Baltimore, 1999: Hae Min Lee, a popular high school girl, goes missing. Six weeks later her body is discovered in a local park. Her ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Adnan Syed, is charged and convicted of her murder. He claims he is innocent.
In 2014, Serial, a podcast from the creators of This American Life, re-visited the Hae Min Lee case. It quickly became the most-downloaded podcast of all time.
In this class, we’ll begin by exploring why so many people have described the Hae/Adnan story as "Shakespearean." We’ll talk about Othello and compare it to this modern-day tale of a Pakistani-American teenager, his Korean-American girlfriend, and the African-American friend who testified against him. We'll look at the role of race in the criminal justice system, the rights of the accused, the rights of victims and their families, and the rights of juveniles under the law. We’ll examine evidence, talk about the reliability of witness testimony, discuss teen dating violence, and study the history of the jury system.
In the second half of the class, we’ll take a step back and look at the larger picture. Why do we have prisons in the first place? Are they about punishment, are they a means to rehabilitation, or are they simply a way to keep criminals off the streets? How do other countries approach these questions? What do prisons look like outside the United States? Are there realistic alternatives to prison? We’ll watch the classic 1957 drama 12 Angry Men and two documentaries about juveniles being convicted of heinous crimes for which they were later exonerated. We’ll also examine this subject from the victim’s point of view, listening to a separate podcast about a young woman whom police charged with lying about her sexual assault, only to have the truth of her story proved credible through incontrovertible evidence once other victims came forward.
Fridays from 12:30 to 1:30
February 3 - May 5. No class February 24 or April 21.
For full information on this and other Rise Out programs, as well as registration, please see the Rise Out website.
Rise Out is a 501(c)3 nonprofit offering classes for homeschooling teens at Voyagers, as well as in Cambridge and online. Rise Out also consults with teens exploring and pursuing alternatives to traditional high school.