The Justice Scholars Program, which serves formerly incarcerated individuals, begins with a skill-intensive humanities course for formerly incarcerated individuals through Columbia's Department of English and Comparative Literature and conducted on Columbia's campus. Like the Core Curriculum, this gateway course entitled, ''Humanities Texts, Critical Skills', encourages reflection, discussion, and debate on questions about the human condition, while at the same time developing students' capacity for critical analysis. Currently, ''Humanities Texts, Critical Skills'' is offered twice a year, attended both by Justice-in-Education Scholars (formerly incarcerated individuals who have been nominated by our partner organizations), as well as to all other Columbia and Barnard undergraduates. The program covers the Scholars' tuition, travel expenses, books, and other costs associated with their ability to complete the course. We utilize relationships with other campus organizations to provide support services as needed, such as writing tutoring and academic advising. The program also aids Scholars to connect with social and psychological services and introduces them to peer mentors. Students who successfully complete ''Humanities Texts, Critical Skills'' are encouraged to work with the Justice-in-Education administration to discuss their future education plans, including taking further classes free of charge at Columbia.
Since the launch of the Justice-in-Education Initiative:
- "Humanities Texts, Critical Skills" has been offered 5 times
- 27 formerly incarcerated students have earned Columbia credit for this on-campus course
This has been a ''gateway course'' that has enabled students to take additional classes and matriculate at Columbia and other institutions of higher education:
- 2 students are now enrolled in Columbia's School of General Studies
- 10 students have taken an additional Columbia courses
In collaboration with The School of Professional Studies at Columbia University.
Justice-in-Edu Initiative Transforms the Lives of Prisoners
Interview with "Humanities Texts, Critical Skills," instructor Dan-el Padilla Peralta and Justice-in-Education Scholar Issac Scott
Humanities Texts, Critical Skills
The goal of this seminar is to equip students with critical tools for approaching, reading, and striving with literary and philosophical texts—ancient as well as modern. To this end, we will be working closely with a set of texts that range in date from the 8th/7th c. BCE to the late 20th century CE. Our seminar will operate on the assumption that we cannot know “what” these texts say or “what” their authors mean unless we come to grips with how they say what they say and how they mean what they mean. In pursuit of some answers, we will master the skill of reading quickly but carefully, balancing attention to the literary craft of our texts with scrutiny of their underlying arguments and agendas. Ultimately, however, none of this will matter much if you are not convinced by term’s end of one (nowadays far from universally accepted) claim: that becoming a good reader of texts can make you a more constructive and more empowered contributor to your community and your society. It will be the instructors’ responsibility to pitch this claim to you, and your responsibility to question it.
Every week, we will pair a text with a theme and see where the pairing leads us. We have chosen the themes to orient us as we grapple with some of the key discourses structured into and perpetuated through our texts: self/Other, class/status, gender/sex, race/ethnicity. The thematic pairings are not meant to confine or limit our critical intervention; you are more than welcome to resist the thematic pairings and/or propose your own. As the term progresses, we will encourage you to apply your critical skills to scrutiny of and resistance to this syllabus. Why read these texts/authors (and not others) in this particular order? What is at stake in what and whom we choose to read?