The benefits of putting prison time to good use
Regarding the Sept. 14 article, "College behind bars is rare today": I taught English in a men's maximum security prison in Australia for two years and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. Here I met men who were keen to learn, felt privileged that they could study, and planned to put that study to good use upon being released. Those who oppose prisoners being educated only have to work in a prison to know what a difference this education makes in people's lives. Our society can only benefit from men and women being educated and can only help these men and women once they are released.
Like James Allridge, the prisoner-artist mentioned in the Aug. 17 article "When inmates create art, should they profit?", I'm also an inmate in a Texas prison and have taught myself to draw and paint. Should we not try to be creative and express ourselves? Should we rely only on people outside [prison] for financial support? Granted, we have made mistakes, and we should pay for our crime, but should we accept defeat and remain the same, or should we excel and better ourselves?
I in no way condone crime of any kind, but I do believe one should be given the chance to rehabilitate.
Mr. Allridge cannot take back his crime, but to me, he did the next best thing. He used his time and energy to better himself and help others. Why not set his success as an example of rehabilitation, instead of discouraging others who try to improve?
Oh, how Barbara Kelley's Sept. 13 opinion piece, "College: time for passionate pursuits," resonated with me! Not because I ever found a passion and acted on it. No, I took the safe route to an office cubicle and, like the students Professor Kelley says she talks to, "mourn" having never discovered a passion of my own.
That is why I take every opportunity to encourage friends' kids, and others, to pursue their passion, and to consider it a blessing when they have one. I also urge their parents, teachers, and others to encourage and help these kids find the means and persistence to pursue something other than the ordinary path.
I find myself unsympathetic to Ms. Kelley's lament that many students at her college "come to college to get a job, rather than an education."
The school where she teaches, Santa Clara University, has an annual tuition cost (for the coming academic year) of $27,135. Room and board is an additional $9,693, and there are "incidentals" such as textbook costs to consider as well. The total cost of an education there could easily exceed $160,000.
An investment on this scale does require a return, and for most of us, that return has to include earning enough to pay back the loans. An education that focuses on music or art or dance is unlikely to achieve this for more than a select few. That students see the connection between what they (or their parents) spend on their education and their later incomes seems to me a good thing, not a source of sorrow.
I don't want to discourage people of any age from pursuing their passions. But unless they are quite wealthy, they need to find less expensive places than a $30,000-per-year university in which to pursue them.
Universities, or at least ones with costs comparable to Santa Clara University, have simply priced themselves out of the "pursue your passion" market.
Palo Alto, Calif.
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