Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Education a solution to crimes from murder to graffiti

After many years of criminal penalty hikes and prison building, I've wondered if we may have reached the limits of crime reduction based on incarceration and if other investments in healthcare (particularly mental health) and education might not do more to reduce crime.

So via USA Today, I was interested to see a new website called the Common Good Forecaster (from the United Way and the American Human Development Project) which makes concrete that connection, estimating improvements in various social indicators thanks to more people getting an education.

Noting that more than one in 5 Texans age 25 and over didn't graduate high school, the site focuses on murder rates as its key crime indicator; Texas' rate is 6.6 per 100,000, compared to 5.9 nationally. By their data, if Texas were to increase the number of people who graduate college from 25-32%, it would reduce Texas' murder rate to the national average (and boost median personal earnings by 5%).

But murder may not be the only area where improved education might reduce crime. Another USA Today piece from yesterday says much of the nation finds itself in the grip of increased graffiti crime, though some cities like New York and Dallas are bucking the trend. Texas and other states have responded largely by increasing penalties for graffiti, but I've argued before that erasing a deficit in fine arts education might be a better approach:
While these bills flail with a hammer at the problem (at this point punching holes in the wall instead of pounding a nail), we see a telling item over at the Houston Chronicle's Texas Politics blog which informs us that "Music, fine arts are seeking more respect" at the Legislature, noting that Texas schools have seen the arts de-prioritized to focus on the TAKS test. As a result, Texas experienced "a drop in middle school fine arts participation from 75 percent student participation in 1999 to 66 percent in 2006."

Perhaps relatedly, during this same period in Texas graffiti crimes soared; the amount of graffiti in Austin, for example, increased 400% from 2002 to 2007. So kids are doing less art in school and more out in the streets. But all legislators can think to do is increase punishments, not artistic opportunities.
In that light, I was pleased to see Sen. Florence Shapiro amend her big public schools bill, HB 3, to require fine arts and physical education credits in the state's minimum graduation requirements. To my mind, boosting fine arts in schools may do more to reduce graffiti by youth than any other public policy we could undertake because it provides an artistic alternative. I don't believe the fact that Texas youth are doing less art in school and more in the streets is a coincidence.

Sen. Shapiro, though, didn't mention graffiti but said what convinced her to add the amendment (which she'd rejected when it was offered previously by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte) was a new study from the Texas Cultural Trust released May 1st about the impact of the creative sector on the economy. Said the press release:
An economic study released today shows that the creative sector of the Texas economy is growing faster and paying higher wages than jobs in the non-creative sector. According to the data, creative sector industries such as digital media, film, music, performing arts, visual arts and arts-related tourism have become a cornerstone of the state’s economy and are on a trajectory for continued growth. ...

The data demonstrates a clear link between the cultural arts, a vibrant creative sector and a strong economy. But the study’s findings also imply that the bright spot in Texas won’t last forever if the state stops investing in arts education and the cultural arts.

According to the report, said Shapiro, by 2016 one in 12 Texas jobs will be in the creative sector.

I suspect that promoting arts in school will have at least as great an effect on graffiti - if not more so - than has boosting criminal penalties, which seems to have been an ineffective approach.


Informed Citizen said...

Actually, we reach the limit of crime reduction by punishment enhancements before the prison building began and incarceration rates multiplied. ----
What reducation there has been has been the result of demographics. ie; change in age of population. --- It was known before this madness began that education, health care, and other forms of social support for fellow members of a Nation is more effective in reducing crime. This approach was implimented with great success in Europe during the same period of time the US was going in the other direction. ----
Those who profit from employment at public expense have waged a very effective propaganda campaign for decades. Rather than "find a need and fill it" those who profit from or are employed with public funds "create a perception of a need, so they can appear to fill it". The solution to this crime, and the crime it generates by forcing people into poverty and despiration and mental health problems is to expose the lies and counter the propaganda with the truth the conservative mainstream media has kept from the public at large.

David C said...

"I've wondered if we may have reached the limits of crime reduction based on incarceration and if other investments in healthcare (particularly mental health) and education might not do more to reduce crime."

Wondered? Do you really have to hedge your statements that much?

x4livin said...

YES! Education is absolutely the answer...from the inmates and offenders to the staff..guards. Make it a profession, pay to educate them, pay them more. Teach the inmates aplicable skills and offer things they can use. A felon won't be offered a job in many trades and professions with a criminal history...stop pushing things at them that they can't use. Success bolsters confidence...setting them up for failure only increases the likelyhood that they will reoffend.

Anonymous said...

Once a young person enters the system, then education must be provided.

However, it seems we have overlooked something. We all have convinced ourselves that we have the responsibility to make sure all young people become educated.

I work part time with several men who have their sons come by after school and work with them for a few hours - also on the weekends. Their sons learn job skills and they seem proud that they are able to use and display their skills. These kids aren't alienated from adults and haven't withdrawn into a criminal sub-culture composed only of other disaffected and violent young men. They naturally pick up a lot of skills not just from their own father but from the other real live adult men on the job site.

These fathers ask questions like, "how much homework do you have tonight?" and they watch their grades. These men are thinking about how they can find the money to send their kids to college. Admit it, we all talk about finding mentors and "father figures." Father figure my ass! What about the man who produced this young man? We have overlooked the fact that fathers are often the best crime prevention tool ever invented.

How did we get to the point where we have completely forgotten that fathers have a responsibility to their children? We glorify the Player and the "Dogg" and have decided that this is normal for men. We admire these dogs on the prowl.

Face it, aren't those dogs the ones who are most likely to be selected to father children? Have one or more of these fathered your own children? How many other children has he fathered with other women? You chose him so who is really responsible? I guess it's easy to say, "let's let the tax payer step in pay the bills and clean up this mess."

Anonymous said...

Education over punishment will never work, just ask the people lobbying the state legislature to build more prisons, and death penalty nutcases, they'll tell you...

Anonymous said...

we dog

Anonymous said...

Education is only works when the parents care enough to make their kids go to school.

It starts at home.

dirty harry said...

Education and mental health services reduce crime? What a novel idea! Now, if you can only convince the coconuts running TYC of this. Then, maybe they will stop reducing the size of the education departments in the units.

Anonymous said...

...when the parents care enough to make their kids go to school.

Making them go to school is a start, but not enough. If they show up at school with no interest in learning anything they will just thug the place up for the kids who still believe in education. They develop the nasty attitudes at home and infect their classmates and cause the teacher to feel like it's a hopeless situation.

Anonymous said...

You speak of a classic education, something that used to be the norm not long ago. That was before we started dumbing down to avoid accusations of racism, hurting feelings, and excluding certain groups. My mothers's generation were required to take fine arts, music, literature, grammer, reading, latin, greek mythology etc... I wish we would return to the days of yester year. Every child would benefit which wold in turn benefit society. My sister was a high school latin teacher but they stopped offering it in the 80's because some felt it was too hard and saw no merit in learning it. Education, that kind anyway, is passe with way too many these days. A classic education should be offered to all as an opportunity to become literate, well versed citizens. Offering the opportunity is our only obligation. We are not responsible or able to repair all of our social ills. Will fine arts in school reduce graffiti on the streets? Hmmm? Some taggers are very artistic and some are just claiming their set so I don't know. I think they do it because they just like it. I am certain that they are aware that there are other surfaces on which they can paint.

school fine arts said...

Definitely Education is Works!!

fine arts education said...

Education , literacy and care these there points are main constraints.