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The Importance Of Gaining Knowledge Essay

1009 words - 5 pages

The phrase “Knowledge is Power” is carved into the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Inside one can find artifacts from centuries past and present. Throughout the many rooms divided by time periods and world powers, there are numerous relics depicting the differences between class systems and how knowledge has increased throughout the ages. The increase of knowledge can be linked to the success and power of each world power. Likewise, books highlight these same differences and link learning and knowledge to freedom and success. There are also many examples that concentrate on the connection between social class and the ability to gain knowledge. In the “Land of Opportunity”, James W. Loewen emphasizes the tie between class systems and knowledge by arguing that many times individuals in a higher class system have more opportunities to learn and become successful, while those in a lower social class have fewer opportunities to gain knowledge. In contrast, Frederick Douglass disputes this generalization by expressing his personal experience as a slave, and how gaining knowledge gave him the power and a sense of freedom. In both of these pieces, knowledge is a crucial factor in each individual’s achievements; however an individual’s social status is not the deciding factor to increasing knowledge and success. Determination and a desire to use power gained from knowledge in beneficial ways can be more powerful than social barriers.
Many times, determination is stronger than the bonds between class systems. Douglass’s personal example emphasizes the truth of that statement. Originally, he was born a slave, but taught himself to read despite the repercussions that followed from his master and mistress. Ingeniously, he exchanged bread for the “more valuable bread of knowledge” with the little white boys he encountered while running errands (Douglass 101). His social status did not prevent him from desiring and discovering ways to gain knowledge. While at times his social status caused him pain, he was determined to increase his knowledge and strive for freedom. Similarly, the Count of Monte Cristo was in a lower social class and unjustly imprisoned. But, while in prison, he was able to increase his range of knowledge. He considered the knowledge he was gaining as a treasure even more valuable than monetary possessions. He says, “My real treasure is…the rays of intelligence you [the Abbé] have elicited from my brain” (Dumas 221). In both cases, Douglass and the Count of Monte Cristo compared knowledge to something as necessary as bread, or valuable as treasure. They focus on knowledge as the means to escape, which inadvertently gave each of them power. Their individual determination and desire to use power from knowledge gave them the strength to defy the social barriers and succeed. This contrasts to the idea Loewen emphasizes when saying, “Social class is probably the single most important variable in society” (Loewen...

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