Even though Mike Rose and Malcolm X came from two different worlds, they seem to share many similar experiences. But before being able to compare each author's experiences illustrated in their essays, some background information can shed light on why each are both similar and different. Mike Rose received a Catholic school's education while conversely, Malcolm X began to educate himself to occupy his time while he was in prison. He had only gone to school up until the eighth grade. Rose is a teacher and a writer. Malcolm X was the Minister of the Nation of Islam until March 1964, when he left this group and formed the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Both of their essays are autobiographical and contain significant epiphanies which took place in a seemingly short span of time. .
Mike Rose begins his essay much the same as Malcolm X begins his; unenlightened to the power, wonder, and freedom that knowledge can give. Rose was in the vocational track, for the "dense" students at his private school. Forced to interact and learn, or rather not learn, with others who were much further below his intelligence level. X, however, claims that, "there was a sizeable number of well-read inmates" (X 80) in his experience. During he time in these remedial classes, Rose was just coasting along, and like his classmates, just trying to "float to the mark set" (Rose 35). Rose gives many detailed examples of this when explaining his classmates and their shared time in Vocational Education. He describes their inadequate methods of completing assignments and second-rate class work that the teachers doled out. His first great realization comes with the comment made by one of his classmates, Ken Harvey. This comment is also the title of his article, "I just wanna be average". Rose says that this "woke him up" (Rose 37). .
What really rekindled Rose's interest in reading, though, was his junior year English teacher, Jack MacFarland.