Education? Incarceration? © ’13 Mumia Abu-Jamal


Education?  Incarceration?

[Speech writ. 1/30/13]

I’ve been asked to write on education and incarceration and the linkages between them.

I’ve heard and read of the ‘pipeline’ between the two; but I don’t really agree with this imagery.

I’ll tell you why: several days ago, I received a letter from a young man who dropped out of school around the 10th grade. Why? It isn’t just that he was bored, but the stuff seemed meaningless to him.

It wasn’t until years later, when he heard and read of hidden history of which he heard nothing in school, that fired and inspired him – enough so that he got his GED – and is now in college.

That’s not a pipeline, for today’s educational system is a prison, where bodies are locked within cells (we call them rooms), and minds are locked within lies and ignorance, while spirits wither into dead husks.  Schools have become a place where minds are sent to die.

I’m going to cheat –now-but, don’t be surprised, for I’m doing what both students and teachers now have to do to escape the travesty and tragedy of the testing mania that’s

Ravaging schools today – under Obama just as under Bush, to enrich corporate educational plunderers.

I’m telling you I’m cheating, by leaving my words and going to one of the greatest educators of the 19th and 20th centuries: W.E.B. DuBois.

DuBois taught at some of the finest universities in America, Atlanta University, Fisk University, and the University of Pennsylvania (where he lectured)

But in what I regard as his finest work, Darkwater (1920),   DuBois described how he lied to his students thus:

I fought earnestly against posing before my class. I tried to be

honest and frank, but it was bitter hard. What would you say to a

soft, brown face, aureoled in a thousand ripples of grey-black hair,

which knells suddenly: “Do you trust white people?”  You do not

and you know that you do not, much as you want to; yet your rise

and lie and say you do; you must say it for her salvation and the

world’s; you repeat that she must trust them, that most white

folks are honest, and all the while you are lying on every level,

silent eye there knows you are lying, and miserably you sit and

lie on, to the greater glory of God. [47]

W.E.B. DuBois, from Darkwater

From that day – in 1920, to this, nearly a century later, teachers lie to children about how this nation really is, what their role in its future can be, and when they do, kids know and a light goes out in their eyes.

Schools become a prison, where the truth is in a cell.


When you smear mud into the mind of a child, you don’t have to worry about pipelines. That child’s mind is in prison – already!

The rest is a mere formality.

Several days ago, the city of Philadelphia closed almost 40 schools.  40 Schools!

Is that because of a population decline? No. It’s because city governments have plundered school budgets.

They have sold out, and sold off the public school system.

So, education equals (=) incarceration, for to imprison the mind is to imprison one’s future, one’s hopes –one’s destiny.

A people’s revolution in education is necessary to put a light in the eyes of children again.

Freedom School must be organized again –and we must do what even the great DuBois couldn’t do – tell children the truth, for they can handle it.

They need to know that what they see, what they sense, what they feel is real.  And valid. And true.

That’s the beginning of education.

Let us begin!

-© ‘13maj

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