Colleges Serve Themselves; and Expose Juvenile Courts

Chris Powell


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Enrollment at Connecticut’s community colleges has been collapsing, probably because the state’s economy is weak and most students being admitted are unprepared for higher education, having never mastered high school work but having been promoted anyway. So what are the colleges doing?

The Connecticut Examiner says that instead of cutting staff, the colleges are hiring 174 advisers to help boost enrollment and student performance.

This isn’t to benefit students as much as the colleges themselves — to preserve their jobs when the billions of dollars in emergency money from the federal government runs out and state government has more incentive to notice that the colleges are consuming a lot more than they’re producing.

The bigger danger to the colleges is that when the federal money runs out someone in state government will notice as well that Connecticut’s education problem is not higher education at all but lower education — that social promotion in elementary, middle, and high school is leaving many if not most graduates unqualified for higher education and, indeed, unqualified for more than menial work, and that more spending does not produce more education generally.

Connecticut doesn’t need more college students. It needs more high school grads who deserve diplomas.

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SECRECY FUELS FAILURE: Another expensive mistaken premise of government in Connecticut that needs to be questioned urgently is the secrecy of juvenile court. Even some Democratic state legislators seem to be nervous about the atrocity in New Britain June 29, when a jogger was struck and killed by a stolen car said to have been driven by a 17-year-old who already had a long and serious criminal record but was free anyway.

The premise for secrecy in juvenile court is that young people should not suffer any stigma for their criminal misconduct. Unfortunately young criminals now see that this means that society has lost the self-respect to punish them for anything they do, especially car theft for joyriding — hence the explosion of that crime lately.

In addition to encouraging juvenile crime, this mistaken premise prevents any accountability in the juvenile justice system. For example, in the New Britain atrocity, while police itemized the 13 offenses with which the defendant already had been charged in the last four years, journalism and the public are unable to examine the details of those cases and how they were handled by prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, and social workers.

Who failed to lock up a chronic offender? Who failed to rehabilitate him? Such knowledge is prohibited.

This secrecy doesn’t serve the public. Since there are now so many repeat juvenile offenders, on top of so many repeat adult offenders, the whole juvenile justice system is failing, providing neither deterrence nor rehabilitation, so the secrecy isn’t serving even the young offenders it is supposed to protect.

Instead secrecy here serves only the juvenile justice system’s employees and associates, insulating them from any accountability. They can’t be identified any more than the young offenders themselves.

But lately the Democratic Party’s position on juvenile crime in Connecticut has been to increase secrecy. The Democratic majority in the General Assembly and Governor Lamont enacted a law to impose secrecy even on trials for juveniles and young adults charged with rape and murder. Fortunately the law was quickly ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.

Connecticut Democrats are devoted to maximizing government’s scope and employment, and the failure of the juvenile justice system exposes their objective: for every child to have his own special-education teacher, therapist, social worker, police officer, and probation officer — but no parents.

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SCHOOL POWER LIMITED: At least the U.S. Supreme Court reduced the scope of government the other day. The court ruled that a public school in Pennsylvania did not have the authority to punish a student for vulgar speech outside school — that her First Amendment rights prevail outside school, even if she insults her school itself.

Of course this doesn’t make the student a nice person or justify the tirade for which she was punished. It just confines a school’s authority to a student’s conduct in school. Police and parents — for those kids who have any — can take it from there.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.