DrexelNow spoke recently with Cyndi Rickards, assistant teaching professor of criminal justice and instructor of Drexel’s course “Prison, Society and You.” The course brings together 15 Drexel students with 15 incarcerated students in a seminar held at a Philadelphia correctional facility as part of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.
Rickards was eager to share her experiences reading The Other Wes Moore—One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore. The book is essentially the story of two Wes Moores—two kids from the same city with the same name—and how their choices would lead them to becoming the men they are—one a Rhodes Scholar, business leader and decorated combat veteran and the other an inmate serving a life sentence for murder.
Why did you make this selection-- what is it about this book/topic that you find important?
My husband teaches high school and this was adopted for their summer reading. When he brought the book home this spring, I was teaching my prison exchange course and I heard the author on NPR some time ago and had it on my "to-read list" and yet never picked it up. I thought the timing was kind of serendipitous as I was in the midst of teaching two groups of students with dramatically different life paths. Both groups were interested in their education and engaged in the course, but one group was free while the other was incarcerated.
So far, has the selection lived up to your expectations? Why or why not?
It has, and I think the timing of it was more significant than if I had picked it up at another time. It served as one final reflection in this course, and I think I’d incorporate it into other courses I teach as a demonstration of how we look back and reflect on our lives.
Is there a passage/quote you find particularly interesting? Why?
The quote that inspired me to order the book for students is found in the introduction page. The author is describing his relationship with the incarcerated Wes Moore:
"Perhaps the most surprising thing I discovered was that through the stories we volleyed back and forth in letters and over the metal divider of the prison's visiting room, Wes and I had indeed, as Wideman wrote, 'collapsed the distance' between our worlds."
This is exactly what we did each Thursday in our class. I ordered copies for the students after that line!
To learn more about The Other Wes Moore—One Name, Two Fates, click here. For information on Rickards’ Prison, Society and You course, contact Rickards at firstname.lastname@example.org.