|Friday, March 24, 2000||
Volume 65, Issue 118
Moeller on taxes
Ed De La Garza
‘Prepare the comfy chair!'
If Eastern Connecticut State University's new discipline policies catch on, students convicted of misdemeanors may have to face the music, literally.
Instead of hitting delinquent students with fines or hard labor, they will be punished by having to attend (horrors!) a classical symphony or opera.
They used to say, "if you do the crime, you do the time," and historically, incarceration (next to execution) has been the most popular criminal punishment. Realistically, though, if someone commits a minor crime, vandalism maybe, you're not going to stick them in the clink for a year.
That's how community service came along. In these feel-good days, you do the crime, and then you plant trees or pick up trash to make up for it.
The theory goes that you're giving back to your community, and learning that there are more productive, friendly things to do with your time than spray-paint random walls with the words your parents told you not to repeat in school.
And that, in its own way, is fine and good. At least the community gets some free labor out of the deal. If we believe the best of human nature, such a sentence may make a criminal protective rather than destructive of his own turf, too.
But the symphony? Two or three hours sitting on a comfy chair in an air-conditioned auditorium? Now that's hard time.
Even if you hate classical music, it's not the kind of thing that works as a deterrent. You can't say, "Screw up again, and we'll make you watch Der Ring des Nibelungen, start to finish!" People won't even cringe, though perhaps they should.
And there's no necessarily educational component to attending a concert. Give all the little lectures you want about the orchestra and its conductor, or the history of a certain work. That doesn't have any moral impact. It is, at best, another lecture these students can sleep through.
There isn't a guarantee that the music itself will improve the character of your captive miscreant audience, either. Little Alex loved his Ludwig van Beethoven. Did that make him or his droogie friends any less antisocial or less violent?
And operas, just like literature, frequently contain images and moral sentiments that American parents would just as well like to see banned. "Do we want our little Jimmy growing up like Figaro, kissing up to and then betraying all the ‘evil' authority figures in his life?"
In short, this sentence isn't rehabilitative. It doesn't improve the
criminal or cause him to repent. It's not even real punishment, unless
of course you're making him attend a John Tesh concert.