” Teaching and Learning at Lakeview Academy

“Look What Boot Camp’s Done for Me:” Teaching and Learning at Lakeview Academy

Kilgore, Deborah

Mama mama look at me, look what boot camp’s done for me

It took away my Mickey D’s…now it’s only in my dreams

Mama mama look at me, look what boot camp’s done for me

Took away my Cadillac, now I’m marching here in back

Mama mama look at me, look what boot camp’s done for me

Took away my thinking errors, now they shaved off all my hair

Mama mama look at me, look what boot camp’s done for me

Took away my tennis shoes, now I’m wearing combat boots

Mama mama look at me, look what boot camp’s done for me.

Written by Corey (June, 2000)

A boot camp is a military style correctional facility in which inmates are subject to a highly structured and challenging regimen of physical training, in addition to vocational, educational, and therapeutic programming (Cronin and Han, 1994; Austin, Jones, and Bolyard, 1993; Mackenzie and Souryal, 1991). Originally introduced to rehabilitate first time adult offenders, boot camps increasingly have been used by several states to shock and rehabilitate youthful offenders (American Correctional Association, 1997). This correctional approach is in line with public sentiment in favor of harsher punishments for crimes, and a belief that kids who have committed crimes can be shocked out of continuing along a criminal path (Mackenzie and Souryal, 1991).

The Koch Crime Institute (1999) identifies five common goals for sentencing young people to boot camps: (1) deter juveniles from committing further criminal acts by inducing fear, (2) prevent juveniles from committing crimes by incapacitating them, (3) rehabilitate juveniles, (4) punish juveniles for the crimes they have committed, and (5) accomplish any of the former in a cost-effective manner. Rehabilitation and cost control are the most common goals of states (Zaehringer, 1998). Boot camps do cost less money than residential treatment facilities, in part because the programs are usually of shorter duration, and also because they require less staff and often are located in rural areas.

Are boot camps effective? Peters, Thomas, and Zamberlan (1997), in a multi-site quantitative study of boot camps, found that a significant number of juvenile inmates demonstrated positive outcomes stemming from their involvement in the boot camp experience. Inmates showed improvement in their academic and employability skills, and many were able to find and keep a job while in aftercare. However, boot camp participants were found no less likely to re-offend after release than other juvenile delinquents who had not experienced the boot camp. Zaehringer (1998) found that nearly 3 in 4 boot camp participants were back in detention within one year.

Georgia, one of the first states to introduce boot camps for juvenile offenders, decided to phase out this form of correction at the end of 1999 (Martz, 1999). Because boot camps have not reduced recidivism, Georgia and other states are looking to other alternatives for rehabilitating youthful offenders. One feature of the boot camp that has been particularly appealing to judges and policy makers is that it aims to instill discipline in participants. However, as Georgia and other states have found, “discipline disappeared for most youngsters as soon as they returned to their families and the community” (Martz, 1999, p. A1).

Why don’t inmates in boot camps learn self-discipline? Frank Smith (1998) says that students are always learning something, so he argues, “Why focus so much on what students fail to learn, rather focus on what they are learning in its place, which may have much more significance in the students’ lives” (p. 1). Instead of trying to understand the failure of the boot camps to rehabilitate, or at least to instill discipline, Susan Meade conducted an ethnographic study of a particular boys’ boot camp in Iowa in 2000 to discover what the boys learned from their boot camp experience, and what they carried with them when they returned to their families, schools, and neighborhoods.

In our analysis of the data collected in this study, we discovered that boys who were incarcerated in the boot camp learned a great deal, but generally not what was officially intended. This inconsistency between goal and outcome is a symptom of a common problem among organizations: the difference between an organization’s espoused theories and theories-in-use (Argyris, 1993). Organizations often have explicit statements and understandings of what they want to accomplish and how they want to accomplish it, yet members of these organizations follow other paths. The theories of action that are actually put to use stem from intentional organizational arrangements that produce learning contrary to the organization’s official purpose. In this article, we shall argue that the boot camp we studied is intentionally organized to instill self-discipline in the boys who are incarcerated there, but this organization itself promotes anything but self-discipline.

Methodology

Susan Meade carried out an institutional ethnography of Lakeview Academy , a 90-day boot camp for adolescent boys in Iowa. The goal of institutional ethnography is to understand the social and cultural knowledge of an institution, as it is practiced in the everyday lives of those who are members of that institution (Smith, 1987). The analysis in this article is grounded in the daily lives of the boys who are incarcerated in the boot camp. Beyond the boys’ perceptions of the boot camp as they expressed them, institutional structures and boot camp discourse are analyzed for the purpose of understanding the ways in which they shape the boys’ ideas and everyday practices.

At an institutional level, we evaluate effectiveness in terms of recidivism rate. Therefore, decision-makers interpret high rates of recidivism to mean low rates of learning and development among inmates. Our argument in this article is that the boot camp is quite effective at fostering some kind of learning among the boys incarcerated there, but it’s not the learning (for instance, of self-discipline) that it intends to accomplish. The purpose of analyzing Lakeview Academy from the boys’ points of view is to discover what they learned there without framing their learning using externally developed measures of merit. Once we understand what the boys actually are learning in the boot camp, we then analyze the social structures of the institution in order to understand how the boot camp promotes this particular learning as opposed to the learning of self-discipline which it aims to promote.

Susan Meade followed two cohorts totaling seventeen adolescent boys through their ninety-day boot camp program. She conducted life history interviews during the first week of camp, and exit interviews shortly before the end of the program, with all of the boys. She spent 5 to ten hours per week throughout both ninety-day programs observing daily activities in the boot camp, and she interviewed and observed staff members. She reviewed official documents and state regulations regarding Lakeview and juvenile corrections. In addition, Meade chose four boys who were particularly reflective and articulate to interview more extensively as they proceeded through their programs and beyond. These four key informants participated individually in several one-on-one interviews over the course of their incarceration, and together in focus groups.

Teaching and Learning at Lakeview

All the boys at Lakeview learned something. Whether they primarily concentrated on being released in ninety days or on the boot camp experience as it unfolded, they all reported that they felt they were learning quite a lot. But what were they learning?

Much of the programming at Lakeview can be characterized by what Smith (1998) calls “the official theory of learning” (p. 4). This approach is typical not only in correctional institutions, but of most contemporary education. From this perspective, learning is hard work, intentional, based on effort, individualistic, and dependent on a system of rewards and punishment. For instance, when the boys first arrived at the camp, they were given a large quantity of information to memorize on which they were to be tested. Although they were to each pass the test individually, no one would proceed to the next phase until everyone succeeded. Among the information that the boys memorized were the “twenty norms of the camp,” the “seven levels of intervention,” and the “twenty leadership traits.” They acquired the knowledge, but it was not committed to long-term memory. For example, when the boys were asked to recite the twenty norms shortly before graduation, none could do it.

Many learning theorists argue that learning is a social phenomenon, and that therefore educational programming must be designed accordingly. Bandura (1986) argues that we can and often do learn from our observations of the experiences and behaviors of others. Lave and Wenger (1991) and other social constructivists extend this understanding of learning, by demonstrating how learning is not simply some set of skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be transferred from one person to the next, but rather a process of constructing and re-constructing knowledge about the world through engagement in it. Therefore, the most long-lasting learning occurs in situations of activity, context, and culture. Furthermore, Vygotsky (1978) writes that learning is based on students’ active participation in problem solving and critical thinking regarding a learning activity that they find relevant and engaging. Generally, these social constructivists argue that activities like the rote memorization of behavioral norms at best result in a limited ability to pass an objective test in the near future, while living in a world in which certain behaviors are continually modeled and practiced is a much more effective and longer lasting educational experience. From a social constructivist’s perspective, it is no surprise that the boys learned more from the informal activities and social context of the bootcamp than they did from the formal education they received.

Initially, the social context of the boot camp was imposed on the boys, but eventually they developed bonds with one another and with the cohort as a whole. This is not surprising, given their common experiences. All were sentenced to the boot camp for breaking the law, most had had negative experiences with school, many had poor relationships with the adults in their lives. These common life experiences gave them something upon which to build relationships and a sense of belonging, in addition to providing the basic premise for much of the learning intended by the boot camp.

Adult counselors staffed the boot camp, and lived there with the boys. The boys watched and listened to these positive adult role models while participating in daily life and in structured activities. They learned how these adults react during conflict, how they deal with frustration, solve problems, and communicate with others. In addition, the boys learned from their peers. They learned how other boys react when they are frustrated, what happens to a boy when he does not comply with institutional rules, and to what extent one must comply to succeed in the institution.

Social learning is permanent (Smith, 1998). Most often we don’t call it learning, because it happens as we go about our daily lives. It feels natural. Imagine the boys’ learning prior to entering the camp; lifelong learning that must be undone in ninety days’ time. Many of the boys spend most of their days outside the boot camp in a world that lacks structure, security, and safety. Many have poor parental role models, and keep company with drug addicts, alcoholics, and law-breakers. For instance, Matt described how difficult it was to stay sober in his parents’ home where everyone drank, “I learned long ago that if I wanted to be accepted by my family and if I was going to survive the crap that was going on in my house, I just needed to do what everyone else was doing.” The many years spent in an unsafe and chaotic environment cannot be undone by memorizing a list. Rather, new ways of being social must be introduced and practiced.

If we don’t see ourselves as knowledgeable, and as capable of learning, there is little foundation upon which to build. For example, most boys had trouble acknowledging their abilities and competencies, at first. Jorge described his competencies as they related to how he felt others perceived him.

I am good at some things, I wouldn’t say they are what people would call positive things. I’m a good BD [behavior disordered in self-contained special education program] kid. I can disrupt the class in five seconds or less. I’m good at stealing, I’ve gotten away with lots of shoplifting. I guess I am a master at shaming my family – a royal bad boy.

It was also difficult for the boys to articulate what they thought they might be able to accomplish at the boot camp. Both Jorge and Bobby imagined they would improve their knowledge and competency in physical conditioning, problem solving, and relationship building. Jorge also added he hoped that he would learn more about how to control his impulsivity, especially as it related to stealing. And, as the weeks progressed, the boys did begin to see their accomplishments. For example, as each boy made strides in physical training, such as running further than he had before, he became aware of his ability to progress. In addition, as each boy began to develop a relationship with his oneon-one counselor, he became aware of his abilities to develop such a relationship. With each small success, the boys became increasingly confident in their abilities to learn.

Certain skills, like the seemingly elusive self-discipline, were more difficult for the boys to reflect upon throughout their stay at the boot camp. For instance, Jorge could not tell whether he was becoming less impulsive. In the next section, we will demonstrate that many of Lakeview Academy’s espoused theories of teaching do not correspond with its actual learning theories-in-use. By revealing this dissonance, we will then be able to explain why inmates do not learn such intended knowledge, skills, and attitudes like self-discipline.

Testing the Boot Camp’s Theories of Teaching

If one were to visit any boot camp across the nation, one would find similar goals and objectives. But as we have observed at Lakeview, what the boot camp aims to teach is not necessarily what is learned by those incarcerated there. Argyris (1993) argues that what people say they believe and the theories by which they act are frequently different. In the following subsections, we shall discuss some of the boot camp’s official theories of teaching, and what inmates actually are learning there.

The boot camp structure teaches self-discipline, motivation, and hard work. There is no idle time at the boot camp. The long days are highly structured. When inmates wake up, how they make their beds, what type of food they eat, when they go to the bathroom; all their activities are determined and controlled by others. There are no televisions, radios, stereos, or video games. There is no time allotted for “hanging” with friends. Every day and every minute is accounted for and dictated by the adult leaders. The premise behind this full schedule is to teach the boys that leading a highly structured life is a key to success. Yet, as Kilgore (2001) has found in a women’s prison, and as Kilgore and Bloom (1992) have found in a welfare-to-work program, an organizational inability to instill discipline in most students lies in the highly structured nature of the educational programming itself. As Smith (1998) argues, “All learners need structure, but that is structure in their own minds, not in the world around them” (p. 78). More structure provides less opportunity for students to learn how to make free choices, yet they ultimately will have to do just that when they return to their lives in the free world. In the rigid environment of Lakeview, the boys did not learn self-disciplining knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Rather, among other things, they cultivated a sophisticated understanding of how to avoid punishment.

The boot camp teaches respect: self respect, respect for others, and respect for property. When the boys arrive, their personal items, hair styles, piercings, clothing, are all removed. They are each given the same crew cut, and the same standard-issue physical training gear and uniform. They are expected to act alike by adhering to “the norms” and by engaging in standard military maneuvers. They must receive permission to do anything: to speak or move, even to cough. For many, it is difficult to respect oneself when every tangible marker of his individual identity is removed. Steve said his self-concept was “in the basement” during the first few weeks at the camp. Many boys similarly reported that they felt worthless at first, but once they learned they were able to accomplish what was expected, like the three mile run, they felt better about themselves. As the boys became acclimated to the environment and began experiencing some success, their sense of self began to improve.

There was little evidence of genuine respect for others. Although small groups formed when allowed, when push came to shove the boys took opportunities to single out others. For instance, Lee grew up on a farm in a very rural part of the state. Some of his mannerisms were unsophisticated, he had a different vocabulary, and he lacked the knowledge many of the boys had about street culture. Because of these differences, Lee was a target for other boys’ jokes.

There was a marked decrease in public bullying after a group problem solving session about this behavior, but bullying continued in more subtle ways when adult leaders were not around. Although the boys were expected to identify how they had victimized others outside the camp, bullying behavior toward one another did not significantly change. Acting as if one respected others while in the company of authorities was a necessity for survival, but actually coming to respect others across difference was not demonstrated.

The boot camp aimed to teach the boys to respect property. But at the camp, there was little opportunity to experience and demonstrate this respect. Despite the fact that most inmates had committed at least one crime relating to destruction or theft of property, this was not a topic of frequent discussion. Furthermore, since each boy had the same standard issue items, there was nothing of value to covet, nor steal. No tools or opportunities to deface boot camp property were available. In summary, the programming at Lakeview does not provide an opportunity for the boys to learn respect for themselves, others, and property. Some of its activities even run counter to these goals.

The boot camp rewards positive behavior, which in turn motivates the boys. In the beginning, most boys were inspired to earn either a physical training award or a group leader award. As the weeks progressed, those who did not receive a physical training or group leader award became adversarial toward the awards. Some said that those who earned the rewards did it by “sucking up” to adults, and that it was not worth it. Jorge was frustrated that his efforts were not being rewarded. “I think I should have gotten the award. I bust my butt and nobody notices.” He felt the award was unattainable for him and concluded, “I don’t think I’m even going to try for it anymore.” Lakeview’s awards for positive behavior were motivators for those who received them. However, the disappointment of not receiving an award made extra effort seem futile for some.

Confronting deviant behavior with a group forces compliance and learning. When a boy exhibited negative behavior, a “group support” could be called by a staff member or another inmate and all other activities would stop. For example, one evening, a group support was called on Herman because he had been talking back to staff and had refused to complete an assigned task. The boys spent over an hour working through Herman’s negative behaviors as a group. Herman blamed his behavior on the feeling that he was being brainwashed at the camp. he did not believe that the activities he was being forced to participate in were teaching him anything about managing himself when he returned to society. Jorge responded in the group that he thought boot camp was helpful.

“You’ve got to take this boot camp experience and make the most out of it. I don’t like being here, none of us do. But you’ve got to make the best out of it so you can go back and make something of your life.”

Herman often intentionally misbehaved or called a group support for relatively unimportant reasons. A group support would change the focus of activities, thus allowing Herman to avoid work he did not want to do. He often talked back to staff, muttered under his breath, and attempted to pull others off task. Due to his unusually high level of nonconforming behavior, the staff often chose to ignore Herman’s behavior, only confronting it when it became too disruptive.

Education theorists often suggest that group organization of learning activities is an effective means of working through difficult ideas (Kilgore, 1999). Lakeview uses the group to facilitate its most critical task of all: to instill a change from negative to positive behaviors among the boys. At the same time, group support is an opportunity to avoid unpleasant work, and provides an occasion for a boy who questions the effectiveness of the boot camp to gain support for his rebellious ideas. Furthermore, because the group support keeps the boys off task, there is an attempt to use it judiciously. When a boy is particularly unruly, some of this negative behavior is ignored in order to preserve the order of the day. Other boys notice this inconsistency, and may question the camp’s fairness.

Peer culture can be controlled in a positive manner involving positive ideas and behaviors. Prior to attending the boot camp, none of the boys reported being involved in a positive peer group. Rather, they described friends with whom they would drink and do drugs. For example, Bubba said his peers influenced his own criminal activities. “I tried to get out of the gang but they kept coming back to get me, they would offer marijuana or have something fun planned. When I stayed away from them I was okay but as soon as I hung around them I would go back being crazy.”

The boot camp removes the ability to access controlled substances and gang members. The leaders also encourage and most often only allow positive conversations to occur. Indeed, as a program nears completion, much discussion revolves around how to return to one’s home environment and develop relationships with positive influences, and make positive choices. However, as both Bobby and Steve shared after their release, there is little opportunity to acquire and maintain positive relationships. Bobby explained, “When I went back home my old friends kept calling and wanting to get together. At first I just avoided them but they kept calling and stopping by my house.” Steve described a similar situation, “My probation officer keeps telling me I shouldn’t hang around with Bob since he is so much older than me…but he’s about the only person I have contact with.” On the other hand, making friends with positive peer influences seemed unlikely. Bobby reflected, “What good kid is going to want to hang around someone who just got out of boot camp and was known as a drug dealer?”

There is no doubt that Lakeview provides an opportunity for the boys to become part of a positive peer environment, and this environment is probably one of the keys to each boy’s success at the camp. Unfortunately, there is no support for obtaining and sustaining positive peer relationships once the boys return home. Grafting that type of environment on one’s own has proven difficult, if not impossible, for many.

The boot camp “shocks” boys into avoiding future criminal behavior and reduces recidivism rates. Although the boot camp gives boys an opportunity to experience what life is like in a secured facility, it does not seem to meet the goal of shocking them. Most boys did report that they were working hard to get out of the boot camp in the ninety days. But for some, the boot camp was the safest environment they had ever experienced. None reported that they wanted to recycle or stay in the program, although some seemed to consciously or unconsciously sabotage their chances of graduating on time.

When asked if they ever considered what life would be like in prison, all the boys adamantly said that they would not and could not think about being in prison. None had any idea of what they would need to do differently in order to avoid prison. They simply denied that such a thing would happen to them.

During group problem solving sessions, the boys were expected to talk about past criminal behaviors and the effects that their crimes had on victims. Although the boot camp staff did not intend to teach about criminal behavior, some boys reported that they gained ideas or had thoughts about future criminal activities by listening to peers’ activities. In addition, some peers gained higher social status in the group because of the types of crimes they committed. The more sophisticated and potentially dangerous the crime, the more elevated the status of the individual. Herman had committed several crimes involving weapons. he had also experienced a “police chase.” When talking about the crimes he committed, he explained them in such detail that the other boys became enamored of him.

Lakeview intends to be a “shock treatment” for juvenile delinquents, but for many, it is more comfortable than their home environment. Furthermore, the boys deny the possibility that they might go to prison in the future, and refuse to consider what prison might be like. Lakeview does not give them a window onto a probable future if they continue their criminal behaviors, but provides an opportunity for them to learn new ways to commit crimes.

Like most boot camps, Lakeview aims to rehabilitate its inmates and deter them from committing further crimes (Koch Crime Institute, 1999). Rehabilitation is supposed to come about by teaching self-discipline, respect, and positive social skills, using both behaviorist and collaborative pedagogies. Deterrence is intended with the shock of the punitive boot camp environment. Yet, like other boot camps, Lakeview accomplishes neither rehabilitation nor deterrence with most of its inmates. In the next section, we will discuss Lakeview’s limitations and possibilities, thus providing direction for future programming.

Testing the Boot Camp’s Assessment of Learning

There is no question the boys learned something at the Lakeview. From an institutional perspective, the boys who followed the routines, structure, and expectations of normative behavior learned the most. Bobby, a model boot camper and recipient of several physical training and leadership awards, was perceived to have learned a great deal. Jorge, who received no awards but gave the leaders few problems, was viewed as doing just enough to get by. But is the institutional perspective the one by which we can judge what the boys learned?

In 1989, Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the Twenty-first Century, the groundbreaking report from the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, warned that “by age 15, substantial numbers of American youth are at risk of reaching adulthood unable to meet adequately the requirements of the workplace, the commitments of relationships in families and with friends, and the responsibilities of participation in a democratic society. These youth are among the estimated seven million young people-one in four adolescents-who are extremely vulnerable to high risk behaviors and school failure” (p. 21). All of the boys at Lakeview have become members of this staggeringly large population. Many have been subjected to a variety of different programs that have been designed to manage, fix, and improve them. Society has “tinkered with the educational system, manipulated the drug message, built more detention centers and attempted to be tough” (Hersch, 1998, p. 13). What we have not done is taken the time to listen to the how the boys understand their own struggles to live on the margins of society.

Bobby, who had been so successful at Lakeview, rather quickly began selling drugs again. His father, with whom he had a rather bad relationship, called the police, and his probation officer gave him the choice to enter Job Corps or a residential treatment facility until he turned 18. Bobby chose Job Corps, “the lesser of two evils.” Once again, he excelled within the confines of the structured environment and was voted dorm president by his peers. What exactly did Bobby learn at the boot camp and Job Corps? For one, Bobby learned how to “fake it to make it” (Kilgore, 2001). He followed the rules and norms to his own ends with remarkable ability, and was rewarded with awards and honors. Frankly, Bobby was given an extraordinary opportunity to practice manipulating the system. The same skills he is honing as an adolescent may doom him as an adult.

Jorge approached the boot camp with great enthusiasm, but did not receive any of the early leadership or physical fitness awards. Greatly disappointed, he lost his initial optimism and after the first few weeks, began to put forth the bare minimum required. He completed the boot camp program despite his mediocrity from an institutional perspective. During a follow-up interview, Jorge described his reentry into society as a pretty easy one. He successfully completed the last three weeks of school, and had plans to continue. he said that the support he received from his family, and especially his mother, was the main reason for his success. He also credited the fact that people school officials and his probation officer – gave him the second chances he needed. What did Jorge learn at Lakeview that he was able to generalize at home? Perhaps the biggest lesson Jorge learned was the power of relationships. Prior to being at the camp, Jorge had not spent the time to develop a relationship with his mother. The relationship he described was one of mutual respect but not one built upon trust and open communication. “She basically went her way and I went mine.” Since returning home, Jorge and his mother have worked judiciously on their relationship. For one, his mother took a new job so she can be home with Jorge in the evenings. This has made a significant difference in Jorge’s life. He said, “My mom and I spend a lot more time together; this time has allowed us to get to know each other. When things are not going like I had planned, my mom and I talk about them and she helps me work through them.”

Jorge credits the relationship he developed with his counselor at the boot camp as the catalyst for helping him understand how to establish a positive and productive relationship with an adult. “Mr. A was a really great guy, he talked to me like a regular person in our one-on-one sessions; he didn’t judge me or my actions. he helped me think through some of the problems that I was having and helped me think of a different way to approach them when I got home.” He taught me I could trust other people and needed to rely on others’ help to improve my life.”

Jorge’s success after boot camp came as a pleasant surprise to the Lakeview Staff, not only because he is among the few who succeed beyond such an experience, but also because he had not shown great promise while incarcerated there. We believe that Jorge’s success beyond the boot camp is directly related to the support he receives from his family, which has given him the confidence to engage in positive social behaviors.

The existence of positive relationships in one’s life, particularly with one’s parents, is thought to be the most significant factor in preventing deviant behavior (see, e.g., Kipnis, 1999; de Becker, 1998; Pollack, 1998; Gurian, 1996; Miedzian, 1991; Bandura, 1986). However, most of the boys who end up in boot camp have not experienced such relationships, but rather have been neglected and abused. They come to boot camp with very little faith in their abilities or need to establish relationships with adults. The camp promotes positive relationships between the boys, and at the very least, their primary counselor. They gain a sense of their ability to establish and maintain such relationships, which contributes to an improved sense of self-worth, and the motivation to engage in other positive behaviors. However, it is clear that unless a boy has a supportive environment to return to, he is unlikely to build a successful reentry into society based on the boot camp experience alone.

Although Bobby’s experience while at the camp was meaningful and reinforced by the boot camp staff, when taken in the context of his whole life, ultimately it was not the kind of learning that would reduce his chances of recidivism. Bobby did not have a strong support structure in which to return once he left the boot camp. In the context of his life, one in which he perceived few cared about him and in which he felt responsible to no one, the boot camp provided a wonderful opportunity for him to practice manipulating rules for his own personal benefit. Jorge, on the other hand, learned a great deal about the importance of relationships despite his second-rate boot camp performance, and had a life to return to in which others were willing and able to care for and about him, and be cared about by him. Bobby succeeded by those factors that are easily measured, while Jorge succeeded by those factors that often escape the gaze of the total institution and its agents.

Conclusions

The teaching and learning goals of Lakeview are neither wrong nor ill-intentioned. There is a genuine hope that any educational opportunity for the boys, be it group support or rigorous physical activity, will be the key that unlocks the door to their successful reentry into society. As we have found, the boys at Lakeview generally do not acquire something that is believed to be among the most fundamental skills of free people living in society: self-discipline. We find that Lakeview, like other correctional education programs with which we are familiar, approaches the teaching of self-discipline in a manner that does not facilitate its development. Indeed, opportunities to learn and practice self-discipline are purposely removed from the learning environment. When we define self-discipline as the ability to make wise choices, removing the opportunity to make any choice at all is contrary to the development of such ability. We also find that wise choices are made in the context of relationships. If a boy feels cared for and responsible to other people, he is more likely to make the kinds of choices that would be interpreted by others as exhibiting self-discipline. If he feels no sense of obligation, no sense of self-in-the-world, he is unlikely to be motivated by anything but the rules of the game.

Lakeview makes an admirable attempt to address the boys’ relational needs with individual and group counseling, and the building of an intentional community of learners. However, this aspect of the boys’ education is subsumed by an ever-increasing reliance on what can be easily measured as an indication of success. There is nothing wrong with an institutional goal of reducing recidivism rates, for instance, but institutions like Lakeview fail to make the connection between this kind of objective goal and the everyday subjective lives of those whom they aim to educate.

Institutions like Lakeview Academy are locked in an ironic dissonance between what they can teach and what will be learned. When it comes to evaluating correctional education – or any basic education for that matter – policy makers rely heavily on objective measures of merit. In their attempts to make the numbers look good, correctional institutions can lose sight of the kinds of individual successes that are less easily measured but no less important. Everyday relationships are gradually nurtured and sustained over time, and it is difficult to gauge the networks of human support that we all draw upon to gain a sense of ourselves in the world, a sense of affinity and obligation to specific others and to the communities in which we live, and modeling of appropriate social behaviors. Despite Lakeview’s recognition of learning as a social activity and its requisite group learning activities, one ninety day session in the context of a life in which healthy relationships have been and will be scarce or absent, is not enough. If we care to produce more success stories, perhaps in addition to improving juvenile correctional education itself, we should look at how we provide aftercare to participants, and how we teach parents and families to support our youth who are struggling to find their way.

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Biographical Sketch

Deborah Kilgore is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University.

Suzanne Meade is the director of Special Education for the West Des Moines Community School District.

Copyright Correctional Education Association Jun 2004

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