An Analysis of Ellen Condiffe Lagemann’s Article on What Can College Mean? Lessons from the Bard Prison Initiative

An Analysis of Ellen Condiffe Lagemann’s Article on What Can College Mean? Lessons from the Bard Prison Initiative

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It may come as no surprise to some that a quality education has the power to provide, for those who seek it, the opportunity of personal and professional transformation. It can be said that a society which encourages higher education is more likely to yield a population of individuals who are civic minded and purposeful as opposed to a society which does not. In an article entitled “What Can College Mean? – Lessons from the Bard Prison Institute, author Ellen Condiffe Lagemann supports the importance of a liberal arts education but also presents the case that quality education in the United States is not available to all.
Lagemann is a professional in the field of education. Amongst other prestigious accolades, she is a senior fellow of the Bard Prison Initiative or BPI, which is a college liberal arts program offered to convicted felons at a prison in upstate New York. The BPI program boasts an almost 100 percent completion rate (not including those who were transferred or released from prison) with approximately 250 students enrolled at the time of the article. Lageman credits this success towards the unique design of the program, which closely mirrors the Bard College program in Annandale on Hudson.
Compared to other universities, there are three areas where BPI feels it excels. The first is their admissions process. The admissions counselors are trained to evaluate applicants on their highest learning potential rather than their past academic experience. By searching for candidate qualities such as drive, curiosity, ambition, and self-expression, BPI can ensure that their students are selected fairly and are able to reach their highest acadmic potential in a rigorous, yet supportive learning environment.
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...lt it took too much work for the reader to get there. This article would have been more compelling if it dedicated greater focus towards examining the relationship between US policy and the current state of our prison population through the lens of education using the importance of BPI and statistics as support, rather than jumping back and forth between general commentary on education and the success and attributes of the BPI program. Additionally, the lack of oppositional points of view take away from the validity of Lagemanns argument. More exploration into why we should provide funding for criminals when there are law abiding citizens in need should have been fleshed out to add more depth and credibility to an otherwise one dimensional article. In conclusion I feel that Lagemann took unnecessary tangents which risked loosing her audience along the way.






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