Education Reversal: Addy’s Story post-Slavery

In the book Finding Freedom: A Classic Featuring Addy, we see the story of a girl and her mother who escaped slavery. This story shows the importance of education and demonstrates that the direction of knowledge exchange is not always from older to younger, as is seen in the picture at the bottom. Slavery was all Addy had known her whole life, so when she arrived in Philadelphia she felt a little out of place. Addy’s “momma” allowed Addy to attend school so that she could learn to read and write for the first time. Addy’s mother, also raised as a slave, did not know how to read or write either, so Addy began to teach her mother what she was taught in school each day. With these skills, Addy was able to read the addresses to which her mother needed to deliver the dresses she made. As a result, Addy became the delivery girl, helping her mother as well as Mrs. Ford. This situation relates to what Elisabeth Rose Gruner explains in her essay on “Education” in Keywords for Children’s Literature. She states that “education may be primarily vocational…or more holistic” and that “either view of education focuses ‘on the formation of individuals to the benefit of society'”. The fact that Addy learned to read directly affected her ability to help her mom by both teaching her mom and reading for her, bettering their place in society.

This direction of knowledge exchange, which is opposite the traditional older teaches younger pattern, seems strange to us although we do see something similar in our lives today. It is very common to see children teaching their parents how to use technology, something I have had first hand experience with through teaching my mom how to do things such as opening up the camera on her iPhone. A study conducted on 14 parent/child sets found that 40 percent of parents learn how to use technology from their children (Science Daily). This is a great example of the reversal in teaching roles that can occur when the younger generation learns something first, such as a former child slave learning to read or a modern day kid growing up around computers.

tech mom

7 thoughts on “Education Reversal: Addy’s Story post-Slavery”

  1. It’s interesting to note the reversed role in education. Yes, typically I also imagine parents or my elders passing down their knowledge to me. However, recently I have also played a role similar to Addy as I am the “educator” to my grandmother. My grandmother received a laptop recently and has no idea how to even log into her email. I spend a few minutes every night calling her up and helping her login in to her email using basic, day-to-day concepts in order for my grandmother to better understand this overwhelming online email system. With our lives becoming filled with more technology than ever imagined, at some point will we ever reach a maximum technology production? What will happen if we ever reach that maximum, will our society revert to simple times such as seen in Little House on the Prairie?

  2. I think the points you are making are very important for everyone to keep in mind and remember. Obviously most older people, in general, know more information than younger generations. However, because of the society that we live in, there are always new items being created and figured out. I think it is very important to remember, that no matter how educated you think you are, you can always learn something new. This is seen especially by children. They often can catch on to things quickly and understand concepts differently than how you view things yourself. After reading this piece, it reminds me that people should always keep an open mind about education because if you reman curious, you never know what you could learn.

  3. I found this post extremely interesting because I never thought about the similarity between Addy learning to read before her mother and children learning to use technology before their parents. Adults offer so much to children and are responsible for taking care of them, so when children can offer a service back to them in return, it is worthwhile to note. It seems like adults are so much more appreciative when children help them out because it does not happen very often. Children expect adults to help them, but rarely are children able to help adults.

  4. It’s really cool that you made the comparison between Addy and her mother to children and adults today! The fact that Addy is able to teach her mother how to read makes her a very powerful character. It will be interesting to see how technology will continue to evolve in the future, maybe our kids will be teaching us someday 🙂

  5. This is a really interesting take on Addy’s story. I think it’s very important and empowering for young children to realize that they are not only students, but that they can be teachers as well. It’s helpful in their development to see that they are smart and capable of learning things that adults cannot master. I have definitely taught my parents a lot about technology, and this has made me feel smarter.

  6. I think this post is really interesting. It reminds me of the end of the year in elementary school when the teachers would tell us that they had learned just as much from us as we had from them. I too have experienced this educational role reversal when it comes to adults and technology. However, though I do see the connection between the two experiences I feel as though Addy’s mother is uninformed due to circumstance and lack of resources, whereas our parents and older family members are uninformed due to their generation and reliance on familiar ways.

  7. I think this is an interesting topic. I believe that many children are learning things at a younger age with technology but I don’t think they are learning the gender specific roles anymore at a young age like in the past. This could be for several reasons…Are children on computers, iPhones, and iPads more than ever now playing video games, watching movies, and Facebooking rather than reading? Children seem to veer away from Children’s Literature and doll play where they had expectations placed on them at a young age.

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