Tuesday, August 1, 2023

#213 / Student Papers Can Make You Think


I enjoy teaching the Legal Studies "Capstone" course at UCSC. This is a five-unit course (LGST 196) that requires all students who wish to graduate from UCSC with a B.A. in Legal Studies to demonstrate that the student has learned how to write well, and how to undertake and utilize academic-level research. As I teach LGST 196, students write about some topic related to the theme, "Privacy, Technology, And Freedom." 

Frequently, I think I learn as much from what the students write as the students have learned by researching and then writing the compelling senior thesis that is required for a passing grade in the class. During last Spring Quarter, for instance, I read a thesis about the relationship between incarceration and education. Among other things, I learned that entry-level public-school teachers in California make anywhere from $32,000 to $67,000 dollars per year, while California Correctional Officers make around $53,000 to $71,000 per year. Elementary school teachers need substantially more education and prior experience than those who serve as correctional officers, but correctional officers are paid nearly twice the salary received by teachers, on the average. 
I am tempted to say, "Now we know why those people, above, are smiling!"
I think correctional officers have a difficult and demanding job, and I don't want to be misunderstood as suggesting that their salaries are too high. Not at all!
But are teacher salaries too low? You betcha!
I didn't exactly learn from my student that teachers are underpaid. I already knew that. But the comparison I have just shared with you - coming right out of that student paper - has certainly driven the point home, and I think that we (collectively) need to do something about that. The student who wrote the paper thinks so, too.
This lesson from my student's paper relates, in my mind, to the wonderful Dr. Seuss book, If I Ran The Zoo. Here is the verse I like the most

If I ran the zoo,
Said young Gerald McGrew
"I'd make a few changes.
That's just what I'd do…"
You know, to the extent that we really believe in the idea of "self-government" - the idea that the people are in charge of the government, and that we have a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," to quote Abraham Lincoln - then we actually do "run the zoo." Or at least we could. 

What do you think about that? Shouldn't we "make a few changes"? Abolishing prisons would be one idea. That's what that student paper suggested! And that student paper made a pretty good case for that, too!

Image Credit:
(1) - https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/por/
(2) - https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/if-i-ran-the-zoo_dr-seuss/256219/item/3944288/#edition=2384940&idiq=4897635 

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