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.
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).
What We Teach
How We Teach It
- We partner our highly skilled Teachers with one of our awesome Interns
- Teachers are provided with our 31-page Just Ideas Teaching Guide, compiled by admin assistant Francesca Merrick
- Our interns are thoroughly trained in Embodied Learning techniques
- Teachers and interns travel to MDC together, spending the time prepping for the 3-hour class
- We ship books and materials to the prison for the students ahead of time
- Students complete writing assignments and creative work throughout the three weeks. We introduce people to Haiku poetry and encourage artistic responses of all sorts. We offer comments on these responses, and set aside time during each class to meet one-on-one with students to go over their written work.
- We hold a "graduation ceremony," in which we award each student a signed certificate of completion.