Why Classic Education Is Vital To Understanding Crime

Police Line Do Not CrossVery quickly, I want to note the unspinnably bad news about the increase in homicides in Lakeland in 2010. Any rate over 10 per 100,000, I think you can safely call bad. Lakeland, with its 13 total in 2010, set a record eclipsing the worst days of the crack age in 1984. And our rate approached 15 per 100,000. That’s bad, in and of itself, outside of any trends.

Now, I will say this story isn’t as alarmist as many I’ve read, and I give Jeremy Maready a lot of credit for that. The context with county killings remaining flat helps, as does some of the national context. It does not go in for the full “Oh my God, we’re all gonna die” vibe that one often sees.

However, I want urge people to read it even more analytically. For instance, it’s hugely important to understand the mathematical context of this year’s 160 percent increase. Any quick look at the data, even within the story, shows that the huge percentage increase from 2009 to 2010 reflects the combination of an unusually calm year in 2009 and the worst year ever in 2010. That means, for example, we can stay at this level in 2011, create a much smaller percentage increase or even a decrease, and still have a terrible year for murder while applauding the trend.

Crime is most important to people who are not victims of it as a reflection of the state of their community.

What do these numbers say about the state of Lakeland? We know they say we had a really bad year for murder in 2010, one that is out of whack with previous years.

But do they also say that our police department has been largely dysfunctional for quite a while, at least administratively? Did most of the victims and killers know each other? Or did random violence increase? We should all consider these types of questions in reading crime stories.

Oddly enough, I can think of no other subject where classic education matters more than in consideration of crime. It requires mathematical fluency, empiricism, critical thinking, understanding of economics, and social patterns. You need to know something about history and the state of other communities to properly understand your own.

Crime stats provide undeveloped snapshots of ourselves. Only education can fully develop them into crisp images.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jay Kleeman

5 thoughts on “Why Classic Education Is Vital To Understanding Crime

  1. Today I was thinking about the importance of a classical education, especially one that includes participating in artistic activities. I was shocked, after figuring out how many zeros to poke in on my calculator, to learn that the National Endowment of the Arts received less than 63 cents in funding per person living in the U.S., a total of $167,500,000 in FY2010. I was more shocked to learn that the AIG bailout equated to a little less than $685 in funding per person living in the U.S., a total of $182,000,000,000. That’s embarrassing.

    • Aren’t you comparing apples to organges a bit? The numbers you cite deem to make dramatic point — But —

      The question isn’t what we spent on the arts relative to what we spent on bailouts or the international space station or anything else. It seems to me that your real questions are: a) whether or not the moeny we allocated was adequate (you seem to contend that it was not), and b) was it effectively used. I don’t know the answer to either question.

      History will ultimately tell us whether it was wise to throw buckets of money at failing companies in an attempt to prevent what was shaping up to be a world-wide dpression of biblical proportions. But right or wrong, it’s a real logic stretch to use that as a rationale for alleging that we didn’t spend enough on the arts. Couldn’t one as easily argue that we shouldn’t have allocated any funds to the NEA when we clearly don’t spend enough on cancer research, etc.?

  2. I think a typical public school education does provide the tools necessary to glue together a classical education, but it requires a community and family that think of education as something more than job training to make that classic education take hold for a kid in the real world for And, of course, students who actually possess the critical thinking — and basic literacy and math skills underlying it — capabilities will tend to do better in most jobs, I would argue, than those who simply receive training. It’s a very complex issue — this notion of education v. training.

  3. I guess I basic answer is I’ve not met any great critical mass of private school valuing classic education more than public schools do. I attended “awful” public schools in Palatka Florida and managed to string together sentences and get into a pretty decent college. It wasn’t just my natural brilliance, although that’s a major part, of course :) The men and women working at those “awful” schools served me quite well. And this was in the 70s and 80s, which are not exactly considered the heyday of public education. So be careful about blanket statements like that.

    • Which blanket statement are you referring to? Do you mean this one – “One could further go on to write that a typical public school education does not provide the tools necessary to do this.”

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