Duncan And Sam On Education

Reading 1

In Chapter 17, Ras the Exhorter expresses his contempt for black “education” to Invisible Man in his lengthy speeches on the street. Ras believes that blacks should band together and make it so that whites cannot control them, because he sees education as simply a tool of white manipulation rather than something to aspire to or seek to gain. He is an extreme separationist, and believes that the subject matter being taught in black American schools taught integration, calling himself “no black educated fool who t’inks everything between black mahn and white mahn can be settled with some blasted lies in some bloody books written by the white mahn in the first place” (375). In this regard, he sees educated black men not as intellectuals, but instead as puppets for white people, believing what they want them to believe so that they don’t rebel. Ras is outraged by the behavior of white people, and doesn’t believe the two races can coexist. He challenges whites, saying “kicking him ass from cradle to grave then call him brother?” (372). He further notes that nothing in black education had a logical or “mathematical” explanation for this behavior (372).

Ras goes further off this idea, and draws a line between black education and “black intelligence” (373). Whereas black education is naïve loyalty to whites, black intelligence is devotion to the African race, their ‘brothers’. Black education, in this case, represents a convoluted superego, made up of information provided by white people, and black intelligence represents id, pure instinctual togetherness with like people. Id requires no thinking or interpreting, as it is a feeling, so whites can manipulate no part of black intelligence.

Ras’ goal is to unite African Americans, and help them to gain their black intelligence. Invisible Man’s speeches preach equality among everyone, and a togetherness of blacks and whites, which supports the ideas taught in black education. These basic conflicts in Invisible Man and Ras’ viewpoints establishes an ideological rivalry between the two.

Reading 2

In chapter 19, the theme of education is made less apparent, yet there are key moments in which education plays a crucial role in teaching IM through experience rather than reading and writing.

The first instance is IM’s encounter with the woman he meets after his speech about women’s rights and sleeps with. IM first describes the physical encounter as a “conflict between the ideological and the biological” with the ideological his sense of superego and the biological his sense of id (416). This description shows the conflict IM has in his mind between his physical desire for the woman and his continued work for the Brotherhood. IM learns from the incident , noting “why did they insist upon confusing the class struggle with the ass struggle, debasing both us and them-all human motives?” (418) From this, IM sees that to be a successful member of the Brotherhood, he has to keep both physical and emotional matters out of the picture, and to not give in to his “all human motives.” From the situation at hand, IM taught himself not from a book, but from experience, making him stronger in his morals and ideals.

Learning from his past mistake, IM continues his speaking of “the Woman Question” and shows maturity by using his knowledge that he has gained. His knowledge comes to use after his experience with the woman, wanting to keep speech and women “carefully apart” (419). He also tries to make the women who listen to his speeches belong solely to the biological point, saying they believed “the ideological was merely a superfluous veil for the real concerns of life” (420). IM places the women all into the category of “biological” by saying they only use his speeches as a cover or shield for their “real concerns of life” those concerns being their relationships, their appearance, and generally their physical nature. Doing this, IM allows work to be the main focus in life, and learns to separate biological evils he faces every day.

Even though IM had no formal education in the chapter, he learned from experience rather than books. The education he gains proves to be true, and through his new knowledge, he keeps his work away from his physical relationships.

Reading 3

In Chapter 20, Brother Clifton acts incredibly abnormally, ignoring all the education he had gained with the brotherhood to sell Sambo dolls. While the brotherhood preaches black equality, Sambo dolls make the exact opposite statement. They are incredibly racist novelty items used to generally mock black people. Brother Clifton, once a prominent and leading member of the Brotherhood, chooses in this chapter to forget all of the teachings the Brotherhood has given him. While his motives for selling sambo dolls are not entirely clear, they show that even a respected, educated man such as himself, who at one point had lived and breather black equality, is susceptible to corruption given the right circumstances.

In Chapter 21, the Brotherhood expresses discontent with Invisible Mans funeral speech. Like the first speech he performed under the Brotherhood, they believe his subject matter to be controversial and not beneficial to their cause. They saw his funeral speech as unjustly glorifying a traitor, as Brother Clifton had directly gone against the cause of the Brotherhood by illegally peddling sambo dolls. They claim that Invisible Man does not have enough experience in the subject matter of the Brotherhood, that he is not educated enough, saying, “We are experienced. We’re graduates and while you are a smart beginner you skipped several grades. But they were important grades, especially for gaining strategical knowledge” (470). While Brother Jack was joking after Invisible Man was surprised about his glass eye, saying, “See, that demonstrates how long you’ve been with us”, there is much truth to his statement. Invisible Man may be book-smart, but he lacks the ‘education’ that the other Brotherhood members claim to have, as he is a very new member of the brotherhood, especially for the importance of his position. The controversial speech he gave at the funeral service was a learning mistake for Invisible Man, as he continues to further understand the underlying techniques that come with influencing the people.

Reading 4

IM’s talk in chapter 23 with Brother Hambro resets his thinking of the ideology of the Brotherhood. Before, he thought the Brotherhood saw the people of Harlem as individuals, yet he learns from Hambro that for the Brotherhood’s message to be heard, people must be “sacrificed” (501). IM realizes that Hambro and the Brotherhood are not seeing the people of Harlem as individuals, but as a group, and learns from his experience what he has to do with this new knowledge that he has acquired.

Learning that the Brotherhood knowingly molds the people of Harlem to their will, IM learns from his experience of being Rinehart, and from his past, to give hope to the people of Harlem. After learning the information from Hambro, IM sees the way to give hope to the people of Harlem is to “do a Rinehart”(507). What IM means by this is that he has to use the idea that Rinehart is both visible, but gives him a sense of invisibility as well, because he can become a new person. By becoming Rinehart, IM can help the people of Harlem, without interfering with his work in the Brotherhood. With his new identity, IM also realizes that he can use his past to help him. He sees that he can “look around the corners” and calls the Brotherhood “blind men”(508). IM calls the Brotherhood blind because he sees that they “didn’t see either color or men” but people who could be swayed by propaganda. IM’s understanding of the Brotherhood’s true goal only strengthens his spirit, and his knowledge of Rinehart and the past are the building blocks for that strength.

IM’s comprehension of his identity and invisibility teach him the trick to avoiding the Brotherhood’s tactic of sacrifice and treachery, leading to a new world of possibilities. IM sees the flaw in the Brotherhood’s plan of sacrifice, thinking “could they recognize the choice in that which wasn’t seen…?” and immediately his world opens(509). IM envisions his invisibility as the key to the future, and a “rising upwards”(510). The Brotherhood can only see what is visible to their mission, and only those who can be seen can be entwined in their idea of sacrifice for the greater good. Being invisible, IM is not held by the restraints that hold the members of Harlem, and experiences a rebirth as an invisible man.

Reading 5

Chapter 25 reveals a striking similarity between Ras’ view of Black college and the practice of the Brotherhood. Ras reveals in chapter 17 that he believes Black education to be utterly fake, and simply a successful attempt at whites to manipulate blacks. By teaching them their ideology, they can get blacks to act as their tools, with a label as “educated”. As IM discovers the Brotherhood’s true motives after they ceded their influence to Ras, he realizes as well that the education he received from the Brotherhood, their ideology, was manipulative in the same way that Ras saw education. As the papers burn in his briefcase, he discovers that the letter from Brother Jack and the anonymous letter are written in the exact same writing, and this serves as firsthand evidence of how he was manipulated. Though IM did not intend to start a race riot, he was inspired by the brotherhood’s teachings to go along. He “had helped, had been a tool” (553). Though the brotherhood’s teachings may have made sense to IM and made him believe he was inciting productive change, their true motives were concealed as they were using him as a puppet to get what they wanted, just like white people did with black colleges according to Ras.

In Chapter 25, IM is forced to part with the connection to education that he had earlier held in such high regard. He was so proud of attending college, and then so proud when he found the Brotherhood, but he was betrayed in both places by authority figures. His separation from education is seen most clearly under the manhole, when he is forced to burn the papers in his briefcase to be able to see, and he “started with his high school diploma” (567). This is the only evidence of formal education he owns, and he is destroying it. Also, when he spears Ras through the face with his spear, he is literally portrayed as a “spear chucker”, a derogatory term for black people which emphasizes their primitive behavior as opposed to their education. It is clear that IM no longer has the trust that he had in any form of education, as he is less trusting after having been manipulated.

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