Archive for March 8, 2012
Today’s Game of the Day
Potomac Connelly School of the Holy Child (Md.) at Washington Sidwell Friends (D.C.)
Sidwell’s girls’ lacrosse program is celebrating its 40th anniversary this spring, and kicks off its season at home against visiting Holy Child..
Over the weekend, one of my former professors died.
James Q. Wilson taught me more about the effectiveness and practical outcomes of organizations than anyone, showing the foolishness of tampering with organizational memory and culture by getting rid of older employees to pay younger ones less, and showing why organizations matter.
The blogosphere has been rife with stories from partisan columnists, but Wilson was a person whose ideas benefitted more than just one point of view.
His “broken window” theory may have rankled some by making police officers an intrusive part of the lives of the citizenry, but it paved the way for the concept of community policing which assumes that, yes, it does “take a village to raise a child.”
And in an era in which a gaggle of Presidential candidates preach a mantra of small government or one which does less, Wilson knew that government and its organizations can do a lot. His final lecture in my course summed it up nicely: “You can get a passport in a week, a driver’s license in a day, have letters delivered thousands of miles in a few days, put through telephone calls in seconds, and get safe, clean drinking water instantly.”
Of course, this was the halcyon, feel-good 80s.
In 2012, a passport can take a month and a half, a driver’s license can be bottled up because of computer glitches or not having the exact documentation under the “Real ID Act,” mail service is set to suffer in the next few years because of budget cuts, there are wide stretches of the country where mobile phone service will regularly drop your calls, and you sometimes really don’t know what’s in your drinking water — that is, if an aging water main hasn’t broken first.
Professor Wilson taught me to look for signs dysfunction in organizations, much like the way that professional chefs are known to examine the cleanliness of a restaurant’s loading dock as an indication as to how well the operation is run.
I’ll also tend to appreciate the subtlety of how a sports team handles itself in pregame warmups or even at practice.
And while the obituary writers tend to call Wilson a criminologist, I think he was much more than that. He was a gift to American social and political science, one who will be missed.