Advanced Essay #2: The Structures of Society

Introduction: In this essay, I wanted to address and explore the ideas of this constantly need of classification of students and people in general and to discuss their roles in society. I also wanted to highlight cruel judgements are being unfairly casted upon members of society starting from a young age. Parts that I'm most proud of throughout this easy would be the writing of larger ideas because I think that it's hard to identify larger ideas aside from ones that I have in my head. But I think I did well in retelling my thesis but not in a repetitive way. Some improvements for the future would be to try to work with the word count and to take out unnecessary words and phrases that are unneeded.

It should be known that the minds of society are fixed around the idea that the pace of how others learn and the language that they speak determines their intelligence. Along with this concept, physical and mental tests are constantly being conducted upon society to help people separate and insult the intelligence of those who are different, race and background-wise, etc.

Our society is continuously trying to classify two groups of people as either “stupid” or “smart.” Then, society decides whether or not these people should be defined with a grand or derogatory representation. This is unfair, and does not give people a chance to express their knowledge fully in their defense. The act of enforcing tests that claims to determine their intelligence should not arbitrate the intelligence of a person. In I Just Want to be Average by Mike Rose, it strongly represents the school environment that diminishes the spirits of young students based on a single test, that determines if they were considered “stupid” or “smart” using the school’s principles. He uses the words ‘disaffected’ to describe the students who were placed in the “stupid” class.

“The vocational track, however is most often a place for those who are just not making it, a dumping ground for the disaffected…” Throughout the story, it shows that the teachers who teach the “slower” students, do not establish any policies to help them improve as students. The teachers have this mindset that they’re hopeless, without giving the students a chance to enhance their knowledge that is yet to be discovered by others.

This story gave me a revelation about school environments. Similarly to Mike Rose in his story, ever since I was in elementary school, in English class, we would have oral reading tests and writing prompts that would determine what reading level we were at.  I could remember the feeling like it was yesterday.

“Remember, DRA testing starts today, directly after lunch. Come into class quietly and read independently. I will call you up one by one to take the test. The classroom must remain quiet.”

“Here we go again.” My friend Michael said to me.

“I really hate these. I don’t think it’s fair.” I whiningly say.

“I always feel like every little stupid mistake that I would make, counts towards the grade. I never get the grade that I deserve.” Michael said pulling out his book.

I could tell that he was as nervous as I was, I have my red, hardcover book opened up to a random page as I continuously read the same sentence over and over again. All I could think about was the order that Teacher Debbie was going in. I counted the minutes in between each student that gets tested just so I wasn’t caught by surprise when she calls my name. I felt my leg starting to shake anxiously under my desk, I couldn’t get it to stop, Every noise in the room made me jump. The constant and crisp sound of flipping pages, quiet whispers coming from the back of the room, the zipping of book bags, the sliding of chairs, and so much more.

I would tell myself, “Just calm down. Panicking will make it worse, you will try your best and that’s it. Just read smoothly and don’t think about it too much.”

I could feel my face tense up as time passed. I completely forgot about the book I was supposed to read and found myself monitoring every little movement my teacher made. I heard nothing for a good few minutes and felt my eyes getting heavy.

“Viv?” I felt my friend Michael tapping me on my shoulder.

I jolted up and opened my eyes wide.

“It’s your turn, hurry up.” He said pointing towards our teacher.

I got up right away, scooting my chair back quickly and making a screeching sound. I walked towards her desk slowly trying to remain calm, I felt like my heart was racing a million beats per second. The jitteriness from my leg came back as I sat down.

“Choose any book and read until you see the star.” Teacher Debbie said, laying out 5 booklets out in front of me, as she flipped through her papers.

I silently picked one out.

“Whenever you’re ready.” She said waiting for me to start.

Soon, I started to read. I examined the whole page and read the words in a monotone voice. As I continued to read, not focusing on what the words actually meant, I heard the little scribbles that she started writing. I started memorizing the noises of patterns of circling and underlining. By the end of the test, I was told to finish the book and fill out the packet she gave me.

Every year I would expect to take the same test, and to go through the whole process again. My results wouldn’t necessarily be considered to be a part of the “higher level.” I felt like I was never going to be good enough as I would compare my scores with my friends, who would get a higher grade than me. To this day, those tests, helped us figure out what level we were at, but they should be altered in a way that wouldn’t negatively affect and create learned helplessness. The tests and teachers should help encourage us to strive for better.

In both “I Just Want to be Average,” and my life story, the teachers would never say that they were conducting these tests to separate the smart from the dumb. But as students, we would always know that that’s what they’re trying to do. This feeling of wondering if we are good enough based on tests could lessen our will to continue on improving ourselves.The idea of testing and categorizing students based on tests is a strong depiction of social hierarchy in the terms of language and the testing of intelligence rather than social class. This serves tremendous significance to how close-minded society is.

Cultural representation should be fair and impartial but instead offensive terms are being correlated with those who don’t appear to be “smart” based on their culture and language. This is undoubtedly a burden on many people whose first language is not english, and those who couldn’t afford the best education. These expectations are being planted in the minds of those who are oblivious and obstinate.  From the story, “Superman and Me,” an Indian boy has grown up understanding for himself and his culture, that being with Indian has it’s own affiliation. He says, “We were Indian children who were expected to be stupid. Most lived up to those expectations inside the classroom but subverted them on the outside.”

The children would grow up hearing distasteful words used to describe them, some would try to avert those stereotypes, while others simply just accepted those terms as a way to define themselves. Not only were they called stupid because of their background, but also because they were ESL learners. This language barrier invited members of society to belittle and apply judgements to one another, unable to see past the reality of each person’s intelligence regardless of race, nationality, and tests.

In the documentary, “A Place to Stand,” the protagonist, Jimmy Santiago Baca speaks about his important parental figures in his life not being present to guide him. He described the way he was raised as, “You learn how to run with the dogs as a dog.” Just like in “Superman and Me,” the boy knew his role in society and  knew that he was different and was going to be treated as such. He compared himself and those that he surrounded himself with as “dogs,” and used the term very loosely. In some cases, an individual would feel very insecure to be themselves because of that negative energy being cast upon them. No one should be afraid or doubtful of who they are because of how other people speak of them.

Interpretation is an important factor when it comes to responding to these harsh stereotypes and assumptions that are made. In the story, “Mother Tongue,” by Amy Tran, she expresses her experience with her use of different forms of english. This is mainly centered around her work, and how she would speak differently based on the environment. She reveals her thought process about language and it’s influences, “I spend a great deal of my time thinking about the power of language-the way it can evoke emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth.”

She notices different layers when it comes to the power of language, it is much more than just a way to communicate with family members and the community. But it’s a way to express complex ideas and reveal these impressions about every person.  She also gives her commentary on her responsiveness when it came to communicating with her parents.

“Lately, I've been giving more thought to the kind of English my mother speaks. Like others, I have described it to people as 'broken" or "fractured" English. But I wince when I say that. It has always bothered me that I can think of no way to describe it other than "broken," as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed, as if it lacked a certain wholeness and soundness.”

Those who come from the same cultural background, within the same family still have the tendency to have negative speculations. These standards has even led to those who are within the same cultural background to believing these heavy-handed alterations being made about their loved ones. It is easy to judge someone’s intelligence based on their level of education and their cultural background. These mental and physical literacy tests has a strong grip on cultural dominance and is clear to distinguish who deserves certain representations. Everyone has their own form and definition of what literacy is and the types that are commonly used. Without the power of language and literacy being one of few sole reasons why many are quick to judge, many thoughts would be kept to oneself. The amount of repulsive commentary against groups of people would be kept at a minimum, but the power of language and literacy is a huge factor in the structures of society and may never be broken down because it’s been molded and strengthened.


Rose, Mike. "I Just Want to Be Average." Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America's Underprepared. New York: Free Press, 1989. 162-67. Print.