DEAD MAN WALKING: Teaching in a Maximum-Security Prison by W. Reason Campbell

DEAD MAN WALKING: Teaching in a Maximum-Security Prison

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KIRKUS REVIEW

W. (Bill) Reason Campbell taught English classes for two years at a maximum-security prison in California. According to his own self-serving report, he did a ""beautiful"" job. He found prison ""the ideal place for trying to fugure out what it means to seek the good, and to search for definitions for words like 'truth' and 'justice.'"" (He used to work for the Great Books Foundation.) He is by turns arrogant (""I could teach semantics. . . at the very highest level""), unintentionally ridiculous (in a lecture on the oxymoron), and plain dull. A few reprinted student themes are interesting as con jobs, but the prisoners remain background abstractions, targets of Campbell's guilty-liberal ""educational theories."" (To correct a student's spelling and grammar is ""destructive."") He repeatedly congratulates himself for discovering that ""students in prison could respond to great literature in a very personal, highly intelligent, civilized way"" and throughout quotes his students' tributes to him as the ""best teacher."" Campbell had a significant voice in parole board decisions; otherwise this fussily pedantic book leaves you wondering how his students ever let him get out of the classroom alive.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1978
Publisher: Richard Marek--dist. by Putnam