Educational Series #5
There is an idea that has surfaced over the last decade or so that has transcended the prison walls. It is the idea of life-long learning. The idea that no matter how old a person might be, they should continue to learn, continue to take courses in areas that interest them. In the Federal Bureau of Prisons, this is labeled Adult Continuing Education (ACE).
According to the FCI-Petersburg Inmate Admission and Orientation Handbook, "Adult Continuing Education (ACE) activities are formal instructional classes designed to enrich inmates' general knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. ACE courses are taught by inmates with staff oversight."
What a succinct description of a much needed and valued form of free education for prisoners. I – more than most – know Adult Continuing Education courses very well. This is because I am the instructor of the Writing and Publishing ACE class here at FCI-Petersburg. This means that I created a curriculum and class proposal, pitched them to the FCI-Petersburg Education Department, and now teach a room full of prisoner-students the craft and business of being a professional writer. I do so every Monday night from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Though, most students arrive at around 5:30 p.m. to receive private tutorials from me.
Ok, enough about me. Adult Continuing Education classes in a prison setting are much like regular high school classes, but without the rigorous quality. The course format is fairly simple. Students show up at the assigned time on the assigned day. They then listen to an instructor – who is a prisoner – teach for the allotted amount of time. At the end of each class the students leave. Typically, this is repeated for 6 to 8 weeks. At the end of 8 weeks, if the student passes the final examination, they are awarded credit for completion of an ACE course. This translates into an actual certificate being issued and a record of educational programming inserted into their electronic file.
Those are the basics of an Adult Continuing Education class.
In reality, a course’s content might be much more demanding. For example, I regularly employ homework which includes reading and writing. I also facilitate class discussions and even pass out packets of notes that I've created for each week's focus. Even the final exam for my class is challenging. It was 60 questions long, but I cut it down to 50. These are 50 multiple-choice and true/false questions that my students learn over the course of the class. As you can see, passing my class it is not a piece of cake. Other classes, though, are not as tough. The Money Management class, for example, issues the same pre-test and post-test which encompasses 20 simple questions. I know this because I took the class myself before even thinking of teaching one. So, the difficulty very much depends upon who the instructor is.
To help you better understand the whole picture of what types of classes are offered here at FCI-Petersburg, I am providing a list of the current Adult Continuing Education classes for this quarter:
Writing and Publishing
RPP Personal Finance
Business Management 3
Commercial Driver's License
Beginning Spanish 1
Military History 1
Beginning Spanish 1