Reducing Crime, Poverty, and Drug Use Through Education
Child abuse, poverty, hunger, and gang violence take their toll on children across the nation every year. In communities like Brooklyn in New York City, crime and violence are accepted facts of life. Nearly 50% of high school students in this community drop out of school before completing their degree, indicating that the cause of the problem—and its potential solution—can be found in the city's education system.
The U.S. Department of Education, founded in 1980, is dedicated to promoting student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access." The organization facilitates this mission by investing in America's schools through the distribution of financial aid to public schools and students seeking a higher education, by promoting new initiatives in education nationwide, and by identifying and prohibiting discrimination in educational institutions.
Ensuring equal access to education is only the first step. Ensuring a high-quality education for every student is imperative. Too often, children in intercity schools are left behind by overworked and underpaid teachers who cannot afford to focus their attention on underperforming and misbehaving students. Without mentors and role models in the classroom, these children are left to receive their education from the outside world: on the streets and in the gangs of their communities.
Communities that do not invest in education have demonstrated a far higher rate of crime, drugs, and violence than their better-educated counterparts. Prevention is the surest form of treatment. According to William Schweke, author of Smart Money: Education and Economic Development, the price of inadequate education today is an inadequate workforce tomorrow, which can have profound social and economic effects that will ripple across every stratum of society.
Schweke also points out the correlation between a poor education and an individual's or family's dependency on state-sponsored aid programs. The majority of teen pregnancies and births come from the lowest-performing percentile of students in urban areas, and over 80% of all Americans in the federal prison system never completed high school. These data show conclusively that poor education is directly linked to poor socioeconomic standing and an increased prevalence of criminal activity later in life.
The United States government can take cues from its counterparts in other countries, where investment in social rehabilitation programs such as workforce training and subsidized employment have drastically reduced the incarceration rate. Social services may appear to be a strain on a national economy already stretched to the limit, but investing in such policies is a necessary step to avoid future economic turmoil.