Looking Up to the Dream: Siawale's Advanced Essay #2


For this essay, I was studying the impact of culture on the definition of literacy. In particular, I was studying the Liberian culture on the definition of literacy. Liberia is heavily influenced by the United States and its definition of literacy. As a whole, first world countries have a great influence on third world countries view of literacy.


This was the second time we’ve gotten my brother’s report card and his teachers were saying he wasn’t on his grade reading level. The feeling of knowing that my brother wasn’t on the top half of the class was something my father refused to believe. Being the fastest reader between all my siblings, my dad gave me the task of teaching my brother. I saw the potential in my brother as he continued to read, but the problem that I saw was that my brother had no motivation. He would start off really strong, but then he would always just stop and say, “I don’t feel like it anymore”. That attitude is what a lot of Black boys face and it was something I could never understand. I have always had that drive to keep pushing forward. My father always told us the story of his struggle growing up in the liberian civil war. The drive was something my dad described as something people have to just keep going. Sometimes we want to just in one place and give up and life just happen, but when someone has the drive, they refuse to sit down, maybe they stand for a little bit, but they never fully give. Knowing thing and having someone just give upon himself, was something I could never relate to.

Culture has always been in direct correlation with the general ideas of literacy. Throughout the world,I believe that there is a shared understanding how literacy is important. However, in different places throughout the world, the definition and application of literacy is very different. Cultures have different beliefs that influence the way literacy is interpreted and how it influences the way of life for people. Specifically, coming from Liberia, my parents never had an opportunity to have a great education, which is why their definition of literacy is to excel above others in all aspects of school. Liberia was founded by America, so many of the definitions Liberians have is heavily influenced, or basically copied, from the American system. As a result, school is a place where literacy is the thing that defines how you will live the rest of your life. While these values are of American value, Liberia is not in the same economic standpoint of America. Upon those facts, Liberian culture has a tremendous impact of the definition of literacy and literacy is defined as education everyone must obtain in order to be happy.

When I was younger, my Father was very pressed on all of children being advanced readers. My Dad would have a set time, usually in the evening that we would have turn off the tv and all other games we had, which was little to none anyways, and he would sit us around the dining table. We would all choose books and my dad would tell us we would for read for a set amount of time, the minimum time would be 30 minutes. After reading, we would be responsible for writing a summary of what we read and my dad would check over it and then we would read our summary back to him. The process was always something that I dreaded so I would always rush to read as much as I could and write quickly so I could go back to watching tv. This was a habit that developed of the years and as I got younger, I started to rethink of why my dad was so eager to have all his kids be at a certain level. When I would ask, my dad always described his struggles as a child in the civil war and he would tell stories of how America was always the goal for the Liberian people. It is the place where happiness and wealth come intertwined with one.

The type of images and messages sent to other countries who value America as a role model for literacy makes up very high standards set by people. This is due to the fact that America has had a reputation of being the country to hold the freedom and that freedom is built off of literacy, which is just defined as education. Literacy had a huge impact on the way people see life. Specifically, literacy in the Liberian culture is to embrace the american culture. In How to Tame a Wild Tongue, the author states “ if you want to be American, speak “American”. Liberia specifically takes this statement at the heart of its definition of literacy. The bigger idea is that third world countries have always looked up to first world country fro influences on definitions of literacy. This is due to the fact that first world leaders have used their definitions on literacy in order to advance their country and third world countries want to be able to give their civilians those same opportunities.