities I see between the two texts. Just as one would become a Physics teacher and surround himself with books of physics, equations and physicists to help him further in his career, Tzu and Douglass did exactly that. Tzu was very strict in his opinion of surrounding yourself and learning from and with people who are already educated. It was the only way for Tzu to logically study. For him “nothing is more profitable than to associate with those who are learned” (Tzu 12). In the case of Douglass he had no choice; he was already enclosed by educated kids or white folk so he would use it to his advantage. Even though his mistress turned awry on him he still was able to use the white kids to get information and learn from. On the contrary, their views on education differ in a number of ways, sometimes even when their interpretations seem to compare the reason behind their view is different. Hsun Tzu once tried spending his whole day in thought and realized it wasn’t as valuable to him as if he were to just study. Douglass on the other hand would spend most of his time in thought because he needed to think critically about what he