Materials

Our own Hollie Nyseth Brehm recently wrote a special feature for TSP entitled “The Crime of Genocide.” The article is a short and concise summary of the conditions that can lead to genocide, as identified by social science research. This would be a great article to use in a course on crime, as criminologists have largely neglected the study of genocide. It’s a great introduction to the topic!

A few questions to get the discussion going:

1. What does the word genocide mean and how did the word come to mean what we understand it to mean today?

2. Why have genocides generally been ignored by criminologists? What do they have in common with other types of crime more often studied by such scholars?

3. What does the metaphor “genocide doesn’t come like rain” mean? Why is this the case?

4. How do psychological and individual factors matter (or not matter) when trying to understand which people become perpetrators of genocide?

5. How can the government and characteristics of the state play a role in encouraging genocide? (The author gives several reasons. List them all.)

6. How can the international community play a role in preventing and stopping genocide? How do connections to other countries matter?

 

We recommend this great documentary, The Road From Crime, about desistance from crime to show in any crim or intro class. The documentary follows Allan Weaver, a Scottish ex-offender turned probation officer as he explores how individuals like himself get caught up in the criminal justice system, and how some are eventually able to leave a life of crime behind. He discovers that “the system” actually leads to more re-offending, because it encourages labeling and stigmatization of ex-offenders.

The film references the research of American criminologists John Laub and Robert J. Sampson and interviews John Laub and Faye Taxman. Overall, it is a compelling and passionate discussion about what offenders need to become ex-offenders.

Make sure to show the one with English subtitles! The accents are hard to understand with American English ears :)

To listen to an interview with two criminologists who worked on the film (and its parent project, Discovering Desistance), please visit our Office Hours section.

With a marriage amendment looming in Minnesota, I decided to spend a day on this issue in my Sociology of Families class. I wanted to present both sides of the issue without having to do it myself–because I could have hardly been neutral on the subject–so I had the students read short commentaries on the subject in class and evaluate the persuasiveness of the arguments.

This activity could apply to any contentious political issue that you would like to discuss in class, but are wary of sounding biased.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how I organized this activity in my class of 80 students:
(I allowed about an hour for this activity, but it could definitely have been longer.)

1. Before class, I collected several different commentaries from a major newspaper–half opposed to the amendment and half in favor of it. I paired one opposed with one in favor and stapled them together in a pack.

2. First, I split my class into groups of 4-5 and had each group read one commentary supporting the amendment and one opposing it–so each packet was being analyzed by two groups only.

3. I gave them 10 minutes or so read the commentaries, asking them to look for arguments that they found compelling or not compelling. I instructed them to underline and take notes on their handout, especially focusing on arguments that relate to themes we have discussed in class. For example, what have we learned in class that would serve as evidence to either suport or refute this claim?

4. Then, I had them discuss the articles with their small groups, and share which arguments they had focused on. This is the part that could have been a bit longer. Most groups appeared to be having spirited conversations about the articles.

5. Lastly, I asked them to share their analyses with the class. When they shared which arguments they had discussed, I prodded them to explain why they found that specific argument compelling or not compelling, and urged them to bring in material from class that would support their claim. (This part didn’t come as easy to them, which made me think that this would also be a great take-home exercise where they would have more time to reference their notes from previous classes). I took notes on their comments on the board, but I don’t think I would do that again. I feel it might have been a more fluid discussion without it.

Film Real (57/365)

I ran across this wonderful resource written by Jon Smajda a number of years ago.  Some of it is a little dated, but it’s a great compilation of resources for media in the classroom.  

In the 7th grade, I had this really terrible teacher who would show movies about once or twice a week. He’d sit in the back of class and read the newspaper and my friends and I would pass notes, draw caricatures of the teacher, or simply make plans for after school: anything but actually watch the movie.

Unfortunately, this is (more or less) the image most people have in their heads of showing movies in class: a day off for both the teacher and the students. Of course, many of us show hour-long films in our classes and our students manage to avoid spitball fights and get a lot out of the film. This is one advantage of teaching college students and not 7th graders.

However, there are other options for using videos in class. For instance, short film clips can be a great way to illustrate a concept or to start discussion. Back in the old days when we had to haul around the A/V cart to show a video in class, it wasn’t necessarily worth the effort just to show a two minute clip. However, now that all our classrooms are hopefully equipped with projectors, DVD players and laptop adapters, it may be time to rethink the ways we can utilize video in teaching.

Television in the classroom

Television series are a standard that highlight both contemporary and historical social trends in an organized and narrative fashion, making them ideal for use within the classroom. Whereas other types of filmed media (such as feature length films and documentaries) are often too long to show during a single classroom period, episodes or segments from a television series are usually short enough to be played in their entirety, thus preserving the director’s intended messages while still leaving time for lecture and classroom discussion. Additionally, each episode or segment often represents a completely new theme or issue, allowing for instructors to return to television series that students are familiar with and were also successful in promoting student engagement in the past.

Video Sources

In addition to simply bringing in DVDs and showing short clips that illustrate sociological concepts or could serve as a springboard for further discussions or debate, here are some other sources to try out:

iTunes Podcasts – If you download iTunes and go to the iTunes Store, there’s a “Podcasting” section and within that there’s a section for Video Podcasts. A lot of news organizations and other semi-serious outlets are producing free video podcasts of their content.

Hulu – Hulu.com is an effort by NBC & Fox to make their TV shows available for free online & there’s a lot there: from new TV shows to an archive of lots of old TV shows and many full-length movies. You cannot download the movies, which is a shame, but you can embed the clips into your own website and there’s a cool feature where you can set which portion of the clip plays in your embedded instance of the clip, which is very cool if you wanted to, say, embed a clip on your class website and only want your students to focus on one part of the clip.

Network TV – Hulu is good for NBC & Fox shows, but an increasing number of shows on CBS (CBS.com) and ABC (ABC.com) are freely available for online viewing.

PBS Frontline – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/ – Dozens of episodes of Frontline available for free viewing online.

Joost – http://joost.com – Kind of like Hulu, but not as cool or as user-friendly.

YouTube – Obviously, there’s YouTube. Google video tends to have more serious/professional stuff, whereas youtube has more homemade videos.

video.google.com – A growing collection of videos online by google. Search for anything – see what you can find. (You can download most clips to your hard drive as well.)

TED Talks – http://www.ted.com/talks – About TED: “TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. Almost 150 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.”

Miro – http://www.getmiro.com/ – Miro is a free, open source video application that is integrated with thousands of free video feeds from all over the internet. It’s sort of like iTunes and the iTunes store, only everything is free.

http://freedocumentaries.org – You guessed it, free documentaries online.

Archive.org – This site is a massive collection of free online video, audio and text. Within the video section, there are some subcollections that may be of interest to some of you:

“The Beat Within” – http://www.archive.org/details/beatwithin – video diaries of young people inside the California prison system.

“Shaping San Francisco” – http://www.archive.org/details/shaping_sf – A “participatory social history of San Francisco.” Short films covering many aspects of the city and its history.

“Cinemocracy” – http://www.archive.org/details/cinemocracy – a collection of 1940s pro-war propaganda films, by some of the best directors of the time and commissioned by the US government directly.

“Mosaic Middle East News” – http://www.archive.org/details/mosaic – collection of television news clips from throughout the Middle East, translated into English.

“Media Burn” – http://www.archive.org/details/media_burn – “over 3000 hours of material reflecting historical, political and social reality as seen by independent producers from 1972 to 2002, almost entirely without a narrator or news announcer. It is a major dose of American studies, media history and electronic literacy.”

Movie Trailers – http://www.apple.com/trailers – Movie trailers provide short, but information-packed, previews of movies that can be fascinating when put under a sociological microscope. Whether you’re interested in representations of race, gender or class or in consumerism and marketing, movie trailers often offer quick, fun examples.

Old TV Commercials – http://x-entertainment.com/downloads/ – A collection of old commercials from the 1980s, with an especially large collection of advertising directed at children.

Richard Beach’s Teaching Media site – http://www.tc.umn.edu/~rbeach/teachingmedia/ – Beach is a professor in the U’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction and he’s written a textbook on how to teach media literacy. This is his website for the book, and it’s full of links to video materials as well as ideas for how to integrate them into your classes. For example, Modules 4, 5 and 6 introduce critical approaches to interpreting media representations and advertising, while Module 7 discusses how to talk about the role of ideology in various film genres.

Comedy Central – www.comedycentral.com – Comedy Central puts a lot of video clips from their shows online. Many, of course, are probably useless in the classroom, but some of their shows frequently have some clever social commentary, such as The Daily Show, http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/index.jhtml, and The Colbert Report –http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/index.jhtml.

Media Education Foundation – http://www.mediaed.org/videos/index_html – Contains short preview videos to most of their videos.

 

Yesterday in my Sociology of Gender class, we had a discussion on the Contexts article “Is Hooking Up Bad for Young Women?” by Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Laura Hamilton and Paula England (full text free on contexts.org). To get the discussion going, I showed clips of three journalists that the authors mention in the article–each with different perspectives on the sexual cultures of teen and young adult women.

As we watched, I had the students record the main arguments of the authors.

Then, after each video, I gave them 3-5 minutes to brainstorm about how the arguments relate to class material (especially the “Hooking Up” article, but anything from class) AND to brainstorm about personal observations (or “evidence”) that would either support or refute that argument.

VIDEO CLIPS:
1) Interview with Laura Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both (2007).

 

2) Trailer for Jessica Valenti’s film The Purity Myth (2011), inspired by her book of the same title (2010)

3) Interview with Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (2005)

 

 

 

 

 

After watching all three, I had them get into groups of 2 or 3 and share their observations with the group. Then, as group, they were instructed to decide on three arguments total that they feel their group has the strongest “evidence” to support or refute. (This worked really well and when I cut them off after 10 minutes, many groups were still discussing). Give them a handout like this to record their group’s decisions:

ARGUMENT #1

Author’s argument:

 

Evidence to support or refute:

(from class material AND personal observation)

 



In May, we cross-posted a special edition of Office Hours from the all new Contexts Podcast. In this interview, Jessica Streeter speaks with Henry H. Brownstein   and Timothy M. Mulcahy,  co-authors of the Winter 2012 Contexts feature,  Home Cooking: Marketing Meth.

This podcast or feature article (check if your university library has access to Contexts) would work well on its own in any criminal justice or deviance course. But what really struck me while listening to this podcast is how similar their findings are to the show Breaking Bad.

For those not familiar with the show, Breaking Bad tells the story of a square high school chemistry teacher who, when diagnosed with lung cancer,  turns to a life of crime and begins to cook and sell meth to ensure his family’s financial security after he dies.

The authors of Home Cooking: Marketing Meth set up an interesting sociological question of why meth markets are so different from other drug markets. You could show an episode of the Breaking Bad in class and have a discussion about the social worlds of meth users and sellers compared to other drug markets. Or have students watch it at home and do their own analysis for a course paper.

For a comparison, check out “The wire goes to college” from the Summer 2011 issue of Contexts, an exchange between graduate students on the Contexts board and four scholars about the HBO crime drama The Wirewhich examined Baltimore’s drug trade.

Also check out Maria Kefalas book review of the New York Times bestseller Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, entitled “from the music man to methland.

 

 

This past spring, TSP’s Sarah Lageson spoke with University of Delaware Professor Joel Best about his new textbook, Social Problems.  The episode of Office Hours briefly reviews the book and covers a few concepts that are important for anyone teaching social problems.  Best explains what poverty and globalization have in common, how he teaches students about social constructionism, and the impetus behind the book.  He also discusses how social problems are defined as well as his work on the flip side of social problems, social fads.

 

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the new post on the Editors’ Desk about the Scholars Strategy Network.  As Doug Hartmann explains, this new network of social scientists is working to bring knowledge to a broader public.  As part of this endeavor, they have written almost 90 policy papers, which are short (2 pages), accessible briefs on a variety of issues.  These would be great supplements to course readings, so check them out!

Doing some last minute planning for my Sociology of Gender course this summer, and happened upon a Toddlers and Tiaras episode (which I know is old news for most people!) but I had never actually watched it. Very interesting. And would be great for discussion in the classroom on the sexualization of children.

I started poking around Soc Images for some more resources and found so many helpful posts I had to share: on 7 years doing “All The Single Ladies”, girls modeling and sexualized toys, push-up swimsuits for young girls, and more sexualized modeling, , and a two year old in a Madonna cone bra.
 

Here’s a clip from Toddlers and Tiaras:

 

And a whole episode:

Here’s a clip many of you have probably seen of 7 year olds doing Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies”

And another group of 7 year olds doing “My Boyfriend’s Back”

And, finally, here’s the cone bra:

20111009-OWS-Azcuy-10

In one of the latest episodes of Office Hours, TSP’s Sarah Shannon speaks with Stanford University Sociology Professor David Grusky about the social and economic effects of the recession.  This entire podcast could be assigned to students, though you could also considering assigning part of it (the first 20 minutes, for example).

Grusky and Shannon cover many topics in this 50-minute conversation, so there are many avenues for discussion.  Here are a few basic questions that cover some of the main points.

1)   How does the most recent recession differ from past recessions?  In other words, what makes it a “great” recession?

2)   How does the recession affect inequality in the United States?

3)   What are some of the responses to the recession, and how do they differ from responses to the Great Depression?

4)   Why does Grusky see a danger in the focus on tax-based solutions to the current economic problems?

5)   Grusky and Shannon speak specifically about college students several times throughout the podcast?  How is the recession impacting students?  Why is education an important part of this discussion?

Near the end of the podcast, Grusky mentions a website on recession trends that will be launching soon.  Stay tuned to learn more about that website and how it can be used in the classroom!