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Dangerous Minds – A Film Analysis

 (This is my final essay assignment for my Sociology class. I’m officially on break until mid-January! I got a 90, BTW.) The film, Dangerous Minds, follows the story of Louanne Johnson, an ex-U.S. Marine. Set in 1989, the story begins with Louanne entering into her first year teaching at an inner-city school with underprivileged youths, where she explores the challenges of teaching her students, and the necessary steps it takes to reach them. Roughly based on the autobiography, My Posse Don’t Do Homework, Dangerous Minds shows a social depiction of the forces of stratification and poverty, the bureaucracy of our educational system, and the subcultures that exist within that framework (Johnson, 2007). The opening of the film shows you glimpses of poverty-stricken neighborhoods with run down buildings, busted windows, and graffiti. Neighborhoods where homelessness and drug deals are a commonality. In the background of these images is the song Gangsta’s Paradise, by Coolio, which is used as a reflection into their lives and culture: “You better watch how you’re talking and where you’re walking, or you and you homies might be lined in chalk… I’m the kind of G the little homies wanna be like, on my knees in the night saying prayers in the streetlight (Coolio, 1995).” This further builds on the imagery of a reality within this subculture where gang violence is prevalent, life chances are lacking, and reputations that invoke fear are a necessary part of surviving. Photo Credit: [Source] Louanne’s students are primarily minorities from working poor families, with no apparent interest in education, little to any educational skills and social problems. Seemingly fixated in their social position, these kids seem to lack confidence in their ability to be more than they are by virtue of their birth and circumstances. In an effort to control some aspect of their lives, placing value in fearful reputations and violence become a way of carving out a place for themselves within society, and seem to be synonymous with power and prestige. Upon Louann’s first day of class, she is greeted with derogatory sneers, such as “white-bread” and “puta,” which translated to English would be equivalent to whore or slut (Smith, 1995). In their effort to intimidate her into leaving, and therefore maintaining their freedom, they effectively make Louanne more determined to reach them. In order to obtain the attention of her students, and teach them in a way that they can understand and identify, Louanne begins to think outside... read more

Drugs, Prostitution & Decriminalization

So, this week my Sociology Professor asked us, “Should victimless crimes such as prostitution and recreational drug use be decriminalized?” My answer? Yes. Well, what I really said was this…. When decriminalizing recreational drug use and prostitution would essentially save the United States large sums of tax revenue and resources, boost our economy, and provide for a safer worker/consumer environment for the millions that participate in these activities – a better question might be, “Why SHOULD we keep them criminalized?” These policies are not accomplishing the goals of making society safer or preventing involvement. The United States is known for its strict drug policies, and its imposition of the harshest penalties for drugs sales and possession across the world (Szalavitz, 2009). Historically, prohibition has done little more than create dangerous and violent markets, without seeing a decrease in consumption (“Should we legalize,” 2012).  America’s “War on Drugs” is failing, with a 2.5 trillion dollar price tag and little to show for it (“Should we legalize,” 2012). As a case study, Portugal is a great example of how decriminalization of drug use can be beneficial to a society. In 2001, Portugal became the first European country to eliminate all criminal charges for personal possession of drugs, which was done with the goals of reducing deaths and infections by focusing on prevention and treatment instead of jailing (Vastag, 2009). Since their decriminalization, the number of street drug overdoses and new HIV cases among drug users has declined, with the number of people getting treatment for drug use rising, while the number of drug users is notably lower than those in the U.S. (Vastag, 2009). Prostitution is one of the oldest jobs in the world, and instead of the profession declining, it is growing. Prostitution in the United States is estimated to bring in 14 billion dollars a year, with over 1 million people working as prostitutes (Gorbenko & Lakomy, 2011). Anti-prostitution laws do nothing to deter the frequency of prostitution, but do aid in pushing it underground, which makes it unsafe for all participants and for our society as a whole. Most prostitutes are at the whim of those that pimp them out, and are regularly violated, abused and raped with no way for recourse of being helped for crimes committed against them. Some of this can be contributed to the non-reporting of crimes for fear of arrest for solicitation, but also for the abuse that prostitutes experience directly from law... read more

Being Bad: Breaking Social Norms

Last week in Sociology, I had to perform a social experiment by breaking a social norm, and then write about my experience. This is what I ended up with… Enjoy! Social norms are rules that govern behaviors within society by establishing standards of conduct (Kendall, p. 72). Sociologist Talcott Parsons theorized that social norms are necessary in society to help dictate our interactions with people (2011). Through these day-to-day interactions we learn what behavior is expected of us – how to dress for specific occasions, proper hygiene, manners, language that is appropriate in conversation, etc. These rules help us differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in any given situation. My plan for the experiment was to meet two of my girlfriends at our local mall, have a drink and some dinner, and formulate a plan on how to break a social norm. I decided to bring along my friends for support, and to hold me accountable, so that I didn’t back out of the experiment. I struggled with the idea of performing the experiment, which had less to do with actually breaking a social norm, and more to do with having to acknowledge the reactions of people around me. On the night of my experiment my anxiety levels were exceptionally high. I felt nauseous, tightness in my throat, heated, and my heart raced. As we ate, we discussed possible scenarios. I considered some of the class suggestions, along with staring, breaking into dance and using a phone app called iFart to fake a bodily function, among the more ridiculous. In theory, all these ideas sounding very interesting; I wanted to be that person who could perform the experiment from a completely scientific place and be unfazed by the implications of it, but the reality of performing the experiment by breaking even a mild social norm seemed overwhelming. I reached a point in my evening where I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Why was this so hard for me? It actually isn’t that uncommon for me to break social norms. Quite regularly I talk very loudly in public, especially when I am excited, and sometimes about topics that could be deemed socially inappropriate. Other times I have been known for nursing my toddler in public, yet even the idea of doing those things with the conscious purpose of getting a reaction seemed an impossibility. It became clear that there is a stark difference... read more

I’m ALIVE!

That is all. Ok, maybe I can do a little bit better with my update than that. 😛 I am BUSY. For realz kind of busy, but in a really good way. The kind of busy that results when you are really engaged in what you are doing and actually enjoying yourself… at least when I’m not over thinking it, and considering all those things that need to be notched off of my to-do lists. I am LOVING my Genetics and Evolution class through Coursera, and I’m happy that it followed right on the heels of my Human Biology class, because the two compliment each other well. Today, started my Sociology class, and I am finding my text  ACTUALLY  enjoyable. SO rare! I feel like I’m spending much of my time half buried in books, when I’m not with my kids. I’m sure Facebook is tired of hearing me post about school related things, and the general mischief I have been causing lately with sensitive topics… Other than our normal homeschooling adventures, that is about all I have been up to lately. Here are a few pics for the... read more

I Have a Confession…

I withdrew from the English Composition class that I should have started this past Monday. Yep. I could try to offer any number of possible excuses for my behavior, but at the end of the day there was really one thing that motivated this decision. I really just want to slack off, and do as little as possible for the next two months. I want to spend the next two months watching LOADS of TV at night, NOT stressing about school work during the day when I am with my kids, and reading as many raunchy romance novels as I can possibly fit in. The next 8 weeks seem like an awfully wonderful stretch of  time ahead of me.   What to put on this thing…Any... read more

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