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Does school prepare men for prison?


Exploring the life histories of eleven former prisoners

Eleven men who spent time in UK prisons have given in-depth accounts of their school experiences to speaker Dr Karen Graham. The men vividly bring to life the exclusionary practices and processes that were a main feature of their schooling. These rarely articulated stories lead to difficult questions about the purposes of the types of exclusions they faced and the connections between social control and education. 

In response to their experiences of being on the margins, do excluded children become fluent or skilled to survive in a particular environment outside of the standard school-to-work trajectory? Could it be that aptitudes, behaviours and identities learned through these experiences actually form a preparation for life in prison? These are two of a number of uncomfortable questions raised by a study conducted by Dr Graham.

Classic sociological theories of reproduction through education; models highlighting the surveillance and social control functions of educational systems; and socio-cultural readings of schooling frame the analysis of the men's narratives. The findings of Dr Graham's research show that school, by its very nature, is not always a benevolent place. Those excluded from or marginalised in education can become the collateral damage of a system that is not merely concerned with the benign transfer of knowledge and social skills; what is usually seen as educational failure is conceivably successful social control. 

Dr Graham is a former prison teacher and a sociologist. She spent three years working with adult male prisoners in two Midland prisons. Observations made during this professional practice formed the background for her EdD research completed at the University of Birmingham. She is currently a lecturer at Newman University in Birmingham.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Centre for Public Pedagogy, Cass School of Education and Communities, Ed.4.02

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