Learning New Languages In Prison (the language of academia!)    by    Ruth Utnage

Prison is stocked full of opportunity. I get very confused when others tell me they’re bored or there’s nothing to do, I lose respect for them fast because I know first hand the plethora of opportunity available.

I have this fear of hitting the streets and not having a good answer as to what I’ve done with the last ten and a half years. Something tangible like learning several new languages I can sport at will. I thought about learning French and Spanish, maybe brushing up on my German. I could have done that. I opted for a different language, Human Resources, Sociology, and Criminology.

I once read to adopt the mannerisms of the people you want to be like, even if they are not around to learn from. The people I most want to be like are mixtures of CEO’s and educators but instead of doing what they do I study my own niche, my own passion, not theirs. My passion, specifically, is studying how environments impact culture and caste systems within the prison system and, in turn, how that impacts rehabilitation.

Not exciting, media frenzy inducing content that gets the world biting their nails and on the edge of their seats waiting for the next big headliner, I admit, but it is what I love to do.

The realization hit me hard a few years back that I was in a unique position to learning about the drivers of cultural formation by reading historical accounts and experiencing it firsthand while in prison, or what we can refer to as immersive learning.

Part of what I want to study is why prisons are unable to foster the type of learning people such as myself and other HumanMe writers practice. What is happening that education is not the priority when, for us, we understand that it is crucial for transformation and furthermore, why isn’t the prison system able to nurture such thinking?

For me, the answer resides in a cause and effect theorem that leads to a created culture. Something not known because those in the field of study are not able to see as clearly as they believe they are. Allow me to point you to another post titled “The Ant Farm Allegory”.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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“A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, then by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.” (“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire )