James Q. Wilson died last week. I did not read his work while he lived, but did read this article about his ‘broken windows’ theory for cities. If there’s a broken window and no one fixes it, it means that no one cares and we can go around smashing more windows. If some one fixes it, then we do care–and the city is perceived to be a safer and better place. Voila! Apparently Mayor Guliani used this theory in NYC — and indeed, the city became a safer place–a destination city for tourists once again. While some may argue with the connection between what happened in NYC and Mr. Wilson–to me, it makes sense.
And now to our schools. Have we allowed too many broken windows? I think we have. We have tolerated all sorts of realities that impede learning–children unprepared for school, broken or dirty facilities, teachers unprepared for teaching, bureaucratic interference and strangulation by regulation, parents unprepared to support the teachers and students–all policies that interfere with the work of the school–teaching and learning. We have tolerated bad behaviors and bad policies for too long…
I like the metaphor–let’s fix those windows. And it seems to me, that once we really start to do it–in any of the above examples–the ripple effect on our schools should be felt. It’ll show that we really do care about children and the future of our country.
It’s a way forward. Thank you, Mr. James Q. Wilson. I wonder what the Q stands for!