Over the years, human society has been unfair to unlettered jailbirds. We often show unschooled convicts the way to the prison yard faster than we helped them read a school signboard when they were younger. We never asked ourselves: what if he had been to school? Would he have been a prisoner or a president? A layman or a lawmaker? A shame-bringer or a trailblazer? The government of the world should not think that they have the right to fault a man that they have not afforded the opportunity to be trained as a reasonable man in school. Not until when the government makes sure they have sent everyone else to school, they should not be quick to judge people. For ignorance is a disease whose partial symptom is crime. Ignorance truly shouldn’t be an excuse for crime, but it is a fan that flutters its blade around the ember of crime.
The opening of a school door does not just close that of a prison, but that of five prisons and one rehabilitation center – as it can shut down major crimes. All across the world, the majority of prisoners seem to be partially or totally illiterates. Michael J. Lynch of the University of South Florida shed light on a 2003 statistic by the Bureau of Justice indicating that 68% of inmates had not completed their high school education. It is almost unrealistic to expect a person who cannot read the law, rules or regulations to obey them; that is like expecting a blind man to obey traffic signs he cannot see.
Whenever we try to showcase the potency of schooling in curbing crimes, many people often point to school-dropouts turned criminals to negate this; they are always quick to poke their fingers through the colourless fabric of careless criticism- to make us see people who started school, yet ended up in prison. But in my adult life, I have realized that it is mostly those who quit school that turned into drug addicts and hardcore criminals; and not many of those who remained in school. Even the statistic above confirms it. Have you ever wondered why those who quit school and turned into hoodlums did not deteriorate in character so rapidly while still in school? It is because if they continued their education, especially the type that teaches us to think for ourselves, this would have been the biggest hammer for driving criminal instinct out of them.
It is not only an idle hand that is the devil’s workshop, as it is often said, but also an unrefined mind. And all through human history, there was no better refinery for the mind of a man – apart from religion – than the school walls and its surroundings ditches. When a child grows up in the school, he learns civility, deep reasoning and analysis; innovation and problem solving skills; as well as a formality of behaviour. But when a child grows outside the school instead, what does he learn faster from the big guys in the inner city? He learns the way to the prison easier than anything else.
For one thing, a man cannot be entirely idle, except when he is sleeping or sick; even if he does not attend school, he will always be busy with either something integral to building-up the world’s wall of peace properly, or something extraneous to pull down peace completely. But once a school door opens for a man, even an idle man, his time to choose between evil or good is channeled towards just one way; the good way of arithmetic, calculus, renaissance art, ecology, and mineral sciences, etc. And by the time he checks the clock hands each day after school, he would then realize that he has to sleep quickly and quietly before the early morning merry tintinnabulation of his alarm clock announces another school time. It simply means that school works stole from him the time he may have budgeted for crime.
When he finally graduates, he is now either too busy as an architect designing another world Trade Center than to commit heinous acts; or as a doctor who has volunteered to help at the local refugee camps. In such position, he understands better the consequences of involving himself in prison-worthy ventures than his unlearned mind. Then, the stigma of criminal conviction becomes mightier to him than his unlettered twin. He begins to think of time in prison as time out of employment. Or time to truncate further career plans. Such thought alone can drift him far from prison-deserving enterprises. Opening a school door to people makes the wages of crime heavier to them than it appears to a dabbler, thereby pulling such educated minds away from the prison-way.
Research and theory have also suggested several ways in which access to school can affect crime decision. For instance, Becker and Mulligan (1997), revealed that schooling may increase the patience exhibited by individuals; or their risk aversion. More patient and more risk adverse individuals would place more weight on the possibility of future punishment, as suggested by Erinko Moretti (department of economics, UC, Berkeley) in his September 2005 publication. That same literature pointed out that schooling may affect individual tastes for crime by directly affecting the psychic costs of breaking the law. And like everything else interesting about human being, preferences are a mixture of hereditary and environmental. School definitely has a major role as it houses a child for many hours of a day.
By my thinking, I see nothing more defaming than the lack of a morsel of schooling. Often times, the lack of such opportunity as education can cultivate a person with low self-esteem. When the self esteem is abused, what else is left of an individual other than weak judgement? Out of such ignorance, others tend to compensate for the confidence that ebbed away from not having the chance to enter a school door by being rebellious to the society and the laws; thereby leading them to prison. It’s not as if schooled people are never convicted of a felony, but only a man who thinks that schooling is just for making money will end up in prison if he doesn’t get job after school. Education is important for the mind. And that’s why I always ask my friends in school if they will ever send their children to school when they become the world’s richest men: as they like to say, they’ll quit school if only they could make a million dollars.
Shutting a school’s doors only does one thing to the society, it presents people with only one side of the humanity coin: only the hard and the bad side. Such people don’t always have the certification, mental capacity or technical know-how to make good use of opportunity even when it pours. Many don’t understand what it means to settle down and be innovative, and so they just have to survive by that single side of the coin they have experienced; even if it means hitting the law against a rock. It is true that there are successful illiterates and school dropouts; but how many are there? And even those few who are brave enough to face forward and achieve success without going through school will never make the mistake of employing fellow illiterates or dropouts to be part of their establishments and innovations.
Even illiterates discriminate against their fellow illiterates by not offering them white-collar jobs; they don’t often look at each other through rose-coloured spectacles but kill their fellow illiterates’ self-esteem even more. Since it is more difficult for them to get even blue-collar jobs, it becomes more attractive when crime dangles its succulent but poisonous carrots near their lips and teeth. The successful ones always know that one important thing is missing if one didn’t attend school and that is why they prefer to employ graduates to fill the void they considered their fellow ungrammatical friends unsuitable to occupy.
If opening a school door or attending one means nothing for crime or the number of people that are in the prisons, people like Bill Gate could have allowed mostly illiterates and many dropouts to chair their companies rather than graduates and professionals. But there is always one thing that remains with those who completed school that is keeping most of them out of prison even though they may be unemployed. That, I still don’t know. And that, many more people and even philosophers don’t know too, except for Derek Bok who said that: “If education is expensive, try ignorance.”