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Hope in the War Against Crime: More and Better Schools By Bernard Rapoport In November 1993, we the citizens of Texas voted for a billion dollar bond issue to increase the number of prisons within the state of Texas. Obviously, this is in response to the unacceptable rate of crime that is having a paralyzing effect on our cities, state and nation. In a December 10 news article in the Dallas Morning News, the following quote appeared, “The Texas Education Agency has estimated that school districts need nearly three billion dollars to construct new schools and repair existing buildings.” A good definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We are worried about crime, but we don’t change what we are doing. Our educational system remains the same and seemingly so does our commitment, or rather a lack of commitment, to change this sad state of affairs. I don’t know what the statistics are, but I can imagine and so can you. If you take the percentage of people in prisons who do not have an education as compared with a percentage who do have an education, I think the statistics will poignantly demonstrate that we are not nearly as smart as we think we are. These percentages would vividly portray that too often, that to which we give lip service is mitigated by our failure to comprehend the causes, or even if we know the causes, we apparently are not willing to do what needs to be done to address the problem of crime. Today we are, indeed, infected with a lack of spirit and as a result, a pessimistic attitude prevails. Professor Martin E.P. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania provides this indisputable erudition for our consideration. “A pessimistic attitude may seem so deeply rooted as to be permanent. I have found, however, that pessimism is escapable. Pessimist can, in fact, learn to be optimist, and not through mindless devices like whistling a happy tune or mouthing platitudes \(“every learning a new set of cognitive skills. Far from being the creations of boosters or of the popular media, these skills were discovered in the laboratories and clinics of leading psychologists and psychiatrists and then rigorously validated.” Think of the billions and trillions of dollars that have been spent on welfare and compare the small fraction of that amount that has been available for education. It becomes apparent that we would rather waste and spend thoughtlessly than give serious thought to the intelligent utilization of resources. In an article by Professor Benjamin R. Barber of Rutgers University, which appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Barber pointed out that 130,000 children take guns along with their pencils and books to school each morning. Juvenile arrest for murder increased by 85 percent from 1987 to 1991. Yes, 3,000 youngsters will drop out of school today and every day for the rest of the school year until about 600,000 become dropouts during the school year. Of course, a lot of these dropouts end up in prison, in fact, one of four will pass through the correctional system. Then he points out another set of statistics which relates to the way we view teachers. They make less than accountants, architects, doctors, lawyers, judges, auditors, surveyors. They can make more money in almost any other country than they can in our country. Our children go to school 180 days and in Europe and Japan it is 240 days. The recitation of all this is simply to affirm that we don’t even begin to address the problem of education in our nation. Still, there is hope! All is not lost. There must always be reasons for optimism. Through the good offices of the Legislature and our state elected officials, a funding measure was passed which was entitled the South Texas Border Initiative. It was to increase the opportunities for those residing in this area to have the advantages of higher education in a more meaningful way. Several months ago we had a little celebration at the University of Texas in Brownsville, in recognition of the Texas System Board of Regents, I initiated the opening of the celebration with this incontrovertible truth written by Plato centuries ago, “But if you ask what is the good of education in general, the answer is easy: education makes good men, and good men act nobly.” For those interested in getting to the meaningful approach to eliminating crime, this is, indeed, the answer! There are always the skeptics who acerbically ask how much are more and better schools going to cost. What they had better worry about is the cost if we don’t. 18 MAY 6, 1994