And speaking of great minds… I don’t know where they are. Rumor has it that on January 10 we are all in for a great big surprise. That is the day that our new governor, Jerry Brown, will be presenting his new budget and it is expected to significantly cut funding for our legal system. As a practitioner in that field I have some concerns, especially after I sat in court the other day for 2 hours with a client, only to have the matter approved without need for an appearance.
As a disclosure, I have done absolutely no research. My analysis of the problem is strictly based on my own perceptions and beliefs and not on any empirical data. (Yes! First post using the word “emprical”!) So that being said, here goes.
I know that there isn’t enough money to go around. It is a vicious cycle; you think that with the population at current levels there should be plenty of tax money flowing through the government. But with more people comes the need for more services. So there simply isn’t enough money out there and in that respect I truly do understand the balance that must be made in order to put together a budget.
But what are the services that require the most support? Law enforcement, the judiciary, and education. How to divvy it up. What takes priority?
In court the other day the judge took a moment to discuss the pending budget cuts and theorize on the affect the cuts will have on the courts. His conclusion was that law enforcement and the courts should be treated equally. He is probably correct. How can a society police itself effectively when the method by which offenders are punished is subject to cuts, leading to inefficiency?
I am not so sure, though, that I agree. I have always been a proponent of the justice system as a means to address crime and civil dispute. I still am (it is my livelihood by the way), but I think that the public service that should receive foremost attention is education.
The stats are out there (although I am not going to look for them). The vast majority of crime is committed by those people who did not succeed in their educational endeavors. It would seemingly follow, then, that if society focused more on education crime would decrease.
I understand this is a simplistic analysis and that other factors play a role in the shaping of the criminal element. However there simply are less and less opportunities for the uneducated. It used to be that a high school diploma could get you a good job; then it was a college degree; now, it seems that a higher degree is required to secure that career opportunity. Those amongst us who do not take advantage of educational opportunities will search for other ways to make ends meet. For some, it will be consumer service positions, hard labor, or other minimum wage jobs. For others, the quick buck is preferable to hard work. Rob a store, mug someone on the street, car-jack a Benz. The benefits far outweigh the risks and I anticipate that more and more people will take those risks unless things change.
It is not going to be an overnight change. We cannot solve society’s problems in one fell swoop. It will be a gradual change; one which may take a generation or more to accomplish. But it has to start now. The cuts to education have to end. No more furlough days; no more teacher layoffs; no more school closures. The population is growing every day and that means that jobs will be more scarce as the current generation proceeds to adulthood and joins the workforce, unless the incoming workforce is well-educated. There is so much work to do.
So what is my solution? HA! That is where I am lucky. This is my post and I don’t have to come up with the solution. However, it has to start in two places: at home and in the government. Education needs to be a priority and it starts with the parents. School is not a babysitting service. It is an interactive experience with three participants: student, teacher, and parents. And it has to be viewed that way. As parents we are our children’s first and greatest role models. If we demonstrate to our kids that education is important, it will be important to them and they will strive to learn and avoid temptations from the criminal element.
Secondly, if the government continues to cut services to education, makes the classroom sizes bigger and lays off teachers, what message does that send to the students? It says to them that the government doesn’t think that education is important. The government is to be trusted and revered and kids learn that very early when they hear of the heroic acts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But how heroic will our leaders look to students when education continues to suffer?
Sounds simple enough, right?