Monday, March 24, 2014

Colleges or Prisons, Education or Punishment - It's Our Choice

Where would you rather spend your late teens and twenties? College? Or, prison? Where should we prefer our youth, in colleges or prisons? Should we even care, if they aren't our very own young adults?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 
― Nelson Mandela

It is our choice if we want more colleges or prisons in this country. We are ultimately responsible. It's no secret that we need to better educate our country. It is an established fact that those with higher educational levels have less violent crime and produce fewer children. That means, to spell it out, that more of those with a poorer education produce most of the violent crime and children. We don't need more ignorant children raised to be more ignorant adults.

We need fewer children being not just better, but well educated. In prisons, we literally have a captive audience of potential students. Of course we can't force feed education in prisons. But there is something we can do. We can inspire through education, and we can educate through inspiration.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” 
― Plutarch

I wanted to compare the numbers of colleges against the numbers of prisons and I couldn't find how many prisons there are in the US. That is mostly talked in numbers of prisoners in the US, not in how many prisons there actually are. But finally, I did find it.

I found on Salon that there are 4,575 prisons in the US. I also found that the number of inmates in state and federal prisons decreased by 1.7 percent, to an estimated 1,571,013 in 2012 from 1,598,783 in 2011 (NY Times).

There are 21 million college students as of 2010 (enrollment increased 37% from 2000 to 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics). Well, that's good news anyway. But not good enough. There are 2,774 four year colleges, nearly half of the numbers of prisons.

Why? Why should that be?

Why should it apparently be easier to get into jail than into college? This may at first sound stupid, but what if many of those jailed, were instead in college?

Why don't we have more colleges than prisons? Are we just a criminally based culture or, can we admit we are letting down our children in educating and taking care of them as they grow into productive adults?

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

There are also many more students in those colleges than prisoners in those prisons, but what if we had that number more evened out for students? Have you attended a university? Have you been in, seen, or heard of the 1,000 student GUR (General University Requirements) classes in colleges, classes that you are obligated to take in order to graduate? Classes like for instance, "Intro to Psychology". What if those were instead like my own Intro to Psych class, which had less than thirty students?

I started my college career at a very well ranked Community College in Washington state which eventually got accreditation as a full College. I then had my two year AA degree transferred to a four year University where I received my Bachelor of Arts and Letters degree. I feel I got a very good education starting at the Community College level because I had easy access to my teachers. The Community College had Master's graduates teaching where the University has only PhDs teaching. Yes the work may be harder at a University but some of that is because you have to do so much more on your own which leads to some degree of guessing. Which can be good, but wouldn't it be better to have those questions filled in and then some by Professors? Allow me to explain.

I admit, it was a shock to go from Community College level to a University, but so is the divide between sophomore and junior years of college.

My girlfriend at the time had her first year at a University in one of those 1,000 student classes. She had a scholarship, I just had my V.A. benefits after getting out of the Air Force. After that first year, she decided to come home to finish school and so we moved in together. We had a lot of time to discuss this topic until we both later graduated at the same University. It was her belief that I had gotten a much better education because of the smaller classes I had, than she did starting at a prestigious four year University, because I could have more in depth discussions with my teachers. Which I did many times, where she could barely get to see hers and many times, simply didn't. Of course, much of this is about how much the student pushes to learn. But a student shouldn't be put up against other students to steal their time with a Professor. They should all have equal time, as needed or desired.

My Psych teacher didn't have "office hours". Her's did. Hers had to. My teacher didn't need office hours because I could talk to him anytime between classes, before or after school. He was very available to us, as were most of our teachers there. But my girlfriend had to jockey for time with her Professors among the long lines of other students trying to see their Prof. for what could only be a few minutes and during too few "office hours" times. She said sometimes she'd stand in line outside a Professor's office, wasting time, trying to study in line, and not infrequently, simply not get to see him at all. Of course not all classes are like that, but many are. Certainly the more popular classes were.

So what if  we had enough University level schools so that all students could have a Prof. and a class with only thirty students in it? What if we had as many higher education schools, that supported the levels needed by the available students, to the students' needs and not societies lack of money to pay for what is needed? What kind of education would they get then? What kind of graduates would we end up with compared to now, when many of those students are simply sitting in jail learning to be better criminals, rather than better students and citizens? What kind of advancements would our country see, then? What would life in America be like then? What would our world be like if America produced so many fewer ex prisoners and so many more University, College, or even Community College students?

Simply put, we need to turn this thing with our prisons, around. We need to stop using 18th century paradigms of jurisprudence and start using what we have learned works, replacing what we know perpetuates generational criminals.

I would like to end this with a caveat. That being that how we educate is as important as what and who we educate. We need to teach how to think, critically. We need to teach accurate information and the best knowledge we have at the time. We need to separate out theology from science as theology can be it's own educational direction, but has little to do with a fact based education other than in historical perspectives. Much of our education system lacks progression within itself and inspiration. And to that I will end with this....

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” 
― Doris LessingThe Golden Notebook

Just know that we can do better. 

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