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Socially, a person’s educational experience has great impact ones life, especially their culture. Richard Rodriguez was born to a middle class working family where higher education was not sought. By age 0, he completed a Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. Richard’s and my educational experience was filled with major choices, one of which separated us from our culture.

Even though Richard Rodriguez’s family and mine are from two different backgrounds, our family’s values are alike. In both cases our families were the center of our home life. In Richard’s childhood the kids would play outside together while mom would cook and dad would read the newspaper, “Nights when relatives visited and the front rooms were warmed by Spanish sounds….”(657) In my earlier years, we would try to eat dinner together as often as possible and on Sundays we would have a cookout or go to the ball game. Our families provided us with a sense of security and a comfortable environment.

Richard and I were both embarrassed by our culture. I was the kid who sat in the back of the room so nobody would see me. I did not like the color of my skin. I did not like my mild accent inherited down by the way we talked at home. Richard was happy when he was losing his Spanish accent, “I was still angry at them for having encouraged me toward classroom English…[it] grew more and more attractive to me. I grew increasingly successful, a talkative student.”(656)We both wanted to excel in our education. When I was younger, I wouldtry to achieve more than the average student. I would try to be the first to answer all the questions correctly and was a very obedient student. I therefore became the teacher’s pet. Richard did the same thing in reading, he wanted to read as many classical novels as he could, “I ignored their suggestions of anything I suspected was written for children. (Not until I was in college, as a result, did I read Huckleberry Finn or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) Instead, I read The Scarlet Letter and Franklin’s Autobiography.”(66) In order to excel in our education we had to give up something that was deeply important to us, our home life. In both of our lives, our educational experiences separated us from our culture and the modern American culture. “There is no trace of his parents’ in his speech. Instead he approximates the accents of teachers and classmates.”(666) As Richard slowly started to read more and more books he, unintentionally, separated himself from his culture. “Books brought me academic success…” with this idea in his mind, Richard concentrated so much on his education that he did not have a balance in his home life. As with my life, I wanted to achieve a level of academic success, to become a medical doctor. I pushed my self at every level. I was the first person to complete with all the assignments. I would go home to my room, read my books and do my homework right away. I would stay there and not come out until I finished all my work, even if I had to miss church.

Both of us, at different times in our lives, realized that our culture wasn’t separating us but we were separating ourselves from our culture, and that was something we did not wan to do. “A primary reason for my academic success in the classroom was that I couldn’t forget that schooling had changed me and separated me from the life I enjoyed before becoming a student”(654), by the time Richard realized this it was too late for him. He lost all that precious time, the time I finally realized I was loosing. I was going to do something about it. I joined my church service group and volunteered with them all around the city. I would go to religious lectures held by high official church members, to learn about my religious traditions. I attended culture and social events held by my church. I did all of this to keep my culture, my religion, and my heritage. I realized that all these objects would mold and form me into the person that I would become.

An individual has to realize that they need a balance in their life. I recognized this reason, and unlike Richard, strived to make a change in my life so that I could carry on my culture. Although Richard Rodriguez and I are two very different people from different backgrounds, we realized that our culture was a very important part of our lives and that you need to strive for the best but also maintain your culture. Don’t be ashamed of your culture because it is your culture, your tradition, which makes the individual you are.

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