Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

sábado, mayo 08, 2010

The Arthur Kill Debate

Today's NY Times has a story about the victorious Arthur Kill Correctional Facility Debate Team. Writes the Times:

The two debate teams sat across a large room on Thursday night waiting for their face-off to begin. On one side were the visitors, four undergraduates at the New School, and their equally young coach poring over documents and comparing last-minute notes. Across the room the home team, four men in their 30s and 40s, leaned back in their seats, pictures of poise, their neatly arranged index cards at the ready but untouched.

The students from the Eugene Lang College of the New School were nervous because their team had lost here the previous year; in fact, the opposing team was undefeated in its two-year history, besting opponents like St. John’s University and New York Law School. The students were nervous because they were young and earnest and, as one of them put it, “afraid of offending someone.”

And they were, as one put it, “meta-nervous,” perhaps because they had to argue that the government should not finance higher education in prisons, right there at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, against a team of incarcerated men who could be seen as Exhibit A for the opposing view.

So the Arthur Kill team had the home-turf advantage, plus passion, not to mention direct personal experience — of the four debaters, three are currently special students at the New School, as are many of the two dozen inmates who were on hand to watch. Then there’s the advantage of general life experience, on the outside and in.

A spoiler: Arthur Kill won the debate. One wonders, how could they not? The prisoners clearly know a lot more about the need for education in prison than the undergrads they debated. And the undergrads had spiraled off into the world of Foucault, a world so ethereal, so theoretical that they couldn't have the resources to use it effectively. But I digress.

Arthur Kill is holding more than the four members of the debate team. In fact, it is a remote corner of Staten Island and has about 900 prisoners, who are classified "medium security." It's a prison. And it's not an educational institution. It has no aspirations to become an educational institution. How could it? New York claims to be in its worst budget crisis in decades, and despite the shortsightedness of it, cutting prison programs is a way to save money that does not create instant street demonstrations. Or angry lobbyists. Or strong public relations campaigns and denunciations. If New York can propose cutting funds from schools, how much easier is it to cut from prison programs?

Prisoners, lest one forget, are disenfranchised. They don't have an alumni association. Their loss won't be front page news. The front page is reserved for the corners of the prison gulag that succeed not because of programs, but despite the stringency of captivity.

Etiquetas: , , , ,