Wednesday, April 1, 2015

{Keeping} :: My Commonplace ... Lessons from a Convict

A couple of weeks ago, as I was perusing our library's digital consortium, my interest was piqued as my eyes rested on the title: Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard, by Laura Bates.

I was easily lured into reading this because of Shakespeare in the title; however, I did not expect to be enthralled by Larry Newton's personal tale and drastic life change as an inmate ... Or how prison education programs like Shakespeare greatly benefit the personhood of prisoners, which consequently affect the betterment of society! It was an eye-opening read. 

And the incredible wisdom of Larry shine throughout the book. I just had to make several entries into my Commonplace for this one. Granted, most of his comments are regarding prisoners and prison life, but I also found many of them to be universal truths.

p. 162 ... on pride (And who can say they don't suffer from this? I can't!)

It is not our conscience that torments us over our image; that is our ego tormenting us. 
Our conscience torments us when we behave in ways that are contrary to our values. 
When you look in the mirror and cringe as a result of your shame, it is conscience. 
When you look in the mirror and cringe as a result of how people think of you, it is ego. 
Which of the two is more prevalent in your life?

p. 168 ... on instructing younger inmates in the Shakespeare program. (Isn't this what we, as Charlotte Mason, educators also strive to do?)

That's the idea behind real change. 
The idea is that we make them question things that we don't question...
The idea is not to give them the answers, but to make themselves question.

p. 188 ... on preparing the younger inmates for the study of Shakespeare. (Another plug for reading good, rich literature!)

You are going to have to dig inside yourself and come face-to-face with parts of you that you never knew existed. 
And, yes, the language is tough. These facts aren't meant to scare you away. 
I just thought that you should know that this is no cake walk. 
But I have every confidence that you are more than capable of stepping up into the "big leagues" of intellect. 
Others may want to water things down for you, because they see you as mere juveniles. 
But I know that you are not simple-minded kids.

p. 224 ... on questioning the purpose for providing education programs to prisoners and appealing to one's sense of right and wrong. (Talk about conviction!)

"Why should we do good for bad people?" 
The answer is because "anything else would be bad."


  1. I saw a documentary a few years ago about Shakespeare and inmates that was absolutely fascinating. There is such power in a liberal arts education, with Shakespeare being the creme de la creme, of course. ;)

    1. Oh I would love to see that documentary as well. I am sure it was enlightening!