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Leave No Crook Behind

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It's a staple in the anti-incarceration movement that the money we spend on prison would be better spent on education.  If we had better education, we'd have less crime, so we are ceaselessly told.

The people pushing this line are almost always the same ones pushing the new lingo that we should have "evidence-based" this and "evidence-based" that. Conspicuously absent from their advocacy, however, is any of the much vaunted "evidence" that prison isn't working, or that education is.  Maybe it would be a good idea to take a look.

As I have noted, the evidence is that prison works.  It works quite well  --  a big success story our adversaries prefer to sweep under the rug.  I guess it's an "inconvenient truth," to coin a phrase.

And what is the evidence about how our education dollars are working?  
They are buying us something, that's for sure.  They are, for example, buying us the half-billion dollar high school in California.  (California, you might remember, is the state so cash-strapped that it has to release thousands of criminals under "realignment").

Today comes news that they're buying us something else.  They buy us bonuses for teachers and administrators whose schools have improving test scores.  Sounds good, right?

Of course, the higher test scores might not necessarily indicate more learning.  And what I'm referring to is not the phenomenon of "teaching to the test," in which class lessons are designed not so much for learning as for facility at test-taking.

No, it's more creative than that.  It's that teachers and administrators can cover up their failure even to teach to the test, much less impart actual knowledge, by simply erasing the kids' wrong answers, reporting the thus "improved test scores," and scarfing up their bonuses!

They can do this, that is, until it's found out and they get indicted for conspiracy, false statements, theft and witness tampering.  The story is here.  I have deliberately taken it from the Huffington Post to avoid the accusation that it's some right-wing plant. The story is basically that the Atlanta public school system is up to its ears in corruption, corruption designed to hide educational failure while enriching the people who produce it.

No serious person doubts that education  --  when there actually is education  --  can be part of the answer in reducing crime.  The most important education is moral education  --  the kind you get at home  --  but having knowledge about English, math, science, history and generally what's out there in the world is a big help, for sure.  So it's not that I'm trashing education.  What I'm saying is that, if we are serious about achieving "evidence-based" solutions for crime, let's actually look at the evidence about what we are getting from prison spending versus what we getting from education spending.

Today's story about what's going on in Atlanta obviously does not tell the whole tale (although it's beyond naive to think that the theft and waste of education dollars are limited to that city).  The depth and breadth of the corruption detailed in the indictment is staggering.  It's also something to remember the next time the "education-not-incarceration" crowd pipes up. 

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Self control and the ability to delay gratification are prerequisites to all education.

Unfortunately, these traits must be instilled by loving, disciplined parents. Neither lavish spending on "education" nor a plethora of the latest high tech devices can overcome deficiencies in these traits which are becoming more prevalent due to the growing non-marital birthrate and over indulgent parents.

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