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Nicole Callahan on Liberal Arts, Ethics, and the Justice-in-Education Initiative

November 9, 2018 In the Press

Professor Nicole Callahan teaches a Columbia course called Humanities Texts, Critical Skills to the Justice-in-Education Scholars, a group of formerly-incarcerated men and women. She works on the Justice in Education Initiative, in collaboration with the Heyman Center and the Center for Justice, building a curriculum connecting canonical texts in core classes at Columbia (like Lit Hum and CC) to issues of mass incarceration for the “Justice in the Core” program.

In an essay for EuropeNow, she discusses liberal arts education, ethics, and her work in the Justice-in-Education Initiative. She writes, 

“According to our system of justice, once someone has been adjudicated, convicted, and paid what they owe to society through a combination of time in prison, time on parole, financial restitution, and other things, they should be free. But so much of what really happens in our system of crime and punishment is that people are cowed into submission, traumatized and damaged by the physical and psychological violence of incarceration, and stripped of the resources to live a productive and meaningful life. 

Beyond crime and punishment, beyond terms like “correction” and “rehabilitation,” our goal, in Humanities Texts, Critical Skills isn’t just to build the skills for writing college-level papers and reading difficult historical texts, but also to articulate and critique cultural values, to demystify the frightening and often-exclusive idea of literature and philosophy, to help citizens cultivate the skills for expressing their frustrations and concerns in a productive and civil manner, and ultimately develop the skills for reading, as Paulo Freire would say, both the world and the word.”

Read the full essay here.