Last year at this time I wrote about the budget cuts that were coming from newly-elected governor Jerry Brown when he was to take office in January, 2011. It seems just as appropriate now as it was then. Litigation continues to be epidemic and the courts overcrowded, it seems that there may be no end in sight to the problems in our justice system. But how do we fix the problems? Is it through budget cuts?
At the time I wrote this blog, I had just had a court appearance at which the judge admitted that the budget cuts would further slow down the process, the court appearances would take longer because more cases would be assigned to the morning’s calendar and any matters that could be approved prior to the hearing would simply have to be called as regular with no non-appearances. The judge also expressed concern that the budget cuts might unfairly hinder the justice system, a system which was just as important as law enforcement and deserved the same treatment. It makes sense– How can a society police itself effectively when the method by which offenders are punished is subject to cuts, leading to inefficiency?
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 in focusing on law enforcement first, the justice system second, leaves education a far behind third, which is unacceptable. 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 education should receive foremost attention.
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?
Well, a year has gone by, and nothing has changed. Education is still far behind the justice system, which is far behind law enforcement. It IS a vicious cycle… Darn it…