From Robert Butler's unpublished essay "Teaching Richard Wright in Prison" (2011)
The essay is scheduled for publication on the WRIGHT CONNECTION at www.hbw.ku.edu
All too often when we teach our classes in conventional college settings we find lightly engaged students who come to us with little preparation or conviction and who therefore disappoint us with listless discussions and superficial papers and exams. This rarely happens in prison classes where students have to overcome a grim prison environment which makes study difficult. These students see learning as a way of transforming their lives and, when they enter our classes, they have done the reading with care and are ready for debate which is both spirited and productive. The classroom for these students is not the dead routine it is for so many traditional students but instead a place where they can explore ideas, challenge their teachers and explore important issues. It is a wonderful setting for human growth.