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Essay Example: A Talk to Teachers by James Baldwin

3 pages
682 words
Boston College
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Author background

James Baldwin was an iconic and insightful writer and novelist who wrote on spirituality, race, and humanity as the major themes of his work. Baldwin mainly wrote on the experience of the African Americans by highlighting different social issues that affected the African Americans such as discrimination in education and community investment. In his lifetime, Baldwin was able to publish inspiring short stories, poems, and plays which noted the social inequities experienced by the African Americans. Baldwin writings were inspired by the life experiences of discrimination after he was turned away from restaurants and other public establishments because of his color. Later on, Baldwin used his work to talk about homosexuality and interracial relationships amongst other controversial topics in his novels whose mission and purpose was witnessing the truth which he was able to achieve through his extensive literary work (Leeming, David 3).

A Teachers Talk Summary and Authors Purpose

In the essay A Talk to Teachers, Baldwin begins by showing the purpose of education and identifies the menace that threatens to destroy social order a phenomenon that is identified as from within by Americans themselves. In the essay, Baldwin argues that it is unfortunate that despite the fact that teachers are given the responsibility to mold the students they face resistance from the students and the community. However, Baldwin holds that the role of education is to integrate people into the community which is aimed at improving conformity to norms and enable the students to make individual decisions. However, this is rarely achieved due to different social orders and expectation of the community as the African Americans realize of the discrimination in the community against them as they grow. The purpose of the essay is to show the reality in the American society that is usually downplayed and ignored. In this reality, racial differentiation affects education and the advancement of children from different races. Baldwin urges the teachers to identify racial biases in education to ensure progress for the children of all colors (Baldwin, James 15).

Figurative Language

In Baldwin`s A Talk to Teachers, parallelism and repetition are the major rhetoric devices that he uses to gain the attention of the audience and also aid in creating potency of the statements as well as in memory retention. Baldwin uses anaphora type of repetition as a figure of speech which affects the word scheme and the beginning of successive clauses in the essay. For instance, "I would try to teach them, I would try to make them know, I would try to make each child know that these things are as a result of a criminal conspiracy to destroy him. In this case, Baldwin uses successive repetition of I would to insist on what is critical and needs to be done to improve education equality amongst the races and end silent discrimination which is accomplished through social learning (Baldwin, James 19).

Parallelism is also extensively used in the essay as a form of structural repetition in two clauses which improves comprehension. In Baldwin`s A Talk to Teachers, an example of parallelism is in expressing the worth of educated African American students view of the worth of education Standards in this country" This is parallel with the statement which implies that the students can decide what they are worth while maintaining the value guidelines of African Americans are not worth respect. This parallelism puts the black students as worth individuals against the standards that have been established to oppress him (Baldwin, James 20).


From Baldwin's point of view slavery stereotypes continues to be used to demoralize African American students through community-created barriers that reduce the self-worth of the African American students. The notion that the white people are more superior and the standard of the society according to Baldwin should be regarded as a crime against the African Americans and the white children (Baldwin, James 16).


Works Cited

Baldwin, James. A Talk to Teachers. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, vol. 107, no. 2, 2008, pp. 1520., doi:10.1111/j.1744-7984.2008.00154.x.

Leeming, David. James Baldwin: a biography. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2015. 1-10


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