Renovate public school system to combat crime
In a letter to The Daily Targum entitled "Affirmative action combats discrimination," published on March 29, the author cited two sad statistics. Even though they are only 12 percent of the total population, blacks "comprise more than 40 percent of our current prison population," and "nearly one in three young black men and well over half of young black high school dropouts will spend some time in prison."
Assuming these statistics are accurate, why is this the case? The answer can be boiled down to two possibilities. First, a disproportionately high percentage of blacks commit crimes, and the high prison rate among blacks only reflects their collective behavior. Second, the criminal justice system is inherently stacked against blacks, and the high incarceration rate is due to both institutional and personal racism.
As is often the case, the reality lies somewhere in the middle.
Anecdotally, I have heard black University students bemoan the fact that so many of the assailants listed in crime alerts are black men. I once overheard a black student say that he would not read the alerts again because all of the criminal descriptions resembled his own description. Even black activist Jesse Jackson once stated, "There is nothing more painful to me…than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." In addition, there is an element within black ghetto culture that celebrates violence and lawlessness, and any honest discussion of this subject must acknowledge these criminal tendencies.
On the other hand, it is indisputable that the criminal justice system is often stacked against blacks — especially black males. One well-known example is that police officers stop black drivers more frequently than white drivers, a phenomenon nicknamed "Driving While Black." Many people argue that criminal sentencing guidelines favor longer prison sentences for blacks, and that the death penalty is applied to blacks in greater proportion to their share of violent felons nationwide.
Is there a solution for these problems? I believe there is. But before revealing it, it is necessary to note that the two aforementioned explanations do not deal with any underlying reasons for the high incarceration rate. Even if blacks do commit more crimes, that does not explain why they do. Even if police do profile blacks, that does not explain why they do.
The primary reason for the problems I've outlined is the terrible educational system that is provided to many inner-city black school children. Others assert that the problems are rooted in the collapse of the black family, but ultimately, the entire discussion must revolve around the failure of American public schools to properly educate black youths.
Students who grow up in poorer neighborhoods need to believe they have futures outside of the ghetto — otherwise, they are more likely to engage in destructive behavior, like selling drugs or having children in their early teens. People tend to associate with others who are similar to themselves, so a young black man who believes he will go to college is more likely to associate with other college-bound students instead of with criminals, and less likely to jeopardize a better life through criminal behavior.
The solution then is to promote better educational policies in black communities. To that end, the best option is to promote school choice within the black community. This means the government should expedite the creation of more charter schools and should offer black parents vouchers to pay for their children to attend private schools.
Charter schools randomly select their students through a lottery, and their expulsion policies are the same as public schools. In addition, local governments spend less money per pupil at charter schools than at public schools, yet charter schools — especially N.J. charter schools — are shown to produce much better results than public schools.
Private schools also educate students with greater success than public schools. Since parents pay for private schools, they expect better results for their children than they would likely receive from public schools. It is no accident that President and Mrs. Obama decided to send their two daughters to a private school instead of a Washington D.C. public school.
The public school system is deeply flawed, and it is failing American youths. Nowhere is this more evident than in the black community. This is not merely an argument about efficiency. Rather, it is a moral argument over what is right and wrong. It is often said that permitting slavery to exist was our nation's original sin, and while slavery is thankfully no longer a problem for American blacks, the failure of the public school system is currently our greatest moral failing. The public school system is failing millions of black students, and if we do not address this problem, many of these students will become just another sad statistic.
Noah Glyn is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in economics and history. He is the president of the Rutgers University Republicans. His column, "Irreconcilable Differences," runs on alternate Thursdays.