Teaching will unfit anyone to be a Slave

Frederick Douglass tells a remarkable story of learning to read as a subversive activity. As a slave, Douglass had no rights and meager opportunities. Reading among slaves was strictly forbiden as it could open worlds and create unimaginable mischief. Besides, according to their overlords, slaves had no need of reading. They could be trained in the necessary menial and backbreaking work. Yet his master’s wife, believing him to be an intelligent youngster, undertook to teach Douglass how to read the Bible in hopes that he would come closer to God. When the master discovered the crime, he exploded:”It will unfit him to be a slave!”

Education will unfit anyone to be a slave. That is because education is bold, adventurous, creative, vivid, illuminating_in other words, education is for self-activating explorers of life, for those who would challenge fate, for doers and activists, for citizens. Training is for slaves, for loyal subjects, for tractable employees, for willing consumers, for obedient soldiers.

Education tears down walls; training is all barbed wire.

Taken from Beginning Again: The Mystery of Teaching. William Ayers (1993)