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"Learning to Read" portrays the way Malcolm X, a prisoner convicted of robbery, took the initiative of teaching himself how to write, read and comprehend whatever he was reading. His motivation to write better came from his envy of the book collections of Bimbi, his fellow inmate, and his incapability to write letters. Malcolm’s limited vocabulary, which mainly consisted of slang phrases and words, in combination with his scribbled handwriting, frustrated him since this meant he could not express his thoughts through letters to Elijah Muhammad, and this bothered him. His frustration is evident in the text when he said, ‘‘I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters...’’ (Malcolm, 2009, p. 1). However, his problem was solved when he came across a dictionary which he used to improve both his vocabulary, handwriting and reading via copying and reading the words in the dictionary. Malcolm’s message is that irrespective of people’s backgrounds, everyone can rise to become anything they desire through hard work and dedication.

‘‘In the Basement of the Ivory Tower’’ by Professor X, on the other hand, is a provocative essay criticizing the education system in America that emphasizes on the need for college enrollment, to enhance the employment prospects of people. According to him, some colleges are more interested in profit making than providing quality education. This is because some students do not apply the skills they acquire in college in their jobs, while others do not know even college material, which evidenced when he says that some students are unable to construct basic sentences, let alone, writing coherent essays. Professor X’s point is that not everybody has the brains to attain college education. This paper compares and contrasts the abovementioned articles.

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The essays by both Malcolm X and Professor X are remarkably thought-provoking and inspiring. Malcolm’s desire to read and write motivated him to take the initiative to teach himself how to do so despite being in prison. His story encourages people to be proactive, hardworking and dedicated in what they do in order to succeed. Professor X’s article brings to the attention of the reader the need for a review of the American education system in order to offer students educational skills that are applicable to their professions.

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The two authors also use first-person narration to convey their message, which is evidenced by the use of ‘I’ in both texts, for instance, ‘‘I was so fascinated that I went on…’’ (Malcolm, 2009, p. 2), and “I work at colleges of last resort’’ (Professor, 2008, p. 1). In addition, the two authors have used very clear and straight tones; they do not mince their words. For example, when Professor X admits that a majority of his students are not worthy of passing, because they cannot even construct basic sentences, Malcolm X also admits to his inability to read. Not many people will boldly say their weaknesses.


Malcolm’s story sharply contrasts with that of Professor X. This is because his desire to know how to read and write made him so engaged with reading various books that he enjoyed his prison life contrary to many people’s expectation of convicts. Professor X, on the other hand, was a free man, who instead of being happy for having two jobs, a family, a home etc, was really frustrated with his job of teaching people who are not aware of college material. His passion for English and the desire to impart knowledge to his students, however, kept the professor going.


‘‘Learning to Read’’ and ‘‘In the Basement of the Ivory Tower’’ are two well-written, thought-provoking and inspiring articles which I recommend to everyone for general knowledge.

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