Author Archives: John J. Brent

Identity, Late-Modernity, and the Consumer Society

Source: Work of Liuluenhon

The concept of identity is one that holds great appeal; gripping the attention of both scholars and society. Nevertheless, the literature reveals little consensus as to what identity actually means. The term is expansive and the prevailing way to study it is to select out specific aspects of any individual such as their gender, nationality, race/ethnicity, job status, family role, sexuality, and so on. However, there have been dominant theoretical perspectives when considering identity. Additionally, it appears that current social arrangements have – once again – influenced our thinking. The purpose of this post is to outline two theoretical perspectives of identity and show how the rise of a late or postmodern society has influenced these lines of thought. (more…)

Part II: The Effects of School Criminalization

File:A classroom in Parshvanath College of Engineering.jpgA few weeks back, I contributed a post highlighting possible explanations for the rise of criminal justice based practices within schools.  Although these strategies have become popular for managing school crime, growing evidence suggests they are often overly excessive and may produce a host of unintended consequences. Serving as a sort of a Part II, this essay outlines the effects of what has been termed the “criminalization of school discipline” (Hirschfield & Celinscka 2011). As discussed below, the evidence stands against the school criminalization when considering its effects on: social equality, school performance, school crime, and other disciplinary strategies. (more…)

Explanations of Contemporary School Discipline

File:Saladeaula itapevi.jpgOver the past two decades, schools across the U.S. have adopted a host of punitive practices and policies to prevent and respond to student misbehavior (Kupchik 2010). These practices include the use of security cameras, metal detectors, drug-sniffing dogs, and the full-time presence of police officers. Consequentially, the distinction between school discipline and criminal justice has become highly blurred. For a host of reasons, there has been an increase in surveillance over students and a tighter link between the education and criminal justice for a host of (Hirschfield & Celinscka 2011). The purpose of this post is to provide, from the extant literature, explanations for the rise of criminal justice based practices within schools. (more…)

Getting Tough on Juvenile Justice

Within the last thirty years the presence of adolescent offenders tried in criminal court has become increasingly commonplace. Scholars critical of this growing phenomenon have documented that the number of youth transferred to adult (criminal) court has gradually risen since the mid-1970s. Whilst the ability to transfer young offenders from the juvenile to adult court has long been an option, recent literature notes that the emergence of legislation facilitating the transfer of youth offenders to criminal court is a microcosm of a “penal turn” in criminal justice practices (Kupchik 2010). That is, laws that expanded the ability to transfer youth to adult court fit within a larger social, cultural, and political movement which sought to “get tough” on crime. (more…)

Boundaries, Power, and Self Expression

File:Identity.jpgSociologists frequently note that individuals – in effort to understand the social world – construct boundaries and make distinctions (Zerubavel, 1991). That is, in efforts to make sense of the world and its reality, individuals cut up, carve out, and make meaningful distinctions. Distinguishing one from another, that is “masculine” from “feminine”, “affluent” from “deprived”, “strong” from “weak”, and “right” from “wrong” provides an avenue for meaning and reality materialize.

However, the same boundaries that construct a reality for individuals, groups, and cultures, also establish points of conflict. Consequently, the social world endures ongoing transformations as it encounters friction and opposition between sources of authority. Individuals, much like culture, “struggle over what significant symbols mean and who has the authority to project public definitions” (O’Brian, 2008). Whilst boundaries help individuals define their social environment and navigate its complex terrain, they often create areas of contested space in which contradictions and power play out. (more…)

Building Answers into Physical Spaces

File:Bonifacio Global City.jpgWhile venturing around today’s modern city-scape, it appears new design principles have been employed. Perhaps the construction of the contemporary urban environment has been increasingly swayed by social, economic, political, and environmental factors. Scholars, also recognizing the changing face of urban environments, have noted the rise of “New Urbanism” (Bohl, 2000). Consider the following:

New Urbanism has been described as the most influential movement in architecture and planning in the United States since the Modernist Movement - Bohl

New Urbanism is the most important phenomenon to emerge in American architecture in the Post-Cold war era - Muschamp

Aside from becoming a new object of study for the academy, New Urbanism has firmly staked a position for itself within the planning community (Calthorpe, 1993). In addition to explaining the major design principles of New Urbanism and discussing its popularity, this entry will reflect on how New Urbanism attempts to curtail social, economic, and environmental issues through better design strategies. (more…)

Crime as a Mechanism for Governing

Whether flipping through channels, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper, it is evident that crime has secured a mainstay position in today’s media. In order to achieve high ratings, television networks and news outlets must fill their allotted time slots with only those headlines sure to popular attention (see Best, 2004). Oftentimes, those stories and reports are generated by sensationalizing criminal events. However, the seemingly overrepresentation of crime and delinquency is not the focus for this essay. Rather, it appears that crime has become a generalized preoccupation that has transformed a number of U.S. institutions (see Hudson, 2003). More specifically, crime – and societies growing fear of crime – has become a mechanism through which a new mode of governance has emerged. (more…)

No Child Left Behind…But what about programs?

File:Classroom.JPGThere can be little doubt that schools across the nation have experience notable budget cuts since the recent economic fallout. Without protection from larger economic trails, educational systems have had to manage substantial budget cuts and reductions in available resources. Across different media platforms, new articles are peppered with headlines concerning the myriad of challenges schools are now facing. Despite financial tightening and limited avenues for support, it is clear that school performance has not escaped popular attention. With initiatives like “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”, schools must meet higher expectations within a highly competitive atmosphere – although some schools hit harder than others by adverse economic conditions. (more…)

Situating Strain within Late Modernity

Robert K. Merton, in 1938, began delving into how societal arrangements could create, maintain, and exacerbate social tension and individual stress. His theory of ‘strain’ – tremendously oversimplified – proposes that crime/deviance becomes more likely when a disjuncture exists between culturally derived ends (i.e. monetary success) and what the social structure makes possible. This theoretical framework, from its onset, has been the focus of numerous efforts; being tested, criticized, buttressed, and modified to increase its viability. As a result, sociology and criminology now offer a variety of strain models so as to enhance an understanding of criminogenic conditions, criminal behaviors, and social deviance (see Merton, 1938; Cohen, 1955; Cloward & Ohlin 1960; Agnew, 1992, 2002; Messner & Rosenfeld 1994). However, criminologists and sociologists alike are recognizing conditions that, once again, may result in the modification or further development of the strain tradition.

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On Youth: Rhetoric, Practices, and Punishment

File:Classroom.JPGOftentimes, there are social, economic, and political underpinnings when practices or policies are set in place. Whether a phenomenon is constructed in a new light as a social problem, an economic turn places demands on society, or there is an ideological shift within politics, these factors – together – frequently play a vital role in policy. That is, the rhetoric we employ – the way in which we discuss trends – helps dictate how issues are dealt with. This post will explore how cultural constructions of childhood helped create the juvenile justice system and the larger changes to the system that have occurred since its creation.

Perhaps it is best to start with the social construction of youth with contemporary society. The perception of youth today holds – perhaps – the same way it did some time ago; with the catchphrase “today’s youth are so bad” continuing forward with every generation. This sense of nostalgia, the fondness toward the past has not been divorced from how the youth today are constructed. Making evening news headlines and front pages are perceptions of the “monster child” – the ever worsening condition of the younger population. On the one hand, as a risky population, youth have become something to be protected from. On the other hand, however, the youth also need to be protected – they are often defenseless, ignorant to larger societal ills, and require protection. (more…)