What are we investing in?

Critical Reflection Prompt 11 — Your choice

Dear CLQ Beauty in the Struggle Students. I’ve reflected a bit on the reading and focus of this week’s assignment. This is the first time that I’ve used When We Fight We Win and rereading the chapter now, I don’t feel that it does an adequate job on the huge subject of the School to Prison Pipeline as it focuses more on the larger issue of mass incarceration. Similarly, the pdf excerpt from The New Jim Crow is very relevant and this is mentioned in the WWFWW chapter. If this intrigues you, please feel free to focus on this topic for your critical reflection and use the assigned readings. Yet, this may not feel relevant or related enough for all of you and we simply don’t have time in class to go into the depth this issue deserves.

A little more explanation….

In the past two years that Lynn and I have taught this CLQ, we partnered with juvenile lifers (teens sentences as adults) at San Quentin, a group called Kid C.A.T. (Creating Awareness Together). Through this partnership we were able to make the issue of the school to prison pipeline a much more central theme in this colloquium. It is a hugely important issue and one that has very dire and tragic consequences for way too many youth in our society.

The men in this group were all incarcerated as teenagers. Many of the men are the children of Latino and Asian immigrants. I have been honored to know these men and while they take full responsibility for their crimes, their choices and opportunities were very much shaped by the larger structural issues of poverty, immigration, school segregation, and racial bias; as well as trauma that is often a result of these conditions. I will share more about the issue of school discipline and the stories of men incarcerated as youth on Tuesday. Regardless of which direction you choose to go with this week’s critical reflection, I hope you will take a moment to check out The Kid C.A.T Essay Project (This just that came out just last Thursday! Be sure to read Dave Eggers’ forward. “The Regrets of Young Men. I was actually there that day he describes and also on many other occasions as the men read and received feedback to improve the stories that are published here). These stories beautifully represent the importance of artistic and creative expression in people’s life. I can tell you how important it is to these men that they are able to share their stories and perspectives. I hope you will read them but it’s entirely up to you.

That said, here are my suggestions for this week’s critical reflection. If these are not useful to you. You could do 1) or 2) if you would like some direction. Or just use this CR in anyway that will further the connections between CLQ guiding questions, CLQ class activities and readings, and your community experience.

  1. For those who are interested in the issue, especially if your infographic group has picked the theme of Institutionalized Racism/School Segregation and School Discipline, I invite you to use this assignment to begin to probe more deeply into these interconnected issues. (You also saw from the Ed Data stats that all suspensions at San Rafael High are Latino students even though they represent 60% of the total school population). I’ve uploaded a one page ACLU fact sheet on the School to Prison Pipeline to moodle. There are also two of the Kid C.A.T. newsletters on moodle that have great articles related to these issues. You can think about this in relation to any observations/insights from your community experience in conjunction with the stories of men incarcerated as youth in the Kid C.A.T. essays.
  2. I’m also not sure that everyone in the class has bought or has access to When We Fight We Win. If you do, you might want to use this assignment to reflect on the CLQ guiding question: Why and how is creative and artistic expression an important vehicle for social change? You can read the artists interviews from the sections and think about how the creative process in this colloquium has helped you to understand the importance of and advocate for issues of educational equity. If you don’t have the book, you can also read the Kid C.A.T. stories and also think about this in relation to what you have seen at your community partner site. What have you observed when students are able to engage in art projects, creative writing etc.?