Today I found out that Oscar Newman’s book about Defensible Space can be downloaded for free on Oscar Newman’s Website in .PDF format.
Part of his fascinating theory is that there will be less crime and vandalism if people identify with their surroundings or feel a sense of responsibility. If there is something they feel is their property, they care about it. “Where only two families shared a landing, it was clean and well-maintained,” (p. 11) he writes about an otherwise catastrophic housing project (Pruitt-Igoe). It makes sense. If you feel the landing is your responsibility, you will take care of it. If you, however, walk through a corridor that is shared by everybody and their uncle, you don’t care about it. You won’t pick up the trash, if there’s graffiti it has nothing to do with you, etc.
This actually reminds me much of when I still went to school. The wooden tables we had there had names scratched in them, things scribbled on them, they had plenty of dents and a gross bubble gum coating on the underside. I actually once saw an otherwise cleanly, tidy, well-adjusted young girl stick her old bubble gum under one of these tables, and when she saw my look of utter disbelief, she just shrugged and said: “Everybody else is doing it, too.”
To me this shows that these kids (ehm, we) simply didn’t value school property. It wasn’t theirs, they were just using it for a year or two. That young girl would never ever have stuck chewing gum under her desk at home, she would never scratch or write her name on it either. Additionally, the kids didn’t feel obliged to take good care of the desks either, because the school is an abstract entity that can’t be mad at them. Not like when they borrow daddy’s binoculars and make damn sure they don’t scratch or drop it, so as not to disappoint him.
Something to think about!