Two days ago, a young man with a British accent and a clipboard stopped me as I was walking through Manhattan after having lunch with my husband (! (Two weeks of marriage is not at all enough time to make this word mundane.)).
The young man was fund-raising for an organization that claims to "punch poverty in the face!" by provide basic care and education to children in impoverished countries. He asserted, in the course of his spiel, that education is the most important thing to get people out of poverty. When I looked skeptical, he demanded to know why. I didn't have a good answer. I mumbled about the primacy of food and water. It wasn't until I was walking away that it occurred to me that I believe knowing the true God is the most fundamental precondition for true success.
Anyway, I don't instinctively think of education as something that nourishes the human soul. "Learning," yes. "Education," no. But today I read this interview of a philosophy professor who teaches a course on hope in modern philosophy--at a maximum security prison! (Good read.) At the end of the interview was this exchange:
If I had known those statistics, maybe I wouldn't have made such a face at the volunteer on Tuesday!
This program that you were doing is part of a Bard College Program to make a bachelor's-level education accessible for prisoners. Based on your experience, what do you think of the role of education for our prison population?
The facts are pretty compelling. The recidivism rate goes way down when people are involved in these kinds of programs—60 percent, I think, is the normal rate for people coming out of maximum security context, and it goes down to below 15 percent for people who've been involved in the Bard Program, and the ones who actually get the B.A. are even lower than that. For the ones who will get out of the prison someday, it becomes much more likely that they'll live productive or at least not-incarcerated lives in the future.
(From the Veritas Riff "Hope Unbound: A Philosopher Goes To Prison.")
I wonder what the impact of more specific classes like the philosophy course discussed in the interview might be, statistically speaking...