Monday, June 25, 2012

Broken Windows / Broken Schools

In the 1980’s Professor James Q. Wilson introduced the “Broken Windows” theory of crime. He postulated that serious crime tends to flourish in neighborhoods that neglect to deal with the smaller, annoying, misdemeanor type offenses such as criminal mischief, public urination and drunkenness, graffiti, and muggings to name but a few, but in those neighborhoods that deal aggressively with the “broken windows,” relative peace and civility will reign.
Simply put, I believe that this theory should be applied to the schools in these neighborhoods at the “tipping point,” and that by doing so it will engender an environment of civility that will foster a climate where a culture of learning can flourish. From what I have been able to ascertain through conversations with high school students, urban schools are focused on reducing violent crime but neglectful of dealing with what might be described as nuisance behavior, disruptive to the school community but so common as to be accepted.

I would suggest that it is time for administrators to start dealing aggressively with “broken windows” behavior, whether it be in the classroom, the hallways, the rest rooms, cafeteria, or any other part of the campus.

Students often say that a lack of security and a preoccupation with violence, bullying, and intimidation makes it difficult to concentrate on academics. It’s a contention I’d find hard to dispute. I think that it is time for administrators in our inner city schools to learn and implement Broken Windows precepts in their buildings. Rather than live by the credo “don’t sweat the small stuff,” it is time to make those guilty of the small stuff sweat.

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