Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Thinking Teacher
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
What a profound final Global Thinking class on Friday! The course came full circle when we revisited an activity that we did in the first week of the semester. This second version of the Web of Interconnection demonstrated not only how the causes and solutions to many global issues are intertwined, but also how much the students have learned and critically analyzed in the last four months. I am always elated by hearing Woolman students explain how globalization, the school-to-prison pipeline, the Prison Industrial complex, capitalism, corporate dominance, democracy, oligarchy, foreign aid, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and the importance of hearing multiple perspectives show up in our society.
As a teacher I find that learning is most ‘sticky’ and concepts are best absorbed when the topics we explore go beyond the classroom. Our study of the Prison Industrial Complex is a great example of this. We began by reading a chapter from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness in order to theoretically understand how the criminal justice system in the US is a modern day method of marginalizing people of color from society, particularly low income men of color, just as slavery and later Jim Crow laws did mere decades ago.
We deepened our understanding of the systemic racism and classism inherent in today's Prison Industrial Complex during our Radical Learning for Change trip to Oakland and San Francisco. We met with Jerry Elster and Laura Magnani who work in solidarity with incarcerated people to implement Restorative Justice as a system of healing and to educate people outside the prison system of the injustices and harm caused by the Prison Industrial Complex. It was incredibly powerful to hear from them first hand about what it’s like to work at the grassroots level as agents of change.
As part of the Global Thinking Projects Class, students made documentaries about a social justice topic of their choice. Three students made a documentary about support available to incarcerated people after they leave prison, and they interviewed Jerry Elster while we were in San Francisco to gain another important perspective on ways to decrease recidivism in the prison system.
If you’re interested in getting a deeper taste of Global Thinking class and understanding how racism and corporatism play into the Prison Industrial Complex, check out these two resources that we examine in class. The first is an interview with Michelle Alexander and the second is an exploration of how prisons are increasingly becoming for-profit entities. I am extremely grateful to this semester’s students for the incredible deep thinking, reflection, and intellectual growth that I have observed from them. Thank you for bringing your strength and your knowledge out into the greater world!