Friday, June 1, 2012

This book is a goldmine of controversial topics that can be discussed in a classroom.  Of course, as with any such topic, varying and strong opinions will surface in the class.  While I am still considering my method of disclosure, a teacher's role as a facilitator of discussions is unquestionable.  I think disclosure may be dependent on the situation and the environment.  For this situation, I am firmly against the death penalty.  Moreover, the book raised many excellent questions and after thoughtful consideration, I believe this could be used effectively in a government or civic classroom.  First, there is no denying the racial and socioeconomic discrepancy that persists within the justice system at large, but even more so in death penalty cases.  For far too long, our country has demonized and marginalized minority populations.  Our prisons are unfairly stacked with such people despite their much lower proportion to our population.  There are many reasons why this is so, however, in response to this book, they are being unfairly targeted by the justice system, media, and society.  Because of this attitude and extra attention, they unfortunately make up the majority of death row inmates.  I firmly believe that many Americans think that the reason so many minority men are on death row is due to their culture, genetics, and upbringing.  Unfortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth.  The primary reason for such statistics are related to public attitude, governmental programs, societal segregation, and lack of opportunities that force self fulfilling prophecies. 

A major theme that kept surfacing was the relation of our country to others that implement the death penalty.  The United States is in some very bad company.  Besides our prison population being the highest in the world, our death penalty cases are equally high.  What does it say about our society when we are at the top of the list with countries like China, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia?  One issue that kept getting raised was that we are one of the few Christian countries that still implement the death penalty, I find that equally troubling.  What do we need to learn or experience to come to the same realizations as so many other Christian nations?  I am not of any a particular faith, but I have been a student of world religions since my teenage years and this issue is a paradox that is hard to explain. 

Lastly, I am glad that so many of my colleagues had brought up valid and thoughtful questions and viewpoints during the discussion.  That was exactly the type of discussion that I hope to foster in my classroom.  With the right topic, environment, and preparation, meaningful discussions can take place and educators should not shy away from such issues.

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