It's a while since I heard this metaphor cited, but it has had real currency in British English in the late 20th Century.
Based, loosely, upon the observation that people who got caught, say, botching a shoplifting job, or put in the frame and wrongly imprisoned in the days before the Police bothered with rigorous forensics, tended to leave prison with a range of criminal skills enabling them to hotwire vehicles, forge keys and pry 10 types of window jamb, along with the cynicism associated with longer-term convicts gaining degrees by way of the various correspondence courses on offer, in the name of rehabilitation, I thought it may be worth giving the model of Higher Education in the UK a review to evaluate whether this metaphor really still fits.
My feeling is that it doesn't, any more, and is simply misleading, particularly where younger, impressionable convicts are concerned.
Certainly it had the more weight in the days when the UK HE sector boasted Polytechnics and both redbrick and traditional Universities.
The Polytechnics were founded as an offshoot of the network of Technical colleges which offered vocational skills on a day-release or full-time basis, often involving intensive study curricula along more continental lines such as those exemplified by the French and German Diploma qualifications, whereby students turned up in the morning, first thing, and spent most of the day in lectures, labs and practical sessions.
This was even then in stark contrast to the virtually empty schedules offered by Universities, relying on students being self-directed and spending their time reading subjects, with perhaps a few hours of lectures and tutorials a week as per Oxbridge, a typical literature schedule being about 10 hours per week of contact
time over three 8 week terms hardly six weeks a year at the standard baseline of a 40-hour office week.

As, however, science and technology funding has got less and less and all kinds of universities have tended towards media, administration, business and law, the intensive practical learning aspect of Higher Education has fallen by the wayside.
Let's face it too, most graduates from Universities are not running co-ordinated profitable teams within a year of leaving although I gather from various critical articles from representatives of employers in the media that it's entirely possible literacy and numeracy levels are truly comparable; but, otherwise, as Higher Education has fallen out of favour with the more working classes, if only because they have grave reservations about how to repay the debts it will incur - debts which 15 years ago would buy you a house - even the aspirational aspects of the reverse psychology embodied by the metaphoric framework lack any real resonance.
In short, it is time to reflect on the vocational nature of hands-on social learning in the UK prison sector, and pare back the comparison to that of technical colleges and/or trade apprenticeships as neither the overcrowded conditions nor the social demographic nor the types of drug use nor the kinds of learning which occur are any longer truly comparable.
It was, however, a good metaphor in its day.
G DAEB
COPYRIGHT (C) 2008 SIPSTON
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It's a while since I heard this metaphor cited, but it has had real currency in British English in the ... of criminal skills enabling them to hotwire vehicles, forge keys and pry 10 types of window jamb . . .

I doubt that the idea was based on anything "loosely." It was documented in the published prison memoirs of convicts like Peter Wildblood (about 1956), Frank Norman (1958) "Zeno" (1968) and others. It was one of the components of Lord Longford's campaign for penal reform.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
At 05:04:23 on Sat, 15 Mar 2008, FCS wrote in (Email Removed):
tended to leave prison with a range of criminal skills enabling them to hotwire vehicles, forge keys and pry 10 types of window jamb

Excuse me, but although you may get away with that in aue, in ucle we speak UK English, and the word is "prise". "Pry" means to intrude, to poke one's nose into somebody else's affairs; "prise" means to jemmy.
Molly Mockford
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety - Benjamin Franklin (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
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tended to leave prison with a range of criminal skills enabling them to hotwire vehicles, forge keys and pry 10 types of window jamb

Excuse me, but although you may get away with that in aue, in ucle we speak UK English, and the word is "prise". "Pry" means to intrude, to poke one's nose into somebody else's affairs; "prise" means to jemmy.

According to OED, pry is used thus in one part of the UK:
1. trans. orig. U.S. and Eng. regional (E. Anglian). To raise,move, or force up, out, open, etc., with a lever; = PRISE v. 1a. Also in extended use.

And no-one gets away with anything in aue. Good to see you, Molly.
Laura
(emulate St. George for email)
At 13:30:00 on Sat, 15 Mar 2008, LFS
(Email Removed) wrote in
(Email Removed):
According to OED, pry is used thus in one part of the UK: 1. trans. orig. U.S. and Eng. regional (E. Anglian). To raise, move, or force up, out, open, etc., with a lever; = PRISE v. 1a. Also in extended use.

Ah yes, they're a funny lot in East Anglia... ;-)
And no-one gets away with anything in aue. Good to see you, Molly.

And you, Laura! Hope you're keeping well.

Molly Mockford
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety - Benjamin Franklin (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
tended to leave prison with a range of criminal skills enabling them to hotwire vehicles, forge keys and pry 10 types of window jamb

Excuse me, but although you may get away with that in aue, in ucle we speak UK English, and the word is "prise". "Pry" means to intrude, to poke one's nose into somebody else's affairs; "prise" means to jemmy.

Then why do they sell "pry bars" in the UK?
http://www.powertooldirect.co.uk/estwing-m-67.html

Are they used to swat an intruder's nose?

Tony Cooper - Orlando, Florida
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
}
}>At 05:04:23 on Sat, 15 Mar 2008, FCS wrote in }>(Email Removed): }>
}>>tended to leave prison with a range of criminal skills enabling them to }>>hotwire vehicles, forge keys and pry 10 types of window jamb }>
}>Excuse me, but although you may get away with that in aue, in ucle we }>speak UK English, and the word is "prise". "Pry" means to intrude, to }>poke one's nose into somebody else's affairs; "prise" means to jemmy. }
}Then why do they sell "pry bars" in the UK?
}http://www.powertooldirect.co.uk/estwing-m-67.html }
}Are they used to swat an intruder's nose?
Indeed, preferably a Yankee nose too, as they seem to be taking over our mother tongue Emotion: smile
{R}
You are (cross) posting to a newsgroup where AmE, as well as BrE, is spoken. The correct term is "Yank". Acceptable variations are "Septic", "Merkin", or "Fat-assed, loud-mouth".
"Yankee", however, is geography-specific term that identifies a northerner in the U.S. or a person from one of the New England states. It is not inclusive of Americans who live in the south, the South, and the western states. I'm sure you would not want to exclude them from your swatting preferences.
If you intend to observe the niceties of the difference between "pry up" and "prise up", then please extend your discretion to the difference between "Yankee" and "Yank".

Tony Cooper - Orlando, Florida
You are (cross) posting to a newsgroup where AmE, as well as BrE, is spoken. The correct term is "Yank". ... the difference between "pry up" and "prise up", then please extend your discretion to the difference between "Yankee" and "Yank".

Oh, so the "Yankee Go Home" campaigns were in reference to Down-Easters, and Midwesterners. Right?
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