Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prison: The Texas Education Solution?

In Texas, we have a funny way of looking at children who can't read on grade level at the end of third grade.

We decide they're going to jail.

Crazy, you say? I completely agree. But that doesn't make it any less true.

The story has gone viral now, but in case you've missed it, Texas and California are among the states who begin planning the need for more prison cells based on the number of third graders - specifically, third grade boys of color - who are unable to read on grade level at the end of third grade.

You see, statistics show that children who fall into that category - boys of color who can't read on grade level - are more than likely going to wind up in prison.

It's a startling realization; impressive, even. What is NOT IN THE LEAST BIT impressive is the reaction to the statistic. We identify a very specific group of children who are on a path to destruction that will damage society at least as much as  it will the children themselves, and our collective response is to start building new prisons?

Sounds expensive.

It sounds a heck of a lot more expensive than just spending extra time teaching third graders to read!

Setting aside for the moment that many prisons are private corporations, and thus make large donations to public officials who also make decisions about educational programming, let's take a rational look at what should be the obvious solution to this problem.

The estimated cost of housing a prisoner in Texas is roughly $15,000 a year, and that's not couting the cost of building the prison, merely the cost of feeding and clothing a prisoner for a year. That's money taxpayers are shelling out to provide room and board to someone who, 85% of the time, is functionally illiterate.

How many teachers could be hired with that money, considering the average public school teacher in Texas has something like 150 students under their care per semester?

Some simple math reveals that if we gave each reading teacher the money that would otherwise be spent making students future wards of the state, we could pay them something in the neighborhood of $150,000 a year if they only taught 10 students.

How many great teachers would return to the profession for that kind of money?

I know more than a few.

It would be more than a cost saving, of course, because if the program results in preventing crimes before they are committed there is a tremendous savings to society in the forms of crimes that aren't committed.

The other factor is that teaching third graders to read can be REALLY fun! I know. I've done it. Heck, I've taught ninth and tenth graders to read, and from the moment they decode their first word they tend to get hooked. Granted, I didn't teach this ridiculous word recognition method that so many schools use today. I used the good, old fashioned method of teaching sounds first and words second. There's nothing like a Dr. Seuss book to teach words like "cat," "hat," and "mat," and once you have kids excited about The Cat In The Hat the possibilities are endless.

So sign me up. Let's take that $15,000 a year we're spending to house illiterate criminals and put it to work preventing them from become criminals in the first place.

It makes a lot more sense than giving up kids after third grade, passing them through the education system so Rick Perry and his ilk can take campaign donations from private prisons and then use taxpayer money to run them.


This pisses me off so bad. I have nothing good to say so I will just shut up.

I will say this however... any country that has "for profit" prisions is a sick society that needs to re-evaluate their whole entire system. Can you imagine a society that is rewarded (profits) by sending it's own people to the stockades… the longer the better in fact. We can boost last years ROI by 20% if we can just get those judges on our side. Now doesn't this sound a lot like those judges in Florida who were receiving kickbacks from a private prision for sending kids away. It's just the sickest of sick.

I completely agree, Jason. Profiting from prisons is just about as dirty as it gets . . .but leave it to America to allow such things to happen. Money and profits above all else . . .

Post a Comment


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More