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Joel Best

Joel Best Other Books

 


Everyone's a Winner:

Life in Our Congratulatory Culture

 Everyone's a Winner

Description

Every kindergarten soccer player gets a trophy. Many high schools name dozens of seniors as valedictorians—of the same class. Cars sport bumper stickers that read “USA—Number 1.” Prizes proliferate in every corner of American society, and excellence is trumpeted with ratings that range from “Academy Award winner!” to “Best Neighborhood Pizza!” In Everyone’s a Winner, Joel Best— acclaimed author of Damned Lies and Statistics and many other books—shines a bright light on the increasing abundance of status in our society and considers what it all means. With humor and insight, Best argues that status affluence fosters social worlds and, in the process, helps give meaning to life in a large society.

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The Stupidity Epidemic:

Worrying About Students, Schools, and Americas Future

 The Stupidity Epidemic

Description

Critics often warn that American schools are failing, and that our students are ill-prepared for the challenges the future holds, and may even be "the dumbest generation." We can think of these claims as warning about a Stupidity Epidemic. This essay begins by tracing the history of the idea of that American students, teachers, and schools are somehow getting worse; the record shows that critics have been issuing such warnings for more than 150 years. It then examines four sets of data that speak to whether educational deterioration is taking place. First, data on educational attainment show a clear trend: more students are getting more education. Second, standardized test scores suggest that American students are performing somewhat better; certainly most test scores do not indicate that students are getting worse. Third, measures of popular knowledge also show evidence of improvement. Fourth, there is clear evidence that IQ scores have been rising. In other words, the best available evidence fails to support claims about a Stupidity Epidemic. The essay then turns to exploring several reasons why belief in educational decline is so common, and concludes by suggesting some more useful ways to think about educational problems.

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Social Problems
(Second Edition)

 Social Problems

Description

A complete set of tools for analyzing any social problem. Updated with over 60 new examples and case studies, Social Problems shows how activists, experts, and their opponents frame social problems through the logic that they use; the rhetoric of claims-making; and the ways that access to resources determines who gets their claims heard. Drawing on social constructionist theory, the idea that our experience of reality is created through the interaction and participation of individuals and groups, Joel Best helps readers understand the complex competitive process through which problems emerge. In order to help students connect theory to everyday life, Joel Best fills the book with colorful examples and case studies from the real world.

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Flavor of the Month:

Why Smart People Fall for Fads

 Flavor of the Month

Description

While fads such as hula hoops or streaking are usually dismissed as silly enthusiasms, trends in institutions such as education, business, medicine, science, and criminal justice are often taken seriously, even though their popularity and usefulness is sometimes short-lived. Institutional fads such as open classrooms, quality circles, and multiple personality disorder are constantly making the rounds, promising astonishing new developments—novel ways of teaching reading or arithmetic, better methods of managing businesses, or improved treatments for disease. Some of these trends prove to be lasting innovations, but others—after absorbing extraordinary amounts of time and money—are abandoned and forgotten, soon to be replaced by other new schemes. In this pithy, intriguing, and often humorous book, Joel Best—author of the acclaimed Damned Lies and Statistics—explores the range of institutional fads, analyzes the features of our culture that foster them, and identifies the major stages of the fad cycle—emerging, surging, and purging. Deconstructing the ways that this system plays into our notions of reinvention, progress, and perfectibility, Flavors of the Month examines the causes and consequences of fads and suggests ways of fad-proofing our institutions.

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Deviance: Career of a Concept

 Deviance

Description

One of America's foremost experts on deviance, Joel Best, explores the history of the study of deviance in this short, highly accessible supplementary text. Joel Best covers the emergence of anomie theory in the 1950s, the rise of labeling theory in the 1960s, and the shifts in the field as it came under criticism from other theoretical perspectives.

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How Claims Spread: Cross-National Diffusion of Social Problems

 How Claims Spread

Description

Best's anthology examines for the first time how diverse social issues--road rage, the metric system, gun control, and abortion are among those included--migrate across national boundaries, modifying themselves from place to place as a result of different claims, claimsmakers, and policy responses. This unique collection, assembled from new research by an international group of social problems scholars, will fill a gap in undergraduate and graduate level studies in the constructionist analyses of social problems, as well as in political science, public policy, and criminology.

Claims concerning one social problem often influence those about another: claimsmakers borrow rhetoric and tactics from one another. In some cases, experienced claimsmakers join efforts to call attention to other social problems: compelling images (e.g., the threatened child or random violence) link claims about different problems and reactions to one set of claims.

These case studies describe very different processes, ranging from deliberate attempts to disseminate social problem claims to developments that were more inadvertent, from successes in which social problem constructions spread to new countries to failures in which claims were sown, but failed to take root. They are intended to suggest that the diffusion of social problems is neither simple nor automatic.

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Images of Issues: Typifying Contemporary Social Problems

 Images of Issues

Description

Constructionist theory describes and analyzes social problems as emerging through the efforts of claimsmakers who bring issues to public attention. These claims inevitably typify the problem, characterizing it as a problem of a particular sort. In turn, such typifications shape the ways in which policymakers and the public respond to the claims. Like the widely adopted first edition, this edition of Images of Issues explores the nature of typification and its consequences.

The second edition is addressed to claimsmaking in the 1990s. It features ten all new chapters on such current issues as fathers' rights, stalking, sexual abuse by the clergy, hate crimes, multicultural education, and factory farming. Most of the chapters that appeared in the first edition have been substantially revised and updated, including the afterword, which contains an expanded discussion of the theoretical debate over constructionism. The chapters are organized around Important themes: the nature of claims; the roles of claimsmakers; connections among claimsmaking campaigns; and the impact of claims on social policy.

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Random Violence:

How We Talk about New Crimes and New Victims

 Random Violence

Description

Random Violence is a deft and thought-provoking exploration of the ways we talk about—and why we worry about—new crimes and new forms of victimization. Focusing on so-called random crimes such as freeway shootings, gang violence, hate crimes, stalking, and wilding, Joel Best shows how new crime problems emerge and how some quickly fade from public attention while others spread and become enduring subjects of concern. Best's original and incisive argument illuminates the fact that while these crimes are in actuality neither new, nor epidemic, nor random, the language used to describe them nonetheless shapes both private fears and public policies.

Best scrutinizes the melodramatic quality of the American public's attitudes toward crime, exposing the cultural context for the popularity of "random violence" as a catch-all phrase to describe contemporary crime, and the fallacious belief that violence is steadily rising. He points out that the age, race, and sex of homicide victims reveal that violence is highly patterned.

Best also details the contemporary ideology of victimization, as well as the social arrangements that create and support a victim industry that can label large numbers of victims. He demonstrates why it has become commonplace to "declare war" on social problems, including drugs, crime, poverty, and cancer, and outlines the complementary influence of media, activists, officials, and experts in institutionalizing crime problems. Intrinsic to all these concerns is the way in which policy choices and outcomes are affected by the language used to describe social problems.

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Threatened Children:

Rhetoric and Concern about Child-Victims

 Threatened Children

Description

Child abuse, incest, child molestation, Halloween sadism, child pornography: although clearly not new problems, they have attracted more attention than ever before. Threatened Children asks why. Joel Best analyzes the rhetorical tools used by child advocates when making claims aimed at raising public anxiety and examines the media's role in transmitting reformers' claims and the public's response to the frightening statistics, compelling examples, and expanding definitions it confronts. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from criminal justice records to news stories, from urban legends to public opinion surveys, Best reveals how the cultural construction of social problems evolves.

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The Satanism Scare

 The Satanism Scare

Description

Although there is growing concern over satanism as a threat to American life, the topic has received suprisingly little serious attention. Recognizing this, the editors of this volume have selected papers from a wide variety of disciplines, broadly coveri ng contemporary aspects of satanism from the vantage point of studies in folklore, cults, religion, deviance, rock music, rumor, and the mass media.

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