Thursday, September 16, 2010

University Encourages Literature for Inmates

By Tim Handorf

Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas, is taking a new approach to classic literature and community service.

For the first time, the Baptist school is sponsoring a program that will attempt to lower inmate recidivism through classic literature reviews provided by the Baylor students.

This program, called an Engaged Learning Group (ELG), is one of several sponsored by the University that aims at providing a select group of students with an opportunity live and learn together, and to explore a challenging social issue in a new way.

The Unlock the Imprisoned Mind with a Digital Key ELG was designed to allow students to give back to their communities over a three or four semester length period by educating prisoners about "great books."

The program synopsis states that "studies show that recidivism among the incarcerated reduces dramatically if the prisoners become involved in literacy programs." And through essays and journal entries, Baylor students aim to accomplish just that.

The program admits around 12 students into this ELG.

Each student will be required to read at least two classic pieces of literature each semester and write a thoughtful journal entry, around 200 words, or an critical essay, roughly 500 words, over the text. Examples given include Homer's Odyssey, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Euripides' Medea.

Each written piece will then be submitted for blind peer review, meaning students won't know who is reviewing their papers, or whose paper they themselves are editing.

After the best six papers are selected by the students, they will collectively create a newsletter containing the pieces to be distributed amongst the inmates listed on the Chiara's Community database. Chiara's Community is an educated-based prison program that also aims to educate inmates through literacy and learning.

In total, at the end of the program's three semesters, students will have written about and read at least six great classic pieces of literature, not to mention the numerous other peer papers they will review.

At the same time, the inmates that receive this newsletter will be able to learn about and analyze 18 great works.

"We want to provoke thinking serious thoughts about these works and thinking about how these works can still live, can still inform our lives," Dr. John Thorburn, co-director of this ELG said. "And so we want the students to think about this and we want the prison inmates to think about this as well."

Without a doubt, Baylor University has found a way to bridge the gap between classic literature and community service. With students' help, inmates will learn the lessons provided to all of us through these great works, while also hopefully turning their lives around.

About the author

This guest post is contributed by Tim Handorf, who writes on the topics of online colleges and universities. He welcomes your comments at his email Id: tim.handorf.20@googlemail.com.

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