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Into The Twilight Zone

A Dimension between Light and Shadow
by Steve Troyanovich

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man.
It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.
It is the middle ground between light and shadow...
— Rod Serling

If you are an educator of at-risk youth, adjudicated youth, or adult offenders, or know someone who is interested in trying out new activities in the classroom, you may be interested in exploring this strategy.

Most readers will be familiar with the classic television series, The Twilight Zone. Created by Rod Serling, this innovative visual anthology explored weekly the dynamics and perils of being human.

Although the original series was broadcast from 1959-1964, the issues explored by Serling remain relevant—and troubling—today.

Cable in the Classroom (CIC), the U.S. cable industry’s education foundation, utilizes cable content and technology to enhance learning. Each Sunday night/Monday morning at 5:30am, CIC offers episodes of The Twilight Zone for educational taping—complete with lesson plans.

To review a lesson plan and to learn more about this programming, please visit the following
website: www.scifi.com/cableintheclassroom/twilightzone.

Additionally, other educators have utilized The Twilight Zone to foster new learning experiences within the classroom. An example is The Twilight Zone Vocabulary. See also: “Teaching in the Twilight Zone” by Chad Cain (www.rodserling.com/ccain2004.htm)

What may have virtually escaped the casual viewer of The Twilight Zone is its parallel relationship to the criminal justice system. Some of Serling’s recurrent themes include: inherent social evil(s); censorship; intolerance; conformity; capital punishment; survival; identity; alienation—and above all—prejudice. Serling referred frequently to the almost incessant need, perhaps both animalistic and social, to dislike someone other than yourself.

Like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the great 19th Century Russian novelist, Serling knew that the full measure of any society could be ascertained by exploring the inner workings of its justice system.

There are a number of Twilight Zone episodes reinforcing this viewpoint. Listed below for consideration are a few examples. Please note that the dates in parenthesis indicate the original broadcast of the episode:

THE LONELY (11/13/59): Written by Rod Serling, this is an intriguing episode. Like many Serling works, it operates on various levels of complexity with the fundamental question here focusing on the relationship between what are perhaps the dual illusions of “punishment” and “freedom.”

THE MONSTERS ARE DUE ON MAPLE STREET (3/4/60): This is perhaps one of the most familiar episodes in the series. Serling explores the dimensions of human paranoia. At the same time, it should be viewed as a reminder as to the fragility of any criminal justice system based on an imperfect understanding of the human condition.

PEOPLE ARE ALIKE ALL OVER (3/25/60): This episode should be mandatory viewing for all zealots convinced of the righteousness and nobility of their own “lock ‘em up forever” cause.

SHADOW PLAY (5/5/61): A surreal episode---but perhaps not as surreal as our own present day justice system.

THE OBSOLETE MAN (6/2/61): Another episode written by Rod Serling, this time exploring the precarious relationship between “the judged” and “the judge.”

FIVE CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN EXIT (12/22/61): Who really are these five characters---and what is the “exit”?

ON THURSDAY WE LEAVE FOR HOME (5/2/63): Assess the current criminal justice system through the eyes of William Benteen.

NUMBER TWELVE LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU (1/24/64): This episode combines several of the frequent themes of Serling’s work---namely the primal tension existing between the will of the individual and the perceived “common good” of social conformity.

I AM THE NIGHT—COLOR ME BLACK (3/27/64): What are the implications for a justice system if a society is fundamentally “unjust”?

There are additional episodes of The Twilight Zone that could be cited as extremely relevant to any understanding of the intricacies of a criminal justice system. For those readers who may be interested, please see also the following: EXECUTION (4/1/60); NERVOUS MAN IN A FOUR-DOLLAR ROOM (10/14/60); DUST (1/6/61); A QUALITY OF MERCY (12/29/61); THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD (6/1/62); IN HIS IMAGE (1/3/63); and THE BEWITCHIN’ POOL (6/19/64).

Perhaps a closer look and greater appreciation of Rod Serling’s collective work might reveal additional clues for fixing our threadbare social fabric—for reinstating the common welfare of the human race—for reviving humanity’s social conscience.

Readers interested in learning more about the work and extraordinary social vision of Rod Serling are directed to: www.rodserling.com, the official website of The Rod Serling Memorial Foundation.


The above article appeared in the GEORGE YEFCHAK NJACA CORRECTIONS QUARTERLY. Journal in 2007.
That issue led off with this note:

A SPECIAL MESSAGE TO THE READERS OF THE GEORGE YEFCHAK NJACA CORRECTIONS QUARTERLY

In your hands you hold the premier issue of the GEORGE YEFCHAK NJACA CORRECTIONS QUARTERLY. It is named to honor the memory of our friend and criminal justice colleague.

This inaugural issue is intended as a special tribute to the work and contributions of George in his many diverse roles. During his all too brief time, he touched many lives, and we are better individuals today that he passed our way and spent that time with us.

As President of the NJACA, George had a special relationship with the design and development of the CORRECTIONS QUARTERLY. He encouraged a wide range of multidiscipline interest and articles that would showcase “the best and brightest” in New Jersey criminal justice.

Although not adverse to controversy, George’s viewpoint was that far too many found it easy to be negative and focus on “nothing works” ---but if that was truly the nature of things, then what was any of us doing here?

One of the key contributions of George to the CORRECTIONS QUARTERLY was the development of a series of “White Papers”, or Special Fact Sheets, which were published as independent supplements since they would be too lengthy to include as a single article in an issue of the QUARTERLY. Each focused on a special interest topic or issue vitally relevant to criminal justice professionals. For example, Special Fact Sheet # 2 was entitled “Community Corrections Of Place.”

Contained within the following pages of this special tribute issue you will also discover other areas where this leader in New Jersey criminal justice left signposts that he has passed this way.

—Steve Troyanovich