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prescott

I mean really, at this point, what should we expect? I’m getting sick and tired of centrist, rightwing (and older) Americans ignoring the wonderful examples repeatedly set by youngsters about humane ways to treat one another.

Latest example? In Arizona, the students of Prescott College, a small liberal arts school focused on environmental education, recently voted by a huge majority to initiate a $30 added charge to their annual tuition fees. The $15,000 that will be raised is to pay for a scholarship for one undocumented person to attend the college.

It’s laudable. It’s community minded. It’s called the Freedom Education Fund.

A few things to note first.

  • This was a student led initiative.
  • No faculty or administrative body foisted this upon the kids.
  • This is a relatively small gesture: This fund will assist one teenager from an estimated 65,000 undocumented high-school graduates each year. (Only 10,000 of those graduates enroll in college each year.)
  • This is a massive gesture in Arizona, a state in which voters approved Prop 300, a 2006 ballot measure, that prohibits students from paying in-state tuition and receiving federal and state financial aid if they cannot prove they are in the U.S. legally. Prescott College, a private institution, is exempt from the law which polices only public colleges and universities. Here then, relatively privileged kids are acknowledging and acting upon their privilege. This is Millennials being global citizens. Meanwhile the powerful in our world are hoarding and secreting cash left, right and centre!

Really, what is wrong with rightwing media like Fox and Breitbart who cast this empowered and beautiful move by students as a “levy” and a sneaky, “mandatory” subversive maneuver? What are right-wingers so fearful of? What whinging, narrow-focus on the world do you grip when youth solidarity bothers you but bloody-minded racism you let pass? What small world does one inhabit, if youngsters’ kindness to one another is cause for contempt?

Hurrah, kudos and all the very best to the students at Prescott College. Don’t listen to the haters and don’t let them distract you from the love you bear, the values you hold and the structural tweaks you make in the cause of social justice.

More at Mic and Phoenix Times.

 

“Those walls aren’t there just to keep me in, but to keep you out.”

Tyrone W. (Prisoner and student)

Providing meaningful education in sites of incarceration is a difficult task. How do educators get inside the walls?

  Inmates taking an Adult Basic Education class at the Norco prison include Paul Rodriguez (left), Jobentino Romero (front), Felipe Ramos (right) and Marco Tielve (back). Chronicle photo by Michael Macor  Photo: Michael Macor / SFC

Inmates taking an Adult Basic Education class at the Norco prison include Paul Rodriguez (left), Jobentino Romero (front), Felipe Ramos (right) and Marco Tielve (back). Chronicle photo by Michael Macor Photo: Michael Macor / SFC

In 1994, the Clinton Administration withdrew Pell Grants and thus all funding for college education in US prisons. Prisoners were deemed unworthy of tertiary education. The disaster of this legislation (law was amended to omit prison populations) immediately impacted the prospects for tens of thousands of men and women, but also it crippled America’s critical thinking and cultural landscape.

With the stroke of the president’s pen, education – a cornerstone of the American dream narrative – was denied to a stipulated group by popular consensus. It was, and remains, discrimination defined.

Since that time, any college courses taught within US prisons have been supported entirely by non-profit organisations, brave foundation funding, volunteer hours and volunteer skills.

With this in mind, I’d like to bring to your attention some of the venerable organisations providing education despite innumerable legal and practical obstacles.

Prison Education Organisations

Recently, I took on a teaching role at Washington State Reformatory, one of four facilities at the Monroe Correctional Complex, WA. I teach in the University Behind Bars project, one of the programs run by the Prisoners Education Network (PEN).

PEN

PEN is a fledgling organisation that has just taken on an expanded curriculum, new teachers and a two year strategic plan for sustainable growth. It is the only college education provided to any inmates in the state of Washington.

In order to inform our growth we’ve been scrutinising other education programs across the United States.

Insideout

Temple University, Philadelphia runs the Inside Looking Out program which pairs prisoners with students as peers to develop educational goals. For background, view this video by Tiffany Kimmel which describes the work at Oregon State Penitentiary.

PUP

The Prison University Project at San Quentin is the model program for the state of California.

PrisoneReentryInstitute

John Jay College, New York runs the Prison Reentry Institute.

pep_boston

Boston University administers the Prison Education Program.

bpi

Bard College operates the Bard Prison Initiative.

Partakers

Faith-based group Partakers in Massachusetts calls for sponsors to support its College Behind Bars program.

TexasPEP

And, last but not least, is the business oriented Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) in Texas.

If you have a spare hour watch PEP’s director Catherine Rohr talk about the inspiration provided by the students and how they overturned her prior apathy and self-confessed ignorance to the needs of prisoners.

These are a mere selection. I’d be very happy to hear of more prison education programs from any corner of the US and beyond

Onward.

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