Popular or liberatory education aims at getting people to understand the world around them, so they can take back control collectively, understand their world, intervene in it, and ultimately transform it. Workshops developed by members of the Collective provide an important place for people to talk about their experience, to learn new knowledge, and to hopefully use the information provided and understanding gained to mobilize for social justice.
When we began developing the curriculum, we were committed to including a section on organizing and resistance, hoping to inspire participants to take action. We discovered that most participants were very eager to talk about what they can do to resist the PIC, and needed to make even more time during the workshop for that conversation. We’ve found that leaving time for networking or connecting at the end of the workshop can be helpful for folks who want to turn the ideas generated into action. The curriculum is designed as a “101”—an introduction to the concept of the PIC. For groups interested developing more concrete organizing plans or delving deeper into the topics, you might find it useful to adapt one or more of these activities, or to create something new.
The Chicago PIC Teaching Collective grew out of a group of people who attended a PIC Communiversity through the Chicago Freedom School and Project NIA. The Communiversity ran from January to June 2010, with monthly popular education workshops covering various topics on the PIC—history of the PIC, racism, school-to-prison pipeline, gender issues in the PIC, and organizing against the PIC. Following the Communiversity, participants self-selected to become part of the Chicago Prison Industrial Complex Teaching Collective.
The volunteer group that became the Chicago PIC Teaching Collective began meeting in September 2010 to lay out responsibilities of members, projects and tasks, and goals of the Collective. Two initial groups formed to begin work—one focused on designing the The PIC is zine, the other focused on creating the curriculum for a PIC 101 workshop. The latter group created a list of potential components for the workshop, and divided into groups to begin developing those components.
In creating the workshop pieces, Collective members utilized previous knowledge and knowledge gained at the PIC Communiversity, from research, and from other Collective members. In November and December 2010, portions of the curriculum were presented to the entire Collective to test for feasibility, accuracy, and fit with the overall vision of the Collective. From there, parts of the workshop were further developed, adjusted, and refined to work in conjunction with all other parts. Over the next several months, all parts of the workshop were compiled into a curriculum, appendices were added, and introductions and conclusions were developed to create a complete workshop.
In April, June, and October 2011, Collective members piloted the workshop with people outside the Collective. The attendees of these pilot workshops varied in terms of previous knowledge of or experience with the PIC; workshop participants included former prisoners and family members of prisoners, prison reform and abolition activists, and people working within the PIC, as well as people who knew very little about the PIC but were eager to learn more. Based on feedback from these sessions, the curriculum was adjusted with sections deleted and replaced with something else, options were included to help facilitate according to the participants’ interests and experience, and the final touches were added.
The PIC Teaching Collective is proud to present this curriculum, knowing that it was developed by dedicated volunteers who are interested in teaching others about the Prison Industrial Complex. We are pleased with our finished product and invite you to use it to inspire others to action against the PIC. We welcome your feedback, and would love to hear how you are using the curriculum.
Appendix 11: Handout – Final Resource List