In the essay Achievement of Desire, author Richard Rodriguez, explains the struggles
with the desire to learn. He believed that in order to receive a good education he had to be
separated from the culture he lived in and the people he loved. In doing so, Rodriquez lost sight
of the big picture and the true meaning behind education. Education is supposed teach you new
knowledge and give you a stable, balanced life. Rodriguez became so caught up in the fact that
“education was imitation”, but all that did was cause him to face many struggles throughout his
life (Rodriguez 67).
Rodriguez shows these struggles of becoming educated through the eyes of the
‘scholarship boy’. In the lines, “For although I was a very good student, I was also a very bad
student. I was a ‘scholarship boy’, a certain kind of scholarship boy. Always successful, I was
always unconfident. Exhilarated by my progress. Sad.” (Rodriguez 44). We can see that
Rodriguez not only thought he was a good student, but he felt as if he was too eager to learn.
This forced him to be disconnected from his home life and change the view he had of his family.
Rodriguez became ashamed that his mother and father were not educated and didn’t have the
desire to learn like he did. I believe this was one of the major flaws in Rodriguez’s education. He
put books and teachers over his loved ones.
Reading caused Rodriguez to change his mind set on what being sophisticated meant. He
thought he was just repeating things he had seen before and felt like he had no originality to his
own words. He also came to realize that being such a scholar came with loneliness. We can see
this when Rodriguez claims, “I seemed unable to dare a passionate statement. I felt drawn by
professionalism to the edge of sterility, capable of no more that pedantic, lifeless, unassailable.”
(Rodriguez 71). By the time Rodriguez realizes this there wasn’t much that he could do to fix it.
One of the major things that has shaped me as a reader was our accelerated reading
(A.R.) program in elementary school. The goal of this program was to challenge kids to read but
also motivate them at the same time. From first grade all the way through sixth grade we were
required to take a placement test to see what our reading and comprehension skills were at. The
results from this test were able to show the level of books you should be reading. Each book in
the library had a number in it, called an A.R. level. The easier the book the lower the level and
the levels went up as the books got harder. Not only did the books have levels in them, but they
also showed how many points the books were worth. The other thing that these placement test
showed was your A.R. goal and your A.R. range, which was basically the level of books you
were allowed to read. The A.R. goal was a great way to keep me motivated and wanting to read
more to achieve the goal that was set for me. If you were to meet your goal the class was to have
a movie party at the end of each quarter for those students that made their goal, at least that’s
how it was in my school.
Unlike Rodriguez, reading did not come easily for me. I struggled with my reading speed
as well as my comprehension skills. It was also hard for me find out what kind of books that I
liked and enjoyed reading. I had a hard time with reading things that I didn’t like, such as short
stories or books that were required for class. Because I struggled with reading comprehension, I
also had a hard time meeting my A.R. goal at the end of each quarter. Like I said before, each
book has a set number of points that you can earn by reading it. In order to receive these points,
you have to take a quiz with no more than ten questions, on what the book was about and
significant events that happened. If you didn’t get all the questions right you didn’t receive all of
the points that were possible. This was a great way to keep me and other students focused on
what we were reading.
My first reading experinaced that I recall was in the fourth grade about a week until the
end of the quarter. I believe I was 10 points away from meeting my A.R. goal and I decided to
pick out a book that would allow me to reach my goal, if I received a good score on the quiz that
is. I knew that this was going to be a challenge for me so I asked my mom if she would
encourage me by quizzing me after I got done reading for the day. Instead, she offered to read
the book with me and I would follow along, that way she could help me understand some of the
more difficult parts of the book. This was not a good idea. Little did I know that the book I had
picked out was one of the most boring books that I have read causing me to fall asleep a few
times while my mom was reading. It started out like a book that had the potential to improve as
you read further into it, but this wasn’t the case. By the time I realized I had made a mistake by
choosing to wait until the last minute to try and reach my A.R. goal, it was too late to change
books. So here I am with this book I didn’t understand with my reading goal deadline only a few
days away. I decided just to stick with it and I finally finished the book the day before my goal
The next day I walked into school early that morning, ready to take a test on a book that
made no sense to me. I had to do well in order to meet my goal and when I finished the quiz I
got 5/10, I had failed it. And on these book quizzes, if you received below a 60% than you were
to receive no credit for the book. I was devastated. Not only did I miss my A.R. goal, I was
worried about what my parents would think of me. I had let them down because I had
procrastinated reading until the last minute. Unlike Rodriguez’s parents, both my parents are
both educated and had good, stable jobs. My parents expected great things from me and now
how was I supposed to prove to them that I could do better. On top of that, not very many people
missed their A.R. goal. Only the kids that didn’t care about school missed the A.R. party. This
expericene showed me the consequences for not trying my best and was a big eye opener for me
at the time.
Growing up I struggled just as much with writing as I did with reading. I found it hard to
find a subject to write about and was constantly stuck with writer’s block. On top of that my
spelling and grammar were horrendous. The only reason I succeeded with papers in middle
school and my early years of high school was because I had my parents helping me along the
way. Both my parents were very good with papers and they helped substantially. Whenever I had
trouble with a topic or sentence structure they were there to guide me to finding what u was
looking for. Like Rodriguez, my parents wanted to stay involved in my schoolwork. They were
constantly asking how my homework was going and always wondered what I was up to. Having
my parents helping me every step of the way was a good thing, but I soon realized I needed to be
more independent. If I didn’t I would become too dependent on my parents input that it wouldn’t
have been my work. Just like how Rodriguez felt about his lack of originality when he was
repeating the knowledge that he had read in his books.
In a way I experienced what was going through Rodriguez’s mind. I needed to be
separated from my family and be able to help myself. The one thing I didn’t do was cut them off
like Rodriguez did. I was glad to carry on a conversation about how school was going and what I
was up to. As for how writing papers went, it was definitely more of a challenge without them
helping me write them but in the long run it would benefit me as a high school student. I
started relying on them less and less, even if the scores I got weren’t like they used to be
because it felt good knowing I had ownership in my writing.
I believe that it was hard for Rodriguez to feel the sense of ownership in his education
because he lacked originality because of his reading. Rodriguez claims he is a bad student when
the only thing he has been doing is collecting thoughts and is one of the last people to have an
opinion of their own (Rodriguez 67). He blames the classroom for making him think the way he
does. Rodriguez also comes to the conclusion that without the classroom or the teachers that
he wouldn’t be where he is today. This is a perfect example that even with success, comes
Reading and writing can have both a positive, and negative effect on a person and their
education. And the way you become educated tells a lot about who you are as a person.
Although I wasn’t able to relate to Rodriguez or the scholarship boy directly, the text spoke to
me and I was able to understand the importance of what he was saying. I believe that one
lesson we can all learn from this text is not to take things for granted. Such as family or what we
learn, because someday you might look back and wish you had valued them a little more. In
order to be happy we not only have to achieve great things in education, but we have to ‘find
ourselves’ outside of it. We have to find the balance between the things we love and the things
we have to do in order to be successful in life.
Rodriguez, Richard. “The Achievement of Desire.” Hunger of Memory: The Education of
Richard Rodriguez. Boston: David R. Godine, 1982. 41-73. Print.