Monday, July 11, 2011

Prisons, Hamlet, and Education

On my run yesterday morning I was listening to an old episode of This American Life (yes, I know: most people listen to music when they exercise; I listen to NPR podcasts) about a group of inmates rehearsing and performing Act V of Hamlet.

I'd heard this episode before; if you haven't, I highly recommend listening to it. It's an amazing story in all kinds of ways.

While listening yesterday there was one moment that really struck me. Right around the 25 minute mark one of the prisoners/performers is explaining why he's involved in this performance group says, simply, "she makes us feel human, man."

Shortly after that Jack Hitt (the reporter) says, "One guy with a 3rd grade education level said he was surprised to find out he wasn't stupid, just uneducatated."

Those two lines--as part of this incredible story in which these men who have done truly awful things create a truly awesome (in every sense of the word) performance--really beautifully illustrated two of the fundamental things I believe about education:

1) If you treat someone like they are capable of something, they are more likely to believe that they are actually capable of anything.

2) In order to work in education, you have to believe that people are capable of change. Or, as I sometimes put it: if you don't believe people have the capacity for change, you have no business working in education.

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