Big cities are worried about the sudden increase in violent crime. Homicides mostly the work of gangs began to drop in 1993, but now the number of people being killed is going up again, according to the FBI. In the first six months of 2005, the number of homicides went up 2.1 percent nationally and 4.9 percent in cities like Kansas City, Milwaukee, Tulsa, Charlotte, Nashville, etc.
What’s really surprising is that policemen say most of the crimes are “petty disputes that hardly seem the stuff of fistfights,” says the New York Times. In Little Rock in 2006 there already have been 15 homicides, a record pace. Several of the victims and some of the suspects were in their teens or early twenties.
Another strange example of the new crime is the arrest of the three 19- and 20-year-old college students in Alabama who have confessed to burning down 19 rural Alabama churches “for a joke.”
I think about these things every time I read about the politicians, the school superintendents and the college presidents always talking about more money for more buildings or coaches or apparatus. What they should be thinking is how to get more kids into school, keep them and teach more courses to lead to good jobs. Recent polls show that many kids quit school because they are simply bored.
States have laws requiring kids to go to school for at least a few years. But I’m afraid that in Arkansas very little is done to enforce the laws. In this new century, the laws should be changed to make every child go through high school. No one knows just how much that might reduce crime, but history tells us that better educated nations don’t have as much crime.
It costs having kids in school, including those great pre-school classes for 4- and 5- year-olds. Older kids often have to get after-school jobs to help the family’s income, and with the $5.15 per hour minimum wage, some families are so poor that many kids have to leave school to work full time to eat. I think that’s partially why 6.9 percent of kids in the Pulaski County district drop out of school. We can’t let that happen.
Since I’ve gotten old, I don’t go to the movies as often as I used to. But I never miss seeing the Academy Awards on TV every year. Watching the awards last week, my wife and I learned that we had seen only two of the nine pictures that won the major awards.
But the 78th handout of the Oscars was very interesting. For one thing, “Crash” won as the best movie even though most people thought “Brokeback Mountain” would be the winner. A week before the Oscars, the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette asked nine people to say which movie would be named the best.
Well, Danny Joe Crofford, a movie fan who once worked in theaters and is now at Dillard’s, was the only one of the nine who picked “Crash” and said it was the best movie of the year. Incidentally, the two staff writers who review movies for the Democrat-Gazette also voted, but they said that “Brokeback Mountain” would and should be the winner.
I grew up liking movies because I got in free. My father spent his life with the Malco Theater company, building and operating theaters in Arkansas and three other states. I remember that Malco always quickly re-ran the Academy Award winners so that people could see the ones they had missed. So I was startled when I looked at all the newspaper movie ads Sunday and saw that not a single theater in Little Rock had brought back one of the winners. However, the Cinemark theaters in North Little Rock and Benton were advertising that they were now re-running the honored “Crash,” “Munich” and “Walk the Line.”
The motion picture studios and the theaters are no longer making the money they used to. Some of the reasons are that so many movies are now made by independents and that Americans like to see movies on their TV at home. Seven of the films that won awards last week are already for rent or sale on DVD.
TV comedian Jon Stewart, the master of ceremonies at the Academy Award broadcast, told about the motion picture industry’s tough days. “This is not the best year for Hollywood,” he said. “Look at the people here on the program. There are women here who could barely afford enough to cover their breasts.”