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Lives On The Boundary

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Lives on the Boundary

Mike Rose's Lives on the Boundary is an Educational Autobiography. The book begins at the beginning of his life and we follow him up into his adult years. The book focuses on the "struggles and achievements of America's educationally underprepared" .

The Alien

In order to understand Mike Rose, and his book Lives on the Boundary, you must first understand where Mike is coming from and examine his past. Mike was born to a first generation immigrant family, originally from Italy. He spent his early childhood in the mid-west and then in his latter childhood, parents not knowing any better, in East Los Angeles. Mike's father suffered from arteriosclerosis. Neither Mike's mother nor his father had completed high school and no one in his family had ever attended college. This is the setting, background, and characters of Mike's tale of "struggles and achievements of America's educationally underprepared" . Through this book Mike constantly is emphasizing three main themes. First, the importance of an educational mentor; later in this treatise we will examine several of Mike's mentors. Second, social injustices in the American education system; specifically the lack of funding and bureaucracy's affect on the public educational system. Third and lastly, specific teaching methods that Mike has used to reach out to kids on the boundary.

Throughout Mike's life, he had the fortunate experience of having some inspirational mentors. I have identified four of his numerous mentors as the most critical to his development, both educationally and personally.

Achieving Abnormality

The first of Mike's mentors I would like to discuss came into his life just after his father passed away, beginning of his senior year. His name was Jack MacFarland. Jack, as described by Mike Rose is,

...a beatnik who was born too late. His teeth were stained, he tucked his sorry tie between the third and forth buttons of his shirt, and his pants were chronically wrinkled.

With a cultural background like Mike's, survival in the American educational system is a difficult struggle at best. However, Jack helped fill in some of the critical cultural blanks. "He slowly and carefully built up our knowledge of Western intellectual history - with facts, with connections, with speculations" . And Jack served as more than simply a source of numbers and figures, he also helped "make a potentially difficult book accessible with his own explanations" . Jack helped inspire the kids to think and to analyze what they were reading. Jack's teachings stimulated Mike and he "started reading again as [he] hadn't since elementary school" .

Jack served as more than simply a great teacher to Mike. As all the other kids were applying to college and preparing for the future, Mike was planning on working and maybe taking some night classes after he graduated high school. But once Jack MacFarland caught wind of that foul idea, he made some calls and pulled some strings and got Mike into Loyola University, even if just as a probationary student. What's more, when Mike was unsure of how he was going to pay for school, "Jack MacFarland was on the case" . He helped secure scholarships from Loyola and student loans to cover the cost of tuition. Jack helped open Mike's eyes to a new and exciting world of knowledge. Jack showed him that there was much more, "provided a critical prospective on society, and it allowed [Mike] to act as though [he] were living beyond the limiting boundaries of South Vermont" . And soon enough, Mike would.

Hearing the Words

Mike's second truly inspirational instructor was at Loyola University during a set of classes commonly referred to as the sophomore survey. For Dr. Frank Carothers, being a professor was "a profoundly social calling" . Frank was excited about what he taught and that excitement and love of the material caused interest and stimulation in his students.

It was pure and primary for Frank Carothers: Teaching allowed him to fuse the joy he got from reading literature - poetry especially - with his deep pleasure in human community.

With Frank, Mike realized that when he was around Frank,

what he saw was very different from the world he had been creating for [him] self, a far cry from [his] withdrawal into an old house trailer with a silent book.

Please bring your full attention to bear on the last three words of the last block quote, "a silent book". It was as if the books were talking to him and he was talking back to the books and to others about the books, they were no longer silent. Books were sparked to life by the inspirational teachings of an animated professor.

In the Trenches

The third mentor of Mike's I would like to discuss is Dr. Ted Erlandson. Mike speaks about him in the text as someone

who got in there with his pencil and worked on [his] style. He would sit [Mike] down next to him at his big desk, sweep books and pencils across the scratched veneer, and go back over the sentences he wanted [Mike] to revise.

Ted had a love for working with people one-on-one that he passed on to Mike. Ted would take the time to work with individual students on the small particulars of writing that give an author their flair or style. He wasn't afraid to get down in the trenches and get dirty with lead and eraser shavings. Ted was always making writing easy to understand by not using technical terms and trying



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