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"Tattooing Scar Tissue": Notes Towards Day 18 (Thurs, Feb. 23)

Anne Dalke's picture

PREP NOTES: bring large sheets of paper, markers, tape and printed out quotations
PLUS copies of Persepolis!

I. (2:25-2:35): introducing Liv, our TLI consultant

II. (2:35-2:40, Jody): coursekeeping

Copies of the answer sheet for TOSL for anyone who wants them?!

By midnight tonight
: post your fifth reflection on our reading and discussion

By midnight Sunday: post a reflection on your fifth site visit

For class on Tuesday, please read 4 short essays about teaching inside (including one of your postings from last week):

the Introduction to Megan Sweeney's book, Reading is My Window: Books and The Art of Reading in Women's Prisons

Deborah Appleman's essay on “Teaching in the Dark: The Promise and Pedagogy of Creative Writing in Prison,”

Dan Colson's “Geographies of Prejudice: Self-Narration and Radical Teaching in the Prison, and

m r r, "Phenomenal Woman, Revisited," Serendip, /oneworld/unsettling-literacy/phenomenal-women-revisited

As you read, ask yourselves the same sort of comparative question
we've been asking the last couple of classes:
what might these folks have to say to one another?
how do their essays "rub up" against one another?
could they be co-teachers? what might that look like?

III. (2:40-2:50, Anne), picking up from Tuesday's (sorta silent?) class:
we appreciated the arc that moved us
from Meiners' discussion of "anger management,"
through Dani's question about the possible "pedagogical usefulness of anger,"
to Miciah's observation that our many strong stories about
the mishandling of anger in our high schools
were missing Meiners' punchline: that due to many forms of social and
economic inequity, many students do indeed have a "right to be hostile,"
real, intractable sources for their "outlaw emotions." In other words,
our stories kept the focus on the individual, not on the systemic issues
that Meiners was highlighting. In today's essay, Plemons calls such
hyperfocus on the individual "colonialist," in its refusal to look at the
relational context.

Where to go from here?
What to do with that hard claim,
and the hard questions it provokes?

We'll return in just a few minutes to these queries;
but also want to note two more questions that
emerged just at the end of Tuesday's class:
Miciah's question about art programming in prison--say more?--and
Martina's asking for an explanation of what Plemons says about
conflating "the epistemic function of writing with its presumed
material value," a conflation which "carries a distinctly colonial implication."
[was that it?]
Plemons is arguing that justifying a writing program by its production of
narratives of transformation and salvation (in order to please granting agencies,
for example) is colonizing, because it conflates this sort of "material value"
with the much more exploratory act of knowledge-seeking that writing is (really!) about;
she's advocating such open uses of writing, over the "closable logic" of stories
that wrap things up with neat meanings and endings.

IV. (2:50-3:10, Jody): we've organized our discussion of today's paired readings--

Chapter 2 of Kirk Branch's book: "Make Them Wise to Salvation,"
and Anna Plemons' "Tattooing Scar Tissue"--
to pick up both on the questions of anger
and those of the pedagogical uses of art (in this classroom, if not in prison).

You'll see on sheets of paper around the room five quotations.**
One comes from one of your postings, one from Plemons, five from Branch.
Please get up, read all the quotes, then stand in front of one that you'd like to discuss further.

If your group has exhausted the possibilities and directions of that quote
(and others are still talking), please pick a second one, and repeat.

V. (3:10-3:30, Anne): return to your sheet of paper
and make your conversation visible--
this could take the form of a scar,
a tattoo,
a tattoo on scar tissue--
or some other visual representation.

["take it slow, make design choices that work with the material reality of the landscape,
understand that some tattoos are meant ot hide older skin stories"]

VI. (3:30-3:45): Close by moving around and taking in these works of art.
This is the sort of thing that Liv will be inviting us to do,
as we begin to brainstorm our next set of papers.....

Branch, p. 55: Correctional education is often labeled a success or failure based on whether students recidivate, return to prison have committed another offense. Correctional education takes on explicitly a goal for education that most of the teachers I know and whose works I read speak about in muted and reluctant voices: to socialize students, to help them buy into the social and cultural norms of society enough so that they no longer resort to crime. As a field, correctional education is primarily dedicated to the principle that education can affect fundamental changes in character, behavior, and personality.

Branch, pp. 75-76, p. 79: ...a cognitive skills methodology...stemmed from argumetns that prisoners...suffered from "developmental delays in the acquisition of a number of cognitive skills necessary for the development of one's interpersonal problem-solving...and moral reasoning ability which are required for effective social adaptation"....There is, in other words, a sort of criminal mind…Once these deficits become identified, strategies for educational intervention gain clarity. The problem with many offenders..."was that they have not acquired the skills of thinking"....Many students in my class...seemed impulsive, selfish, narrowly focused. Many of my students...seemed to have none of these "deficits," but my experience nonetheless suggested the undeniable explanatory power of the cognitive skills approach.

Branch, pp. 83-84:
...taking the prison into account as a concern of the correctional educator comes at a peril for the prison teacher, because it risks making the educational project appear impossible….That is, the prison overtly operates against the goals of an educator who seeks to instill in inmates a certain kind of critical thinking, personal responsibility, personal agency, and an ability to negotiate through society….Supporting a curriculum predicated on developing the self-control of inmates...requires a theory that downplays the particular context of the prison as affecting that development.

Branch, pp. 88-89:  Everything about the prison—uniforms, numbers, unceasing surveillance—emphasizes objectification…The system then seeks to transform this objectified prisoner into the sort of subject valued by the prison….[Stephen] Duguid argues that the programs that have had the most success…treated the prisoner as a subject, which “often centers on creating a democratic, participatory environment"....educational literacy practices must…allow for a subject to subject discourse.…Deguid describes an alternative educational space....The theater program, he claims, created a public sphere for prisoners, a civic sphere requiring democratic decision making, and a private sphere allowing for self-reflection.

Plemons: the idea of the teacher as pastoral a closely held disciplinary value and part of the explicit history of our education system....But therein lies the problem--the teacherly impulse to help...developed inside the Western cultural logic of progress. We have been taught that things are supposed to get better....when writing teachers...ask incarcerated writers to tell narratives of progress, that might hinder or even stymie deeper, slower, more personally meaning work....I suggest more attention to relationships and communities...without the colonial hyerfocus on the individual...a rhetoric of progress cannot make sense of many nuanced, complicated, relational "always already relationality" to things.

Anne's Reading Notes
Plemons: look for something other than salvation narratives/individual narratives of transformation
scholarly critique of prison (writing) programming: keeps the focus on individual, not systemic issues of incarceration
our theories of writing, and tools we use to evaluate it, carry a western ideology of progress
have yet to develop decolonial theory of writing that works against impulse to enter community to change something there
idea of teacher as pastoral guide a closely held disciplinary value; teacherly impulse to help things get better
narratives of progress might stymie deeper, slower, more personally meaningful work
(also currency for granting agencies, donors, etc.)
story of Jack's slowly outing himself as wavering white supremacist
pay more attention to relationships, communities, without colonial hyperfocus on individuals
tatooing scar tissue: take it slow, make design choices that work w/ material reality of the landscape,
understand some tattoos are meant to hide older skin stories;
make sense of nunanced, complicated contexts,
"always already relationality"
circular paraidgms for thinking about movement;
no trajectory beyond, outside: circling back, going deeper

Branch, Ch. 2: Literacy Practices in Correctional Education
53: in social act inevitably hinging on transformation, teachers surrounded by instruments,
semiotics of restraint, "anti-education institutions"; mandate in conflict w/ prison mission
55: correctional education dedicated to principle that education can affect fundamental changes in character
political funding relies on rhetorical compatibility w/ excessively punitive society
56: esp. stark relationship between institutional setting and ed'l theory
value of any curriculm measured by ability to improve things like moral reasoning among inmates
ed'l literacy practices invoke/create conditions for change, transformation
project belief of better future
57: recidivism most common measure of success/failure for the field
urgent provision of basic literacy;
further schooling seen as inducement to crime, unwarranted luxury
social necessity-> social threat
58: ed'l literacy practices should play central role in reform of ineffective, unjust penal system
correctional education puts influence of institutions upon ed'l literacy practices in stark relief
59: unwarranted conclusion: illiteracy causes crime; literacy education integral part of correction
61: elides other causes of imprisoment: social, economic inequality;
illiteracy addressable substitute for more deepy rooted inequities;
decontextualized marker for social difference
63: to meet rehabilitative ideal, correctional education must focus on "remedial programs"
(medical metaphor/curative benefits of education)
link between illiteracy and criminality: unemployability
64: being taught: how not to think like criminals think
67: prisons for confinement, not freedom
70: relentless focus on betterment (teaching reading the Bible in early history)
71: correctional ed often pulled between ind'l and social goals, changing criminals or social structures
medical model: treatment to fix the criminal, cure delinquency:
acquire sufficient insight into own actions to be trusted again in society
Robert Martinson's 1974 "nothing works" article (no rehabilitation)
72: '70s shift to punishment, deterence, and removal from society
universities took up rehabilitative programs (knowledge-> freedom)
73: to identity inmate as student is a profound challenge to the prison
74: entire bureaucratic structure @ odds w/ any rehabilitative ideal
75: Piaget-> Kohlberg->offenders suffered from developmental delays
in acquisition of cognitive skills: lack self-control, action-oriented,
impulsive, unable to consider consequences of their actions
76: offenders "have not acquired the skills of thinking"
77: curriculum works to shift self-identity from procriminal to prosocial,
increases awareness of social perspectives other than their own
78: effect moral change in how they think of selves in world
79: relentless focus on individual deliberately downplays
cultural, political contexts, ignores prison by making moral/
cognitive devleopment wholly internal, averts gaze from the prison,
so not to disturb the theoretical foundations of cognitive theory
(or institutional requisites of prison)
81: everything about institutional env't anathema to moral development:
82: point of prison to remove criminals from a world with actual choices
83: how teach productive social skills in a place designed to limit ind'l agency?
prison overtly operates against goals of critical thinking,
personal responsibility, personal agency, social negotiation
84: developing self-control means downplaying prison context
86; because prisons inherently work again ed'l goals of increased independence
and critical social analysis, educators must be separate from correcitonal system,
87: remain outsiders
fund'l shift in understanding inmates as citizens
88: persuade object to switch to subject
most successful programs centre on creating a democratic participatory env't
93: @ stake in correctional education is very purpose, role of imprisonment and punishment
94: human possibility for change, potential for education to play primary role in civil rights
planning prisons now: already giving up on the children, expecting them to fail