As civilization grew along the line of history, it became necessary to pass formal instruction to human beings so that they could develop behaviours that would fit into civilized and normal societies. Then it was conjectured that starting from childhood was the best option so that young children who are taught would grow into educated adults. The idea was based on the ancient traditions in Greece, ancient Egypt and Europe up to the eighteen century. From then up to date, modern societies developed the idea of establishing schools first to breed literate children, then impart more knowledge to them. Today the idea has become well accepted, and schools are now integral parts of every society. Similarly, the prison system was established as a correction facility instead of killing offenders right away. Historical records credited a philosopher named Jeremy Bentham as the one who proposed a prison system instead of taking life of an offender. Thus, two parallel institutions, the schools and the prisons have grown in the past centuries. Both have become necessary, even though they are contrasts. The schools are creative and preventive, while the prisons seek to correct if possible. These two modern institutions are here being compared, a school and a prison. The term “school” here is used in a generic term, referring to every institution of learning up to the tertiary institutions. Along the history of social development both have become very relevant and are similar because each specializes in molding human character . However , a distinguishing factor is that a school builds the mind of individuals by imparting knowledge and skills necessary to acquire good morals, behaviours and skills necessary to fit in the modern society and make useful contributions for advancing human society. The prison on the other hand is a correction home where persons who have built their character but are unable to abide by the rules and norms of the society are compelled to be confined in special places while being corrected and made to compensate in some ways for their inadequacies.
In most modern societies both schools and prisons exist. Schools are built and run by governments or in conjunction with voluntary agencies. They both aim and seek to ensure that citizens are cultured and disciplined so that they remain building blocs of moral chivalry in a society. The school is maybe a voluntary institution while the prison is a mandatory institution for persons who exhibit untoward behavious. The questions can now be asked: “Should we build schools or Prisons?” The answer depends on where and when, among other factors. Fundamentally schools are training grounds for children, and willing adults. Schools are essential institutions for breeding future citizens, artisans, technocrats, intellectuals, religious leaders and all categories of useful citizens. Thus, the more schools that are built and are attended by citizens, the more the number of upright and useful citizens that such a society will have. It follows logically then that persons who are trained in schools generally inculcate the norms, ethics, and moral rectitude that will contribute to the building and maintenance of a modern, peaceful society, In contrast, persons sent to prison are generally outlaws, who willingly or carelessly succumb to pressure to commit crimes, and offences that negate the established laws of certain societies. To maintain the societal equilibrium, the law enforcement agencies must incarcerate such persons in prisons mainly to prevent them from infecting others with their criminal tendencies, and possibly to reform then into useful citizens.
Thus it is clear that if every citizen is made to attend school, those who will need to be imprisoned will be minimal in number. Thus we give credit to the great French thinker, author, philosopher and playwright, Victor Hugo, who lived from 1802 to 1885, and made this laudable observation. We then see that for every school we build, we are indirectly shutting a prison door. It behooves every modern society then to intensify great effort in building functional and effective schools in spite of the seemingly daunting challenges of the day. And great care must be taken to scrutinize the contents of the school curriculum in this era of globalization and information flow. These days the school curriculum is generally being polluted with negativities from social media. Running a good school in the present millennium is quite challenging. Children and adult of school age are constantly getting exposed to false lessons. The consolation is that there is increasing awareness on the part of school owners. Having good schools also require having quality teachers who should be trained and re-trained and adequately rewarded.
In conclusion, the school and the prison are social institutions that are needed. But by far schools are more needed than prisons. This is because every society is evolving. The trauma and stigmatization of prison life are becoming unbearable to those who pass through them. Certainly there is hope that modern societies will eventually become better as the number of schools outnumber that of prisons.