A few years ago, a sheriff decided to paint his prison pink and give pink clothes to the inmates to deter them from committing new offences and ending up wearing the Pink of Shame again. Since I wanted to work on argumentative skill with my students, I decided to give some of them an abriged article about the pink jail, and asked them what they thought about it.
My students are, in fact, not always very curious or very keen. I had to spend a good deal of time with them to help them figure out, well, just what they might think about the sheriff's initiative if they only gave a crap. After getting them to speculate on whether the initiative had yielded results or not, we managed to arrive at the ethical aspects of the problem, and whether it was a decent idea to purposefully place prisoners in a humiliating situation; then I felt more daring, and tried to get them to discuss whether it was all right or not to choose pink as the most humiliating colour. After all (I hinted), if some of these prisoners are already macho guys with a good dose of homophobic prejudices, are they going to feel any better towards gay people after being "humiliated" by being made to wear pink suits? Is it truly a responsible thing to do for society at large?
What can I say. I knew I was being ambitious, but you never know how students may surprise you. So yesterday, when I asked them to make a presentation of their discussion in front of the class, they started to explain, in broken English, that prisons are not holiday resorts and that if prisoners wanted to be comfortable, they should have behaved in the first place.
"But then," one of them added, "it's not cool to make them wear pink, because just imagine one of them is homophobic? He's going to feel really bad about having to dress like a faggot, it's not a nice thing to do to him."
Right. Still a long, long way to go…