Thursday, March 12, 2015

Letter #9--Inert Prisons Versus Kinetic Universities

Dear Governor Ducey,

I understand that the 100 million dollars you will cut from education you would like to invest into prisons. For me, the problem is with the word “invest.” Invest usually suggests things like “rate of return” and “profit and loss statements.” The problem with investing in prison is the same problem as being confined to prison. Your money just sits there. There is little to no movement. The point of prison as punishment is that there is little opportunity to expand, grow, to change or to progress. You can’t even provide dividends as you might a business like IBM or Apple. Prisons are not Apple. Apple is not here. IBM is not here. Prisons are not an industry because, as the industrious bees know, industry moves. Instead, prison is stuck. The state gets exactly what it’s put in—stasis, deferral, impediment, standstill. Its rate of return is as inert as the concrete that goes to build them. As inert as the time must feel to those who live in them.

When I am walking across campus, I have to jump out of the way of skateboarders, bicyclers, unicyclers because there is not enough room for everyone to travel down the narrow pathways. In the halls, between classes, I sometimes have to hug the wall to avoid getting trampled. In the classrooms, there are always teachers standing at the front of the students, waving their arms about something, or showing them something, or writing on the white board or futzing with the AV equipment. The students are moving too, in their labs, into peer review groups, up in front of the desks to give presentations. There are people typing like mad. There are people reading on the grass, swinging their legs in the air. There are students erecting sculptures and playing the piano and tagging the legs of mice. There are students measuring the temperature in the solar ovens they built and faculty pointing telescopes toward the sky. There are people painting with oil and acting out Shakespeare and reciting Emily Dickinson in the middle of the quad. There are students building wind turbines and making chemicals react and demonstrating their understanding of physics on their skateboards, their bikes, their unicycles. I understand why you want to shut us down. This place can be dangerous. All this forward movement and action and progress. It’s enough to make you nervous but what I’ve learned is that if I’m impeding progress, I should just get out of the way. Maybe that could work for you too.

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