Receiving an education is about understanding. You have to understand the lessons that are taught to you both inside and outside of the classroom. You are given a chance to understand cultures from around the world; not only in the way that they live, but in the ways that they are different from yourself. You are able to understand that you are equal to everyone else that is trying to gain knowledge. No one is better than you, and you are not better than anyone. You are giving yourself the opportunity to receive an education in life.
Most people in prison have already received their education in life. They screwed up, and now they’re spending their lives in prison. They are beginning to realize that they shouldn’t have robbed that convenience store, or killed that man, or forged that check. They are understanding that if they had had an education, perhaps they would have already been able to see all of the available options. Perhaps they would have been able to choose a better one.
Education is more than just learning how to write an essay, or how to add and subtract numbers. For people living on the street, education is knowing. You have to know when to keep your mouth shut, and what time of night you should avoid certain streets. For people trying to pursue higher education, it is also about knowing. You know that you need to get an education so that you can make something of yourself. You know that if you don’t pass this class, you aren’t going to make the grades. In both walks of life, the stakes are high, simply in different ways.
There are thousands of prisoners in thousands of prisons across America, as well as the world. They might be in the situation that they are, because they weren’t given the opportunity to receive a proper education. If the prison system were to offer these people the chance to obtain what they were never able to before, society might be able to fight recidivism. Society might even be enabling people to better themselves in ways that will someday better the world.
Of course, the question remains about the people who are in prison for life. What does it matter if they receive an education? They aren’t ever going to be given the chance to show that it made a difference to society.
Despite the fact that society may never know, these prisoners will know that they made themselves better people. They took classes, and read novels and made attempts to become more than what they were. The crimes that these prisoners committed had consequences. Their houses, and money, and relationships were taken away from them. However, no one can ever take away what is inside of their heads, for that knowledge is their own.
Most prisoners can agree upon one thing: they were raised in a culture that repeats itself over and over again. People do wrong things, they end up on the streets, they continue doing wrong things, and then they end up in prison. Giving these prisoners a chance to gain an education is giving them a chance to beat the cycle, it is giving hope to today’s youth that are growing up on the streets.
If they see people who can change, people who are learning about what it means to be a role model, perhaps they will do the right thing. Perhaps they will understand enough to make the right decision this time. Instead of walking into a drug deal or a bar fight, they’ll walk into a classroom. They’ll make the conscious decision to at least give themselves the opportunity to understand, not just the facts in the classroom, but the facts of life.