What led to the massive rise in incarceration in America over the past 40 years? How do K-12 schools contribute to mass incarceration? What are some solutions in prevention, strategies to strengthen resilience while incarcerated, and ways to integrate formerly incarcerated populations back into their communities? In this writing-intensive program, we will examine incarceration in the U.S., particularly in marginalized communities, both urban and rural, and intersections with public education systems.
Research shows that a person with access to comprehensive public education experiences enhanced social and economic benefits, such as college attainment, career choices, and a better standard of living. Yet, schools rely heavily on conformity, uniformity and individualism. “Zero Tolerance” behavior and discipline policies overwhelmingly target poor and minority children, who are often thereby “pushed out” of the education system.
Can writing be part of the solution? We will explore poetry and journalism to demonstrate how culture and social interaction within communities are built on language, which can socially influence others for good or ill. Many of our ideas and opinions about mass incarceration have been shaped by mass media. Meanwhile, poetry, both literary and spoken word, is the most popular genre of writing by incarcerated men and women. We will examine media coverage of criminal justice and the prison system; explore poetry, fiction, and nonfiction writing of residents of correctional facilities; and practice fundamentals of poetry and journalism.
Finally, we will begin to identify practices that look to resolve issues of mass incarceration using various lenses, such as liberating educational practices, adequate mental health care and drug treatment, transformative justice, and community-based journalism and poetry. Class activities will include lectures, workshops, seminar, guest speakers, and films. Assignments will include multiple drafts and revisions of various forms of poetic expression, synthesis papers on assigned reading, final small group theme-based poetry chapbooks, and a final journalism paper. Credit will be awarded in education and writing.
To successfully participate in this program, students will need access to a computer and Internet. It's best not to use a cell phone, if possible, as activities, readings and assignments are more difficult to navigate. Students can expect our remote class sessions to be around seven hours per week (two three and a half hour classes, with breaks!) using Canvas and Zoom, and an additional 10-13 hours of coursework (assignments, readings, etc.) per week on their own time. This fulfills Evergreen's general workload expectations for an eight-credit program, with some grace for these unusual times.
Course Reference Numbers
Education, social justice, the arts, government, law enforcement, criminal justice.