Big Ideas (9/18-10/2)

1. “The more years of schooling the person had completed when beginning their prison term, the less likely they were to recidivate” (Beth Hatt, From “Still I Rise: Youth Caught Between the Worlds of Schools and Prisons”)

This ties into what I was saying last week, a bit. Not only do people do better post-prison if they have a higher level of education before they enter prison, but they do better if they get their high school diploma in prison instead of their GED. It all comes from employability and education, I think. If you’re in prison with a higher level of education, you are more likely to continue and not be discouraged as much (I assume). Also, I think employers are more willing to give people a chance if they have a higher level of education.

2. Technology use in Correctional Education lags years behind mainstream education; online or Internet-based programs are usually nonstarters due to access to the “outside” world. (Borden & Richardson, “The Effective Use of Technology in Correctional Education”)

I guess it makes sense that application of technologies lags behind mainstream education, because this is the same in urban schools and alternative ed classrooms. I wish there was a better way to get online programs for inmates without having them go online. There is, understandably, a great distrust of what inmates can do online. At the same time, inmates need to be able to use technology when they re-enter society, otherwise it’s just one more way they are behind. In one of the articles I read, they discussed how they used fake “websites” to do class work – nothing was actually online, but it was all cached info or something. I wonder how difficult it was to get that past prison administrators…

3. Often, staff within correctional settings do no see the value or effect of correctional education. (Helfenbein, Stuckey, Fennewald, & Hoffmann, “Non-Didactic, a Culture of Peace, and ‘Some Cat from Brazil’: A Case Study of Negotiating a Dialogic Curriculum with Incarcerated Girls”)

I cannot believe that prison staff would be so discriminatory against inmates that wouldn’t see the value of education for them. This is ridiculous, but I guess it’s what happens when you get jaded, which is easy to do with at-risk populations (in prison or in school). The article discussed how the staff often had problems with the girls in the study because they didn’t realize that much of what they were learning was empowering them. Plus, as the girls became more empowered, they were more likely to speak up for themselves and the guards saw that as getting into trouble with authority. I just don’t understand how the general public (and specific populations within it – like prison staff) doesn’t place a high value on education. So many of our society’s problems stem from this, I believe.

4. There is an overreliance of standardized testing within correctional education, “learning disabled students in correctional facilities may not be having their special needs met” (Helfenbein et al.)

Using standardized testing in correctional education is ridiculous, especially if there is a reliance on it. I can see how staff/teachers would think it was easier, but honestly, standardized testing does not work well with at-risk populations. In my experience, at-risk youth prefer standardized testing & learning because they can put in the bare minimum effort and “pass.” But at the same time, they don’t learn much or thrive at all. I think that the type of education that would work well with at-r

5. How did the students from New Dorp even get into high school with such poor writing skills???!!!

I find that blame is often placed on students, or their high school teachers, when something basic isn’t known/understood. But what about the elementary and middle school teachers/administrators that allowed students to get that far without those skills?! It’s systemic and it starts before students even enter the classroom in kindergarten. If students don’t have text-filled homes and parents who are willing/able to read to and with them, then they start behind their peers who do. Plus, in those homes, homework and schoolwork isn’t highly valued (usually because the parent has had problems with school him/herself). But of course, blaming the parents or other schools isn’t helpful for elections. So we blame the kids because they’re lazy and stupid (unable to learn) and we blame their current teachers because they haven’t gotten them up to grade-level or beyond. Grr!

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