This research is being carried out to present a critical analysis of the Frank Conroy’s essay “Think about it: Ways we know and we don’t”, where he creates a contrast between individuals from completely different social backgrounds…
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This research will begin with the statement that education or learning is a dynamic process that is not just restricted to just one phase of an individual’s life, hence its definition is also subjective that varies according to people’s experiences. Education is not something that takes within the confines of an educational institution but dominates almost of every aspect of life. In other words, though the black shoe shiners were trapped in the nook of the subway station, shining shoes for a living, but that in no way meant that they were inferior to anyone living in this world. These are just the result of one’s circumstances that the author grows to understand while playing piano in various Harlem clubs, where he also discovered the musical harmony created by hidden chords. This facet of Conroy’s life had a distinct appeal to it that I could relate to greatly. Like music, writing is an expression or projection of oneself and there are no set rudiments that decide the level of one’s excellence in any art form. Artistic excellence is not something that can be bound by academic background, but it had more to do with the amount of passion one possesses for the field. Besides the examples provided by Conroy, there are plenty of models in my life who have reinforced this belief in my mind. Herbert Selby Jr. is one example of a man, who had no prior training to become a writer but managed to produce pieces that transformed the field of literature. Art can be a form of catharsis or emotional release; therefore the universal notion of sentiments is all that is required, more than educational background. I was also motivated by the lives of such individuals and taking inspiration from their work, I began writing at an early age. Even though, half the time I had no idea what I was writing, but eventually they started making sense to me. Conroy later elaborated his acquaintance with Judge William Douglas; who possessed great knowledge, but no one ever accompanied him or sat with him. Conroy later discovered through Judge Hand that the man he had been associating all this while had dealt with cases as tricky as the Dennis case. The case involved the indictment of 11 communists, who had been conspiring to topple the American government. Eugene Dennis, the General Secretary of the communist party and the prime defendant in the case had been stripped of his rights granted by the first amendment that included freedom of speech, publication, and assembly. Although, Douglas’s peers had overlooked the real challenge of the case, he had discovered the ‘real and present danger’ that sprung up as a result of the case’s conflict with constitutional rights of individuals. As stated above and per Conroy’s views, education does not end once people graduate from high schools and universities. There is more to life and education than just regurgitating facts and theories; individuals continue to develop understanding about and resolve complicated problems that were not known to them before. It is a continuous process that truly marks the achievement of enlightenment regardless of one’s profession; this is a natural process that no one is left deprived of. It was the same for the shoeshine men, who were stuck in a pitiful situation, yet they exhibited an unusual depth and understanding of life. Judge Douglas’s example depicted that ‘understanding does not always mean resolution’ and there are plenty of things that one may understand, but that does not necessarily resolve them or eradicate them from society; as was the situation in Dennis case.
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