The Educational System as Epistemological Violence


Educators, policy makers, politicians, and most individuals that work in some part of the educational institution are in a peculiar position. These individuals are beneficiaries of the educational system (given their relative privileged positions), but are called upon to offer critiques of the very system that they are products of. This positionality influences the way in which these individuals conceptualize the issues within the educational system. bell hooks (2014) says she didn’t think of herself as a professor and this allowed her the ability to offer a nuanced critique of what occurs in the classroom. Even myself as a success story largely due to the American educational system is locked into a mental framework in which I feel there is power in our educational system. Also, that this system constructed largely by my oppressor can be the key to my liberation. But, if the educational system is going to be structured as a tool of liberation we must grapple with the academic imperialism that is engrained in the educational system. I argue that students of color generally, black students specially, suffer from epistemological violence at the hands of our current educational system.

The current American educational system does not exist in a vacuum, in a fixed position in time, but rather is situated in a historical narrative of racial oppression. Blacks have been placed in opposition to modernity because of the imperialist project which encompasses, but not limited to, colonialism, the Atlantic slave-trade, and slavery. This project “drained societies of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out” (Cesaire, 2001, p. 43). To justify this imperialist violence towards black bodies “the myth” was created which argued that blacks did not have the ability to be civilized and would be helpless without Western society. This myth has been preserved and renegotiated over time. The contemporary educational system must become structured in a manner to combat this feeling of “nobodiness” created from racial subjugation.

The American educational system still largely operates under “banking system” principles in which Paulo Freire warned about. Within the banking-system the educational institution treats students as if they are empty vessels waiting to receive knowledge. Knowledge takes the form of a gift that is graciously given from the informed teacher to a student who was before void of valuable information (Freire, 2000). Rather than allow students to become co-constructers of their educational experience, the educational institution creates a monopoly on knowledge by controlling what legitimate knowledge is, who has the ability to possess this knowledge, and the manner in which this knowledge can be transferred.

Bell hooks (2014) argues, the university is inflicted with biases that maintains white supremacy, imperialism, sexism, and racism have distorted education so that it is not about the exercise of freedom. I argue that K-12 schools suffer from the same ailments. Through epistemological violence the racist, sexist, and imperialist nuances of the educational system can go unchallenged. If knowledge can only be constructed by individuals with power in the system, then new voices are never heard and even if they are they are pushed to the side. Students of color become indoctrinated into a system in which heteronormative middle-class whiteness is the norm. Even if the educational system one day transpired to economic gain for these students, they are still influenced by the hegemonic power of mainstream American cultural ideals. Here I argue for an educational experience that humanizes all students and aids them in their struggle to recover their lost humanity. Students of color are fighting for more than freedom from hunger, but for freedom to create and to construct, freedom to wonder, and freedom to venture (Freire, 200). Through this we need to move away from the banking system of education to a reflexive system where both teachers and students are both constructors of knowledge.

A Brief History of Imperialism

The imperialist project which encompasses, but not limited to, colonialism, Atlantic slave-trade, and slavery drastically impaired the lives of all people of color. Imperialism is typically discussed in at least 4 manners: (1) economic expansion, (2) subjugation of others, (3) idea or a spirit, and (4) a discursive field of knowledge (Smith, 1999). I view imperialism as consisting of all four given that it is multifaceted. Depending on what form imperialism rears its ugly head determines the manner in which it could be conceptualized. Imperialism infringed upon the histories and trajectories of countless societies.

Imperialism was fueled by capitalism’s need for endless expansion (Wolfe, 1997). The desire for economic gain at the expense of other human bodies was at the heart of imperialism. Out of the dialectic of valuing capital over human life, but still needing to present yourself as a good humane society came the “myth”. The myth is an overarching belief that Africans specifically and people of color generally did not have the ability to be civilized (James, 1977). To be civilized is to be human. This myth disqualified blacks not solely from civilization, but from humanity itself (Smith, 1999). The educational system must take up the task of giving students of color the agency to realize their innate humanity and develop it fully.

This myth allowed for the marginalization of black bodies. Also, it created an ideology constructed around the notion that the Western world must attempt to “humanize” these others. Different mechanisms were incorporated to civilize black bodies, such as religion, language, Western education, and etc. Language and literary principles are important because to speak a language is to appropriate its world and culture (Fanon, 2008). To be bound by the restrictions of a language is to lose the autonomy to define your reality. This becomes extremely problematic when the language you use has been imposed upon you by your oppressor. In Teaching to Transgress hooks highlights how the statement, “This is the oppressor’s language yet I need it to talk to you” was powerful to her. She continues to argue that the English language in and of itself isn’t harmful, but the way in which oppressors have used it to marginalize the oppressed is. Within academic spaces we rarely see slang (black vernacular) used. hooks (2014) argues that Black English is used a resistance to white supremacy, but also forges spaces in which alternative epistemologies are created to challenge the dominant hegemonic worldview.

Education as form of Epistemological Violence

In 1933 Carter G. Woodson said, “The thought of’ the inferiority of the Negro is drilled into him in almost every class he enters and in almost every book he studies”. The optimism of our human spirit would like for us to believe that this is no longer the case. However, within this current banking system of education we treat students as empty vessels void of knowledge. The student is deprived of the opportunity to co-construct their educational experience using their cultural knowledge.

Vandana Shiva (1988) argues that contemporary science is reductionist and undergirds an economic system of exploitation. Science is geared towards the development of capital and all its other capacities are destroyed. Reductionist ideologies creates a monopoly on knowledge because it controls what type of knowledges are created and who the beneficiaries are. Shiva argues violence occurs because people become divided into experts and non-experts and non- experts become conceptualized as non-knowers. The current educational system operates from a very similar model. One in which we are training students to become workers in the economic market, so capitalist principles are the core of the system. Our educational model is reductionist because we simplify the educational system to a one size fits all and obscure the complex needs of students of color, the poor, and women. Through this process epistemological violence occurs because the experts’ shape what is knowledge, how knowledge can be created, and how can knowledge be transferred.

Education as a Form of Liberation

I argue that to move education away from committing epistemological violence it must be centered on liberating students. We must move away from a polarizing view of the classroom where the teacher is seen as knowledgeable and students are seen as empty vessels waiting to receive knowledge. Freire (2000) calls for a teacher-student with student-teachers dynamic. In this system everyone comes to class with meaningful knowledge. The dynamics of the class must be shaped in such a way all voices are not only heard, but are seen as legitimate contributions to the educational process. Freire argues that now students can call upon elements of their background awareness and reflect upon them. Within this problem-posing process students of color have the agency to critically assess their reality. Through this development of a critical consciousness praxis can later be incorporated to dismantle systemic structures.

We must transform the language that is incorporated in the educational system. Currently students of color are forced to master the language of their oppressor to prove fit to excel in the educational system. Alternative languages (e.g. black urban slang) are disregarded as educationally irrelevant. In this situation the key to educational success is appropriating the language of the oppressor. Defining what counted as literacy was a huge part of the imperialist project. Literacy once dealt with “having the ability to extract and encode from written text, but scholars have problematized this definition arguing that literacy is an ideology, with the construction and dissemination of conceptions as to what literacy is in relation to the interests of different communities” (Newman, 2005, pp. 399-400).

We see a shift in scholars from a more imperialist notion of literacy to a multiliteracy perspective. Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis argue that given the altering social and technological contexts in which we learn and communicate we need a broader conceptualization of what constitutes literacy (2009). A multiliterary view allows us to view all forms of communication as literacy and moves us away from solely being tied to the imperialist view of literacy. If we treated student’s cultural language as legitimate forms of literacy they could use their own tongue in their journey of liberation. “Standard English is language of conquest and domination;in the United States, it is the mask which hides the loss of so many tongues, all those sounds of diverse, native communities we will never hear” (hooks, 2014. P.168). The Black English vernacular was constructed in process of resistance to white supremacy. It is fitting that this language be utilized in the educational system as a liberatory resource for Black students.

History is a great resource to highlight the importance of personal experience in the educational institution (Dewey, 2004). Too often students receive a Eurocentric historical perspective that works to marginalize their personal experiences. Teachers want students to appropriate and reproduce the subject matter, but do not always think about the way in which this knowledge develops the student as a social member. When history is framed in Eurocentric terms students of color are being socialized to uphold white supremacy, which future alienates them from their self. Culturally relevant historical accounts will benefit students of color because they can see people who look like them as agents of historical change and will also benefit white student because it will allow them to begin the process of disinvesting in white supremacy. Students should be able to learn about indigenous ideologies, Afrocentric methods, and feminist paradigms given these cultural resources will aid them in developing a critical consciousness that can be transfered to any field.


For education to become liberatory it must develop the whole student. This cannot occur if we continue treating students as void of knowledge. The educational space must be democratized in a manner in which students can co-construct their educational experience. Currently teachers give students knowledge as if it is a gift so that they can one day in turn be successful in the economic sector. However, if this is the sole goal of education then students are never allowed the opportunity to develop a “conscientization” (Freire, 2000). Without this critical consciousness students of color’s actions cannot be directed towards liberation because they have not gone through a reflexive process yet to understand their true condition.

To develop a liberatory education system we first have to move away from the banking system and understand that both teacher and student have meaningful knowledge to offer. Students must be able to learn a history that is empowering to their self. We must also educate the soul (hooks, 2014). This will entail remodeling the Eurocentric manner in which we construct history. History changes depending on who tells the story. We must allow students to develop the capacity to tell their story; to speak a true word (Freire, 2000). This true word should not have to come from the language of the oppressor. We must alter the language in the educational system. Language is attached to cultural practices, not intelligence. Speaking urban slang does not highlight literary deficiency, but represents a cultural understanding that most academics have not acquired. If the individuals we label as experts have not acquired this skill, then this ability must not be valid.

Students of color are not separated from history. But, currently live in a historical position that is influenced by slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. To offer a meaningful education we must attack the hegemonic ideals that were created and renegotiated from this violent history. The educational system can uphold its sexist, racist, and xenophobic structure with epistemological violence. The educational system dictates what knowledge is, who can produce knowledge, and how knowledge can be disseminated. Until we stop this violent process students of color are doomed with making due with an educational experience that devalues their culture, history, and soul.


Césaire, A. (2001). Discourse on colonialism. NYU Press.
Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009). Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning. Pedagogies. An

international journal, 4(3), 164-195.

Dewey, J. (2004). Democracy and education. Courier Corporation.

Fanon, F. (2008). Black skin, white masks. Grove Press.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing.

hooks, b. (2014). Teaching to transgress. Routledge.

Newman, M. (2005). Rap as literacy: A genre analysis of hip-hop ciphers. Text, 25(3), 399-436.

Shiva, V. (1988). Reductionist science as epistemological violence.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. University of Otago Press.

Woodson, C. G. (2006). The mis-education of the Negro. Book Tree.

Literature Review on the Literary Works of Freire, Hooks, and Dewey

Literature Review on the Literary Works of Freire, Hooks, and Dewey Alyssa V. Soto-Garcia
Florida International University

Education is one of the fundamental elements necessary for any individual to achieve

success. It is the school system that is charged with the significant task to encourage its students to grasp at new opportunities, consider new ideas, and to achieve new heights that they did not think possible. Additionally, it is the teacher’s duty to guide their students throughout the learning process, to ensure that they are thinking to their full potential, and to inspire them to seek out a better way of life. Although these may be the ideal components for the education system, or a student-teacher relationship, there are areas in this field that are still left wanting.

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Bell Hooks’s Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, and John Dewey’s Democracy and Education are all literary works that aim to fill in the blanks of modern day teaching. The authors each present areas in which the educational system in modern day society are failing and that require reform. Freire, Hooks, and Dewey offer insight from personal experiences, extensive research, and their individual observations to educate the reader on the aspects of education that must be transformed if we are to give the future generation a true chance of success.


Freire’s (2000) work dives deeply into the concepts of humanization, dehumanization, oppression, and education. He begins his analysis by explain ing to the reader that dehumanization and oppression go hand in hand. The author explains that those members that oppress another are actively dehumanizing the oppressed party (Freire, 2000, p. 44). In turn, this process makes the oppressor dehumanized for taking advantage of a group they do not consider their equal. Just as well, in allowing themselves to be treated so, the oppressed contribute to their

dehumanization (Freire, 2000, p. 48). To transform this cycle of oppression, the oppressed must consider two stages. The first is that the oppressed must fully grasp the structure of their oppression and actively work to convert the old ways into a newer, humane one. Only by understanding its components are the oppressed able to reconstruct their society, not just for themselves, but for all. The second is that once liberation from oppression has been established, the structures that lead to oppression must be made extinct, and the new constructs of the liberated society without oppression must be spread and made accessible to all. In this way, liberation can become a permanent function of society (Freire, 2000, .54). According to Freire (2000), the oppressed are the only party capable of changing their status for they are the ones with a true understanding of what it is to be oppressed (p. 44). However, the oppressed often fear changing their status from oppressed to revolutionists as they have grown accustomed to conformity and fear.

The concepts of dehumanization and oppression also pertain to the education system, more specifically to the teacher and student relationship. In this instance, the student is regarded as the oppressed and the teacher as the oppressor, although they too may be oppressed by those in a higher position than they are. In Freire’s (2000) discussion, the term banking is used to describe the depositing of information by teachers into the minds of the students (p. 72). In doing so, it prevents students from contemplating or formulating their own thoughts and ideas on a subject. Instead, the students receive and memorize the information deposited to them without any critical thinking on their part or any true knowledge acquired on the subject. When the student becomes accustomed to merely being the receptacle to the information the teacher provides, it is then that they fall under oppression. They are unable to defend themselves with their own individual thoughts and are less likely to contribute enough intelligence to change their oppressive society.Rather,they adopt the ideology of those that have taught them. According to Freire (2000), “Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students” (p. 72).To resolve this issue, the author suggests that the students and teachers not merely teach or be taught, but that both parties equally teach and learn with each other. When dialogue between students and teachers take place, it must convey both reflection and action for there to be any true communication (Freire, 2000). This type of communication is what Freire argues is imperative to education.


Hooks’s literary work, based on personal experiences both as a student and teacher, offers insight into the principles, methods, critiques, and ideology that she has witnessed throughout her time in the classroom. It is within her collection of essays that she stresses the importance of adding excitement among the students by engaging them in the areas of study they will be sharing in as well as valuing every student’s personal contribution to the classroom dynamic (Hooks, 1994, p.7). According to Hooks (1994), instructors must truly value the subject they are teaching and be willing not only to empower their students with knowledge, but themselves as well (p.21). This includes teachers taking the same risks in teaching that they ask of their students (Hooks, 1994). In order to transgress from the old ways of teaching, Hooks (1994) calls for teachers to embrace a newer form that strives to construct a better school of education that shows society a “joy in cultural diversity, our passion for justice, and our love of freedom (p. 34). Once teachers understand that they must also cater to a multicultural setting, learning and accepting the different ways that different cultures think, and learning the cultural codes necessary to teach their audiences more effectively, will they be able to transform teaching in a way that broadens the mind to explore new ideas and challenges freely (Hooks, 1994, p.41).

Hooks (1994) brings into focus another useful tip for instructors that include incorporating student’s individual life experiences with classroom topics (p.84). From her observations as a teacher, Hooks (1994) has found that often times when students share from their experiences, class discussion is deeper and they are more enthusiastic about participating (p. 86). This allows the opportunity to relate the classroom teachings to real life experiences from their personal backgrounds while also teaching the students to share knowledge respectfully with one another. This type of respectful communication or sharing of ideas that the author encourages among students is also encouraged among teachers and critical thinkers that wish to transform the educational process (Hooks, 1994, p. 129). Communication among believers for a new teaching era would allow for an understanding of education from all parts of society, giving the opportunity for theories and ideas to be challenged or built upon. Hooks (1994) raises the issue that teachers that “cannot communicate well cannot teach students how to communicate” (p. 151). Like Freire, Hooks stresses the idea that teachers must also be students just as the students must also be teachers; guiding one another to explore new topics in the education process that can better transform the educational system in our society.


In his book, John Dewey begins by expressing the importance of education in social life and how communication is essential for knowledge to pass through the generations. Dewey (2012) stresses that it is imperative that knowledge is communicated well to the future generations, especially as society moves quickly in both knowledge and technology (p. 13).

Although the author believes that the sharing of knowledge and experiences is important, he also adds that it cannot be truly accomplished by merely dictating to them. Students learn best when they can associate with the subject under study. The best way to achieve this is by ensuring that educational institutions follow three steps: that they break up the information and teach it in an order that would make it more understandable by the student, encouraging behavior that agrees with the status quo of the society, and maintaining a good environment for teaching that allows a student to learn to their full potential (Dewey, 2012, p. 27). Dewey (2012) also encourages that students learn to socially interact with one another so that each may share ideas into the topics they are learning; in essence, putting communication into practice (p. 8).

Additionally, Dewey adds that the process of educating a student must have a particular aim in mind. In other words, the subject first presented for teaching must be organized in a way where there is a goal set that will be reached in the conclusion of the lesson (Dewey, 2012, p. 109). The author expresses that it should be the teacher’s objective to teach their vast knowledge to their students, expanding on information that they have gathered from their experiences (Dewey, 2012, p. 196). This knowledge should be expressed in a way that is relatable to their pupils in order for them to best grasp the information being taught to them. However, Dewey continues this thought by saying that it is the teacher’s responsibility to determine the best teaching method available for their students, as each member has a different way of learning and grasping concepts (Dewey, 2012).

The literary works of Freire, Hooks, and Dewey establish a thorough analysis of the issues within the modern education system while equally suggesting approaches that all educators can take to ensure that their students receive the most of their learning experience.

There are many educational establishments that would benefit greatly from incorporating a portion of these suggestions, especially the juvenile detention centers. Based on the data presented by the website article, Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform the Juvenile Justice System, “education for the 70,000 students in custody on any given day is setting them even further back in their ability to turn their lives around” (SEF, 2014). This is a great number of youths that are given an inadequate education while in custody that are more likely to recidivate once thrown back into the community. If anything can be learned by the authors of these pieces is that without the proper education and without the proper educators, there can be no improvement in society for the future generations. In fact, by maintaining poor educational methods that do not engage the students into thinking beyond the capacities that society has laid out for them, the entire human race will go backwards in intelligence and cease to grow. This goes especially for those juveniles that live in poor socioeconomic neighborhoods, or who are in custody, that have very few good educational alternatives presented to them. They must be able to receive a well-rounded teaching experience so that they too have the opportunity to succeed in their future, preventing them from further, or possible, criminal activity.

The Mississippi Freedom School is an example of a school whose goal is to broaden their student’s minds by encouraging them to ask questions; drawing upon their interests, so that they would be able to respond to these questions using their personal experiences as an example. This school aims to transform the way they teach their students, at times improvising their curriculum, to steer away from the ineffective constructs that most of society currently uses. This school wanted to ensure that their educators asked open-ended questions, linked the subjects to student’s personal experiences, stressed the importance of learning, encouraged students to learn their own history, and to show that the Freedom School was established to change the way teaching was accomplished (Emery, Braselmann, & Gold, 2010). In the end, this is what the majority of schools should strive for; a place where teaching and learning work hand-in-hand, all for the purpose to push our generation, and those that follow, forward into a brighter future.

A Critical Review of the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Alyssa V. Soto-Garcia


Alyssa V. Soto-Garcia

Florida International University

By definition, the school-to-prison pipeline refers to the connection between the practices

in the education system that are likely to increase the contact youths have with the juvenile justice system. The PPLM internship, accompanied by the required readings, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, Democracy and Education by John Dewey, Teaching to Transgress by Bell Hooks, and the web articles “Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform the Juvenile Justice System,” and “Introduction to Freedom School Curriculum”, increase familiarity with the juvenile justice system and the historical, economic, political, cultural, and social aspects of American society and culture that influence the school-to-prison pipeline.

The purpose of this internship is to become familiar with the juvenile justice system,

especially with respect to the hardships and circumstances which in some cases lead to the justice system as well as the effects of the current educational conditions that lead to recidivating. The readings required for this program provide a clear understanding of the faults within the education system. The internship provides an outside standpoint from which the knowledge gained from these works of literature can be observed in practice, and true understanding can be achieved. It is clear that improved conditions within the education system and juvenile justice system could prevent juveniles from falling into the hands of the legal system in the first place and prevent them from recidivating. Through this program, it is hoped that an opportunity will become available to learn how to increase public awareness and support for the changes that need to be made within these systems.



The transmission of ideas and knowledge has always been necessary for the continuation and the progress of a people. In Democracy and Education, John Dewey explains the simple, or non-complex, knowledge of survival in primitive tribes and how they are passed down from elder to youth for the purpose of educating the latter in the ways of the older generations (Dewey, 2012). This type of communication leads to a continued flow of the community. Dewey states that the youths must be led and taught by their elders for many years, because on their own they are incapable of handling even the most menial tasks (Dewey, 2012). Should such a tribal community have been afflicted with a pathogen that wiped out all older generations, who never properly educated their youth, the future generations would be set back to savage ways. It is important to thoroughly pass on, or transmit, knowledge from one generation to the next, lest the youth grow into a community incapable of progressing beyond the limits of their forefathers. Dewey eloquently explains this necessity when he says, “Unless pains are taken to see that genuine and thorough transmission takes place, the most civilized group will relapse into barbarism and then into savagery” (Dewey, 2012).

How much more important are these principles now than they were in the past? Dewey states that the gap between a simple system, such as the one discussed with the elders, and a system in which formal education is needed, such as in modern times, grows wider with every advancement in technology and society (Dewey, 2012). Proper education must be provided for all youths, and it must be concurrent with the existing society lest the youths find themselves improperly prepared to face the fast-changing world around them or find they are unable to move forward. Displacement from society leads to disengagement from society, which then leads to deviant behavior.


To have an establishment capable of fully educating all youths academically, culturally, socially, technologically, etc., it is imperative that that the establishment be properly funded. The public school system is, however, very poorly funded. Many schools function using old equipment, old technology, and books missing vital information gathered from recent research. This is truer for some schools than it is for others, namely those schools in neighborhoods of people with lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The lack of funding also does not help the physical maintenance of the schools, which is almost as important as the updating of the schools’ educational materials. According to the Broken Windows Theory, learned in my studies as a criminal justice student, the level of disorder and vandalism in an area is directly correlated with the likelihood that further deviant or criminal acts will take place in that area. Public schools, as they are now, and especially those in poorer neighborhoods, are not properly kept. If a school is as run-down as its surrounding neighborhood(s), the community where the school belongs is not likely to value the establishment or the education it provides. These juveniles are likely to see the school as a waste of time and as a pointless institution where youths are forced to use up their

time with subjects that will not matter to the greater structures of their current lives or of that of their futures. As such, the students graduating from, being expelled from, or dropping out of these schools will continue to perpetuate the conditions of their environment rather than become more than their community alone would have led them to be. On this note, schools, especially schools in low socioeconomic communities, should be made up of teachers and people willing to teach and engage their students in higher-order thinking (Hooks, 1994). Teachers from different areas, proven capable of inspiring students to achieve as much as possible, should be placed in schools that especially need their students to move forward. However, quality teachers are not likely to desire the working conditions of a school, and are not likely to want to work in a school, that is not up-to-date and capable of keeping them and their belongings safe if need be. A quality education provided in a properly maintained and equipped establishment are factors that prevent a student from taking part in deviant or criminal behavior because they value their education. The film “Waiting for Superman” that I watched for one of my courses, discussed many of the issues within the American education system, specifically the inconsistent levels of quality of education within schools around the United States. The film covers in detail that charter schools and private schools, both funded by sources other than the government, have higher student success rates, lower dropout rates, and overall a higher quality of education than even the best public school. The creators of the film attribute part of this difference in educational quality to the lack of funding in public schools. It is in the government’s best interest to increase the flow of funding to schools if they want the educational output of all students to increase while also decreasing the rate of crime associated with deviant youths.

It is notable that schools, especially in poorer neighborhoods, have a certain percentage of their students that are sent to disciplinary alternative schools as a result of aggressive, deviant, or criminal behavior. These schools are often privately funded, and are not held to the same academic standards as regular public schools. Youths taken to these schools can be there anywhere between 30 and 90 days, or one to three months. That is to say, for one to three months, troubled/deviants youths are held within a “school” without receiving a proper education. These youths then return to their normal schools, further behind in their education than they were before they were sent to the alternative schools. It is known that students who feel that doing well in school is a hopeless cause disengage from their education and later on drop out, are expelled, or become involved in criminal activity. Instead of wasting money and effort with the current state of disciplinary alternative schools, the money should be spent on the prevention of youth recidivism. According to the Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform the Juvenile Justice System web article, “juvenile justice programs that help prevent young people from becoming re-offenders could save society about $3.9 million per youth” (SEF, 2014). This money could be better spent on cognitive behavior therapy programs in public schools, especially in disciplinary alternative schools. Additionally, the Just Learning article states that when these programs were used in Chicago, there was a 44 percent decrease in violent crime arrests among therapy participants were recorded and an increase in academic performance was observed (SEF, 2014). Cognitive behavior therapy programs should be made paid for by the government and made a mandatory part of schools. If problematic students were sent to disciplinary alternative schools held to a higher educational standard, and included trained professionals for cognitive behavior therapy, juvenile recidivism would decrease ultimately saving the government money that they would have spent in processing these children in the juvenile justice system.


From a political standpoint, not much progress has been made in recent years to combat the effects of poor education on the school-to-prison pipeline. Put simply, more effective education reduces the number of youths who are taken into or return to the juvenile justice system (SEF, 2014). In some cases, decisions made by elected officials have greatly weakened the support for improved education. For example, in the case of the Florida lottery, a percentage of the money gained was allocated toward improving the education system and was intended to be added to what the government was already spending on the education system. Instead, elected officials decided to subtract from what they were spending on education the amount of money being provided by the Florida lottery. In this way, the public education system continued to receive exactly the same dollar amount it did before the lottery became involved, which was and still is, not enough to cover the realistic needs of public schools.

It is reasonable to assume that if money is being retracted from the education system it should be allocated elsewhere to help improve the community, but it is known that few, if any, public works projects occur in certain areas. Based on the Broken Window Theory, it is likely that if an area known for being run-down is cleaned and made to look as nice as many other neighborhoods, people are less likely to feel hopeless and more likely to value their community, making them less likely to commit a crime in that area. Elected officials are, however, not prone to assigning public works projects to low socioeconomic level neighborhoods, so the neighborhoods are left to fall apart, and the community’s youths are left to sink into deviant behavior and criminal activity, which they grow up seeing in such areas.

Politicians indirectly supported the rise of intolerance and criminal activity among youths by allowing zero tolerance policies to be put in place in various public schools. Zero-tolerance schools are schools in which any kind of inappropriate, deviant, or criminal behavior is immediately handed over to legal authorities, without question, who are oftentimes completely untrained to deal with adolescents. Behavior deemed unacceptable is not tolerated, and the reasons behind certain acts are considered irrelevant. These youths often end up going to a disciplinary alternative school. These schools are known for having higher levels of students entering or returning to the juvenile justice system, in part because they feel that they live in a society where it is nearly impossible not to be handled by the criminal justice system. These kinds of schools have government support because, in theory, a strong police presence and a lack of forgiveness within the school system should intimidate deviant youths into correct behavior.

However, it is clear that having schools such as these force youths into the juvenile justice system at an early and unnecessary age.

The article, Introduction to Freedom School Curriculum, touches upon voter involvement in what ideas, concepts, and teaching methods are incorporated into the education system. Oftentimes, legislation is passed that is wildly controversial regarding what can and cannot be taught in schools, and in what ways they are taught (Emery, Braselmann, & Gold, 2010). For improved education, which leads to greater engagement in education and to decreased youth incarceration and recidivism, changes to the education system should be put up for acceptance by voters, by a panel of educators, and by a panel of child psychologists capable of gauging how such changes would affect students overall.

The significance of quality education on the minds of the youth, especially where future success or criminal activity are concerned, should be considered with greater importance by all elected officials, who were voted into office to protect the interests of the common people and, most specifically, the interests of the young individuals whose entire lives will be affected by decisions made in the present.


As a people, Americans focus greatly on being on-par with the leading countries around the world in all ways. With regards to education, the United States is by no means the country with the best educational system. This is in large part due to the American desire to outperform other countries. In the last decade especially, corners have been cut from education that prevent students from graduating from public school with a full education. The efforts taken to increase the overall knowledge of individuals by increasing workload, both in school and out of school, by reducing the opportunity for students to think for themselves in order to memorize specific assigned information, and cutting out the arts from a student’s weekly schedule stunt education. Youths must be taught how to think for themselves and express themselves at an early age; not taught what to think and when to think it (Emery, Braselmann, & Gold, 2010). Being taught how to think for oneself and how to express oneself constructively through the arts and through a curriculum which encourages open discussion ultimately leads to the opening of the young mind. The consistent problem in public schools is that teachers are made to uphold the standards of state-government issued standardized exams meant to ensure that the education received by students is of a high quality, but in reality limits what can be taught and how it can be taught in the classroom. The film, “Waiting for Superman”, touches upon the undeniable fact that private schools and charter schools are not made to issue standardized exams by the government, and have a much higher student success rate than do public schools. Individuals who are taught to think beyond the boundaries of what they see and what they know are much more likely to aspire to more than individuals who are taught what to think. The youths with aspirations are more open to continuing their education, value their education more, and are not as inclined to engage in criminal activity.

Chances are that the students within poorer schools come from minority backgrounds, which are considered oppressed within American culture. According to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, people from oppressed backgrounds must do their utmost to remove themselves and their people from a position of oppression, as it is not within the oppressors’ power to do it themselves (Freire, 2000). Younger generations should be provided with the education to bring about their own self-awareness, their own evaluation of the problem at hand, and their own strength to face and change the oppressing conditions of their cultures. Yet, people from oppressed backgrounds are often raised in conditions which teach them to perpetuate the stereotypes and the oppressed behaviors of their forefathers. People raised in these neighborhoods must be taught to strive to get out of the conditions that keep them low on the socioeconomic ladder, that keep them within the circle of criminal activity and deviant behavior that mars these neighborhoods.



“Society not only continues to exist by transmission, by communication, but it may fairly be said to exist in transmission, in communication” (Dewey, 2012). In other words, society as a whole can only continue in the path that it is heading, and can only improve, if there is an efficient flow of knowledge, awareness, and ideas passed down from older generations to newer generations. Perhaps this explains the increase in deviant and criminal activity leading to juvenile incarceration. Formal education is a means by which generations of knowledge and ideas are passed on to younger generations, so that the youth can grow into an entity capable of improving the foundations set by their forefathers. The only way to prevent youths from disengaging from society and ultimately ending up part of the juvenile justice system is to educate them and give

them the means by which they can become part of the growth of their society.
The youth must be empowered by their educators to become the best that they can be and ultimately further the growth of their communities (Hooks, 1994). Currently, American public schools wear a mask of youth empowerment that hides the crushing weight of impending adulthood placed on youths. Youths are not truly encouraged to learn; they are threatened with complete failure in life if they do not memorize all that is dictated to them and learn in exactly the ways that they are taught in their schools. Placing adult-like expectations on youths while forcing them to comply with the closed-minded teachings centered on government-issued standardized exams inhibits individual growth and crushes the individual’s desire to further their education and meet their goals. In this way, growth of society is hindered. Youths that are not truly educated disengage from their schools, disengage from their communities, and sink into criminal activity because it is seen as the only source of furthering their lives, or the only way in which they can survive in a world they do not feel they belong in.

If a society intends to turn possible juvenile criminals away from their intended paths, efforts must be made to change their way of thinking. Cognitive behavior therapy was discussed as a major source of change within the juvenile justice system, but a problem persists within American culture that prevents therapies like this from taking root: mental health care is not supported by society. There is a stigma against receiving mental, emotional, or behavioral health help that prevents people who need the help from becoming fully functional members of society. These people are more likely to turn toward or return to criminal activity unless they receive help.

Public awareness of the social issues affecting the school-to-prison pipeline must be raised to make a difference. Currently, people turn a blind eye toward the problems with the education system and the stigma against mental health care because these issues have always been dealt with a certain way. To further the progress of American society, change must take place. People must work to support the necessary changes, and bring these changes about themselves in the same way that the oppressed must fight to change the status of their oppression, otherwise nothing will ever improve (Freire, 2000).


Education is the means by which future generations of a society are exposed to the ideas and knowledge of generations past. It is through the education of the youth that a culture continues to exist, that a community remains connected, and that a society evolves. If the proper education of the youth is not the primary concern of a people, the society itself begins to crumble. The youth must be protected, and they must be educated properly at all costs, or the entire system built on generations of ideas and knowledge will be lost. The focus of a society must turn primarily to education of the youth when the society sees a crumbling of values, ethics, morality, lack of focus among the people, increase in the people’s ignorance, and an increase in juvenile delinquency.

Dewey, J. (2012). Democracy and Education. Hollywood: Simon & Brown.

Emery, K., Braselmann, S., & Gold, L. R. (2010, May 20). Freedom School Curriculum. Retrieved from Mississippi Freedom School Curriculum:

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc.

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Southern Education Foundation. (2014). Southern Education Foundation. Retrieved from Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform the Juvenile Justice System: Learning


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