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Abby Hildebrand

Professor Fawaz

AMST 198.10W

January 29, 2010


Dual Education
In an article entitled “Yearning to Learn” from the September 1991 issue of Life

magazine, the author creates sets of binaries that racially divide not only the definition of

education, but also the ways in which we can solve the challenges facing the American education

system in the early 1990s. The article’s text immediately establishes a binary in that education

has always had two different connotations. For ancient Greeks, “paideia” had two meanings:

“the nurturing of a child’s body, mind and soul by wise and loving elders” in the personal sphere,

and “all the processes that pass civilization from on generation to the next” in the public sphere.1

The first section details the work of Carter Bayton who worked with students in Baltimore. He

represents the notion of education in the personal sense, while the second section details the

work of Professor E.D. Hirsch, which represents the public notion of education. Bayton’s work is

described as more affective, simple, and on a small scale, while Hirsch’s work is described as

more practical, scholarly, and with broader applications. These different depictions place more

value on Hirsch’s experiments than on Bayton’s methods in the language used to characterize the

work of both men.

The first sentences mentioning both educators and their work say it all. “Hirsch has a

grand vision: He is seeding a common ground of information and ideas where all Americans can

meet in mutual understanding.”2 This statement shows the importance of Hirsch’s work as

something that can change the entire American education system—a public application of his

1
Denise L. Stitson, “Yearning to Learn,” Life September 1991: 22.
2
Stitson, 23
2

theory. In describing Bayton’s method, however, the article says that he has taken a different

approach. His “hopes are far more modest: He is simply trying to provide 17 innocent little boys

with a future” and along the way, Bayton learned that, “You have to touch the heart before you

can teach the mind”.3 Only Carter Bayton has to learn “to touch the heart”—to act on the

personal level— before he can begin helping these children learn; Professor Hirsch, as a white

professor, does not need to learn this old “truth” before revamping the entire education system.

The idea that a person’s race can determine the value of education he or she provides is imparted

through the articles descriptions of these two men.

Additionally, when they are later introduced separately and more in depth, the language

provides a clear distinction between Bayton and Hirsch. There is absolutely no discussion of

Carter Bayton’s credentials or previous experiences as an educator. The reader simply learns that

Bayton too grew up in an inner city and wanted to help those children that other teachers could

not reach.4 However, when the reader is introduced to E. D. Hirsch, the author mentions his

career at University of Virginia, his title as Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English, and his

status as a grandfather.5 The article then tells readers that at this elementary school he is “well…

he’s a little like God.”6 In the description of Batyon, on the other hand, it says that he “looks like

a kindly Buddha.”7 While this does equate him to a deity, Bayton merely physically looks like a

god; Hirsch is viewed as a god in mind and body because of his intellectual talents. This

comparison, Hirsch as God and Batyon as a Buddah look-a-like, is a racialized one. The white

man and black man are separately compared to gods and on the superficial level seem to be

somewhat equal, but upon closer inspection, the language reveals that the black man can only
3
Ibid.
4
Stitson, 25.
5
Peter Meyer, “Getting to the Core,” Life September 1991: 36.
6
Ibid.
7
Stitson, 25.
3

appear as a god physically, not act or actually be a god. In lessening the man who offers the

personal approach to education, the article lessens the value of his approach as well. His impact

is diminished again by the inset quote that reads, “17 little boys are saved by a teacher’s love.”8

The quote says that he has only reached 17 boys, an intimate group of students. His work is

limited to those boys and that city, personal spaces. However, Hirsch worked with an entire

school in order to test his theory for application to many school systems, a potential solution for

all public schools, not just the state of Florida. These characterizations of the personal sphere as

black and minor in scope compared to the grand ideals of the white, public sphere lessen the

significance of Bayton’s education reform, and thus lessening the success of the very story that

the article claims to be celebrating.

The photographs further the idea that these binaries are racialized. The visual formatting

of the article shows students both in groups and in solo shots. The first full page photo is of five-

year-old George Finney sitting alone in a rundown doorway. The paint is chipped and the brick

very worn. The photo is taken at eye level with the seated boy, as if the viewer is right there with

George in that doorway. This picture is designed to evoke feelings of sorrow and sadness that

match the tired expression on George’s face. His hands sit in his lap, not folded, but in fists,

which suggests a tension or anxiety he feels about school (and probably life in general). Turning

to the next page, we see a smaller inset photo of Carter Bayton and George walking outside

school. Bayton’s arm is around the boy, and they are in stride together. The image of the two of

them contrasts nicely with the solo shot of George, as if to show that George was alone before

but now he has Mr. Bayton. These photos echo the idea that this is a personal type of education

because the shots are so intimate. Additionally, all of the photos in this section support the racial

line drawn in this article since they include only black students and black teachers.
8
Stitson, 22.
4

A similar effect is employed in the latter section of the article; there are both solo and

group shots of the students who worked with Hirsch. The full page shot in this section is of a boy

literally about to jump out of his seat with excitement, hand raised, eyes full of passion, truly

eager to speak his answer. The viewer sees an active view of education in this shot, while in the

full page shot of George is a passive look at Bayton’s students, perhaps nodding to the

assumption that white students are more ready to learn than inner city black students. The one

group shot that includes Hirsch shows him leading the class, about to call on a student. Here he is

in the personal sphere in that he is working with the kids, but this is one of two photos in which

we even see Hirsch. It is telling that he is only in one photo with the students, while Bayton is in

five, typically closely working with the children. This trend speaks to the personal and public

notions of education: Hirsch is not as directly involved with children but with their curriculum,

and just the opposite is true for Batyon.

Through the images, the reader can visualize the racial divide that the article sets up with

its language. The binaries it creates between the personal and public, black and white, emotional

and practical, and even minor and major education reform are seen in the text used to describe

the programs that Bayton and Hirsch created, as well as the men themselves. The racial

distinctions speak to the larger context of this period just after the Rodney King incident. The

article divides itself by race and tries to give equal weight to each side, yet, fails. Both methods

offer hopeful stories of solutions for public education, but neither solution seems like it would

function in the other’s environment. In minimizing the personal solution for the education

system, the article celebrates a narrow solution for a problem that clearly has more than one side.