Thursday, May 21, 2020

Stay in Your Lane: Part 3    by    Christopher Havens

Alas, we have FINALLY reached the part of the story where you can tell me how long winded I am. Before you file any complaints, please, finish the damned story. :)
As I was saying, sitting in on a lecture requires an unconventional approach. For this, I organized events hosted by the PMP, invited some of my favorite mathematicians, and requested they prepare lectures on specific topics. Yes, it's long and involved, but it works. It has also given me my most treasured memories.. In prison of all places!

I said before that the Prison Mathematics Project has become a mathematical community behind prison walls. This form of micro-community has given us the opportunity for these mathematical peer to peer interactions. And by bringing the mathematical community to prison, we have found a way to engage teachers and talk through some of our conceptual issues, if only for one day a year. The adversity of being in a harsh environment can be minimized by programs like the PMP. This program highlights the transformative powers of mathematics.

I once had a vision that the PMP could be applied across the country in all of the prisons. A program that nurses that spark of passion for mathematics, and brings together groups of prisoners to work together in teaching, learning, and researching mathematics. This program will not start itself. It is up to the over ambitious prisoner who believes in reform and redemption to experience and provide a means for human fluorishing in dark places such as this one. We have a community in the Twin Rivers Prison Mathematics Project. I challenge the readers: If you hear about a PMP event in your local area, show your support and attend. Become involved. Your involvement inspires us to do more.. to do better. If you're the prisoner who feels alone because the gangsters in the "big yard" run from your mathematical flavored conversation, then launch the Prison Mathematics Project in your own prison. The name belongs to all of us. You will find that you are not alone. 

To any of the other "over ambitious" inmates, to Travis in Michigan, to the other Christopher at the Federal prison.. keep smiling in the face of adversity. Sling symbols like a wizard. This is an endurance match, the end game being a better life to the ones we previously lived. For some of us, we can never repay the debt of what we have taken. This is where it becomes important for us to take the responsibility of reducing the rate of recidivism one person at a time. The past president of the MAA spoke on human flourishing and a more inclusive mathematical community. I believe that speech has already impacted how we interact within the mathematical community. Please, don't take my word for this. Test the waters and draw your own conclusions.

You'll just simply never know if you stay in your lane.

Christopher Havens is the founder and a fellow of the Prison Mathematics Project, lover of mathematics, institutionally challenged, and technologically handicapped. He looks forward to someday using a fork.. and a straw. 



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