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What Every Sociology Teacher Should Say on Day 1

March 26, 2009 by and tagged

What Jay said:

"The American tendency to define problems in moral terms leads us to come up not with solutions but with punishments."

I am going to make my students learn this by heart. As importantly, this is part of this post:

Although I would nitpick that "zero tolerance" is not so much apolicy as an attitude that applies only one policy to a wide variety of behaviors all redefined as essentially the same (as if you re-defined all sorts of disease as just the same and applied the same treatment, like bloodletting). One size fit all. It is morally satisfying for the moral entrepreneurs who promote zero tolerance but the effectiveness remains to be seen.

Posted in Sociology | 3 Comments »



3 Responses to “What Every Sociology Teacher Should Say on Day 1”

  1.   Jay Livingston Says:

    It’s flattering to know that I’m required reading. But America is not uniformly puritanical and punitive throughout. And with states having run out of money, the costs of locking up everyone are forcing them to become more sensible. Today the Times carried a story about Missouri’s success in dealing with juvenile offenders in a decent and less punitive (and less expensive) way. Cost is also making states rethink the death penalty. In New York, for the past two decades politicians have been talking about getting rid of the irrationally draconian Rockefeller drug laws of the seventies. And now, it looks like reform is actually going to happen.

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