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Maximum Security: The Culture of Violence in Inner-City Schools

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226143873
ISBN-10: 0226143872
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For the last 10 years, Devine, a professor of education at NYU and his battalion of graduate students have tutored "at-risk" students in New York City's most dangerous high schools. Devine does not engage in the popular righteous jeremiads of, say, Jonathan Kozol. Although Devine focuses on academic anthropology rather than provide an anecdotal account of his and his students' fieldwork, the primary material still dominates much of the book?it's just too lively, too hot, too interesting to be overshadowed by the scholarly superstructure. One focus is on "conceptions of space"; and the space of the entry halls and corridors is where Devine (a former Jesuit priest) sees the teachers' abdication of influence and discipline. "I found myself musing over how closely the guards' corridor comportment resembled, in important respects, the friendly teacher-student contacts that might have taken place many years earlier: chatting informally with students, challenging self-destructive behaviors, receiving student confidences, being in touch with the youth sub-culture." In the most controversial aspect of the book, he criticizes teachers' unions and educational systems for encouraging the split within schools between classroom and the corridor; it's an unhealthy and dangerous split, he contends, between mind and body. Although more analytic than prescriptive, Devine does conclude that for violence to diminish in our public schools, teachers need to take back from security personnel the responsibility for discipline and become, again, students' role models. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Devine (education, New York Univ.) writes this ethnographic description of inner-city school violence based on his ten-year experience with the School Partnership Program between NYU and New York City schools, which focused on dropout prevention strategies. This is not a "how to" manual but an accessible expose of the problem of school violence. Devine believes the rush-to-fix syndrome via a quasimilitary policing reaction to the problem (scanners, metal detectors, police patrols in hallways) is ineffectual and sometimes results in even more violent reactions on the part of students. The teacher's role then becomes less professional by being merely purveyor of information rather than guide, model of behavior, supervisor, or mentor. Devine feels that the appellation "magnet school" may mean the school is less violent, read better, because the student body is "filtered." The result is that the other schools (the subject of this book) get the less desirable students and become less desirable schools. School administrators and board members, politicians, counselors, and classroom teachers should have access to this title.?Scott R. Johnson, Meridian Community Coll. Lib., Miss.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226143872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226143873
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,678,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First, ignore the author's early forays into post-modernism. Second, forgive him for relying unduly heavily on minimally trained graduate students for most of his field work. Given these two conditions, this is a really valuable book.

Twelve years after Maximum Security was written, it may seem obvious that adolescents join gangs, offer an actively menacing countenance, and are sometimes violent simply because they have to be to survive in America's inner city schools. In 1997, however, this was an illuminating observation that explained a great deal. Devine made clear, moreover, that it was not the organization and functioning of schooling itself which engendered a culture of violence, but that it was a contextually determined phenomenon, inevitably imported from the outside, about which schools could do very little.

Devine also clarified the socially determined role of the teacher in lower-tier inner-city schools where a culture of violence prevails. Teachers cease to be involved in students' lives. They close the doors to their classrooms and, as best they can, impart specific subject matter. The whole student is no longer their concern, because an holistic approach involves contact with too many outside sources of real danger.

Devine's account of the hopelessness that comes with being relegated to a lower tier school is familiar, reminiscent of the massive literature on school stratification and its pernicious effects. Though the social costs of educational stratification are well known, however, Devine makes clear that it still pervades big-city schools such as those he studied in New York.

A welcome but unexpected observation concerns bigness itself.
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Format: Paperback
Some background of John Devine would be most relevant to be placed in "about the author" within Amazon's website -- his own upbringing of disciplined learning is in stark contrast to today's teenager. This book is a 'must' for any parent, let a lone teacher.
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