We won’t fight crime with police – fight crime with education

My boyfriend and I were recently watching the movie “Blood Diamond.” Certainly reminds us that we live in a 1st world country as even our poorest people don’t have to live in situations as grave as portrayed in the movie. However, I was still able to draw connections between the life portrayed in the movie and the life of kids and adults who do not receive a quality education in the US.

What I saw portrayed in the movie was a country with very minimal resources and all the people living there gathering into “gangs” and fighting each other for one of the most viable resources the country has – its diamonds. Young children are forced into working manual labor, being recruited for the “gangs,” being turned against their family, being brainwashed into thinking what they are doing is right. All to support individuals at the top, and not actually benefiting the people doing the work.

I gotta say, that sounds like most of the experience of our kids in the streets of the US. Obviously, I haven’t experienced this for myself, but we know these things are happening. The kids in the US may have more government stability, more access to clothes and material things, more access to food, more access to education, more access the healthcare than the kids portrayed in the movie – but their lives function much of the same.

When your family and your school fail to show you the value in being a productive citizen, when schools fail to provide an engaging education and when we fail to listen to and counsel our students – they find a teacher that will. Life on the streets provides a sense of value, power, importance, employment – because kids are not receiving that type of environment at school. And really what is in the middle? Either you see the value of education and want to make a positive life for yourself, or you turn to others who can help you get it in an unproductive way. What does that say for those who follow neither path?

As I examine issues of crime through my role with my Neighborhood Watch, it all comes back to education. Every single criminal has been failed by our education system – likely by others too including their family. But we had a chance to help them see a positive contribution to society and we failed to engage with them in a way that encouraged positive behavior.

And once you commit one or two crimes, now you have to overcome the enormity of little or no education AND have to check the box that you committed a crime. How can you become gainfully employed with no education and a criminal record? If you can’t make an honest living, then you are left to the life of a criminal.

We won’t fight crime with police – fight crime with education.

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Our failure to educate kids sends them to juvenile court

We can not forget why we are all here – for our kids.

I am a CASA volunteer (DeKalb County CASA) and occasionally I attend juvenile court to speak on behalf of the children’s case. Often we wait while other cases are heard, usually the delinquent cases for sure. This one boy was being remanded and I believe they were trying to determine if he would get a bed at a facility. The judge asked him if he had anything to say for himself. He reluctantly tried to talk about how he wanted to stop getting into trouble, how he wanted to make a difference. This sounds good to us, but apparently the judge has heard it all before. She talked about how he had 4 or 5 previous arrests and incidents and why should she believe him now? He said he didn’t know. She finally allowed him to write a letter (I think to the group home or something) to let the “program” decide if he gets another chance. But she didn’t believe he wanted to or would turn his life around.

This is what happens to the kids we don’t educate properly. This is what happens when our education system fails. Yes, there are other external factors, their parents, their home life…etc. But we have the ultimate opportunity in our schools to show students that they are valued and that we believe they can all be successful. Unfortunately, too often that is not the message given to students or the message they hear.  I wrote here about the things unions should be advocating for to make our schools better. Much of it has to do with school culture, discipline & counseling – Not standards, curriculum, teachers, buildings….all the external stuff. We need to start LISTENING to kids and genuinely helping them. I talk more about that culture change in this post.

We need to do better, or else expect more kids in juvenile court, who didn’t receive an education and now have literally no idea how to live a life that positively contributes to society. I’m sure the people he associates with on the streets are not prime examples. We have also failed those people too, with a lack of proper education. We need to do better.