Our Courses

Just Ideas is devoted to offer high level, philosophically gripping courses to as many of the women and men in MDC, Brooklyn as possible.

The Metropolitan Detention Center is a maximum-security prison that, in the words of one our alumns, "is the harshest prison in the hardest prison system in the country." Its occupants await trial, sentencing, or transfer to another federal facility. Many are young adults who can't pay bail. 

We offer two kinds of courses. Our semester-long, credit-yielding courses are offered through Columbia's Center for Justice and Justice-in-Education Program. Students have to apply to attend.

Our mini-course program is unique in that it offers intense courses that are available to anyone who wants to attend, regardless of educational preparation. We invite some of the best teachers in New York to join with well-trained Columbia undergraduate interns to offer series of three 3-hour classes. Each mini-course focuses on a single great work of literature and proposes weighty philosophical questions relevant to all of us. Each creates an environment of creativity, exploration, and dignity.

Both types of courses expect the best from our teachers, interns, and students. Our educators are trained to employ embodied learning techniques, which we combine with close readings, classroom group work, and conversation to build an environment in which students’ experiences are respected and their educational goals met. While we are keen to encourage writing and reading skills, our main concern is to create a space in which students see themselves as knowers, teachers, and agents of change.

Our students always rise to the occasion, motivated by their fascination for the profound questions raised in our texts. Our courses are a huge success. They are over-enrolled and many students are motivated to get their GED or attend college (see What Our Students Say below). 

How We Teach It

Nivita and Christia
course completion certificate
slow motion race

What Our Students Say

MDC letter pandemic
Letter from lawyer
Letter from student
Letter from student
letter from student
Letter from student