Monday, June 22, 2009

Philosophy behind bars

Our old friend the CHE has a short piece by Robert Gormong relating his experience of teaching philosophy in a Virginia correctional facility. I've talked to a number of people who've taught philosophy (or cognate disciplines) in prisons and nearly all find it to be highly rewarding. Gormong writes:

Whatever their flaws, I thought my inmate-students were in a unique position to benefit from a class on philosophy. Philosophy is a discipline that ought to help students shape their lives and values — and at Lunenburg, my students desperately needed to rethink their lives. At their best, they understood that. Many of them proved it in their intense devotion to the class.

Anyone else done this sort of teaching? What were your experiences like?

1 comment:

  1. I was lucky enough to teach poetry at a correctional facility in upstate New York when I was in graduate school in philosophy. The facility housed women from 13 to 18, if I recall correctly. It was an especially good experience for me in terms of being a graduate student. Graduate school can be confining and overwhelming. To learn from, teach and visit with young women with vastly different experiences than mine was exactly what I needed to focus less on myself and more on the world. I recommend this if you can find a willing facility near you. One note of precaution: people in these circumstances have had people let them down repeatedly. Don't do it if you can't keep your commitment. On a final note, this experience made me keenly aware of the need for prison reform in the U.S. This isn't a knock on the facility I taught at - it was really good. Rather, it reminded me in a stark way of the inescapable humanity of prisoners - including the guilty.


If you wish to use your name and don't have a blogger profile, please mark Name/URL in the list below. You can of course opt for Anonymous, but please keep in mind that multiple anonymous comments on a post are difficult to follow. Thanks!