by Necalli Ollin
oday Efrén Paredes, Jr. completed the class "Education and Human Flourishing," taught at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) by Dale Brown, Western Michigan University, Lecturer in the Dept. of Philosophy; Research Assistant in the Dept. of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies; and Director of WMU Prison Education Outreach Program. Efrén was one of only 20 prisoners qualified to meet the strict criteria required by facility administrators to participate in the class.
According to Brown, "The focus of this course was shifting ideas about how human nature and diversity -- involving social categorization, stereotyping, and cultural bias -- play an important role in our understanding what kinds of flourishing, and education, are possible and desirable."
During the class students learned about moral virtues, moral vices, and strategies to bridge the gap between the people we are and the people we seek to become. The class also studied philosophy, systems of thinking, learned that appreciative engagement with merit or worth is what produces happiness in our lives, among other subjects.
As one solution to help repair the devastation caused by the school-to-prison pipeline, the course emphasized the value of creating a prison-to-college pipeline. Evidence-based research has proven higher learning significantly reduces recidivism by transforming lives and fostering a departure from antisocial beliefs and actions.
"Students enjoyed learning how to engage in metacognition (i.e., thinking about how they think and the ways of thinking that are most likely to facilitate learning) and exploring ways to enrich their lives so they can acquire the skills to become better versions of themselves," according to Efrén.
He added, "Our instructor did a great job of bringing the college classroom experience to the prison and inspiring students to utilize their potential to be successful and flourish in life. He encouraged students to be confident in themselves and keep stirring their curiosity and imagination as they excavate the world's repository of knowledge."
Efrén wrote his final paper for the class in response to the question, "Why has higher education in prison not received wider public support?" He plans to continue building upon his final paper and submitting it for publication in an academic journal. He wants to also make it available to the public across multiple platforms to be used as a tool to help change public perception about the issue.