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Learning From the Student

While watching Convicts 4, a biographical movie from 1962 about the life of John Resko, I came across some very interesting reasoning. This movie is about a convict, as implied, who finds himself with an opportunity to be free after having once been on death row. This freedom comes through means of participating in a rehabilitation system proposed by one of the guards. Through this system, he would be creating art and presenting it to the outside world as a means to show his humanity and his progress in rehabilitation by expression of art. While almost overwhelmingly neck deep in the early century culture of psychoanalysis, the concept itself is interesting, particularly in that I love the idea of creating a rehabilitation and learning system through the means of crafts. What struck me the most though was a series of lines from the guard to the warden in a conversation.  That conversation goes as follows

Warden: “You want to rehabilitate this dog meat with painting, writing, and carpentry. You’re spitting in the face of the penal system that’s worked for 200 years.”
Guard: “Has it worked? This prison, every prison, is overcrowded.”
Warden: “Sing-Sing has a certain solution for that problem.”
Guard: “There are certain problems which you can’t solve by an electric chair.”
Warden: “Oh, but you can solve my with your artsy-craftsy?”
Guard: “If we understand what makes a man commit a crime; when a man paints a picture or tells a story, he’s revealing something about himself he doesn’t know he’s revealing. Interpreted by an expert, he might become aware of his problems and change.”
Warden: “College boy, you got yourself a fat vocabulary. You think you can change Resko?”
Guard: “I might. Why don’t you let me work on him?”
Warden: “I might just do that.”
Guard: “It’s gonna make my job a lot easier.”
Warden: “But you fail I’m gonna put you on the report, you and your artsy-craftsy.”
Guard: “I’d still like to try.”
Warden: “I admire your guts. I really do. But I got a feeling you don’t give a damn about Resko. And one more thing — I’m getting a little old, and you’re a little long on ambition.

It made me think a lot about what it takes to change systems especially systems that are long established and archaic. Institutionalized mistakes punish the next generation as penance for sins of the father. It takes a special type of ambition to look into the face of something so large and so and believe that you have the ability to create initiative to change it. In the end I was inspired by lines, and hope that I can fill a similar spirit in my own efforts.

What about you? What systems do you work with or do you interact with that you know needs to be changed, or at least shifted in its direction? What would you do? How would you do it? And probably most importantly, who would you appeal to to allow yourself to initiate such a change?