Writing About School in a Delinquency Facility

Visits to all of our field sites in Sociology 215 are meant to do three things:

(1) Encourage you to think about readings and class topics and to use those materials in your discussion of the field experience;
(2) Raise issues for you about participation in community life and political activity and to discuss how engagement and social responsibility, or disengagement and social irresponsibility happen;
(3) Give you field experiences to prepare you for other courses that will have more intensive field experiences, like Anthropology/Sociology 201.

Your paper is not meant to be long. Three or four pages is enough. You also should not try to write about all of the themes given below. Pick your focus, state it, and give lots of description and detail to develop your points.

There are two goals in terms of your writing and thinking about the high school programs you see in delinquency facilities.

One purpose is to explore how order is maintained in a school where the students all have histories of being extremely disruptive and probably dangerous in the outside school and community lives. There is likely to be a definite and specific philosophy about maintaining order. You'll want to learn about that philosophy and think about how it is put into practice.

A second purpose is to consider what purposes there are behind school programs. You want to connect with the personal meaning and value of learning. To the young people you meet in a delinquency facility value education and how does their orientation towards this activity compare to your own?

As you write, consider the following issues. You will not be able to cover all of these issues in a three-page paper so use the list below as ideas that can inform your writing rather than as a required list of topics you must cover.

1. You will want to talk to teachers and students and to the school director if you can to learn information about how the school works, how people understand the intentions of the program, and how effectively they think it works.

2. There is the potential for a school serving delinquents to be extremely disruptive. If there are disruptions or if you learn about serious disruptions that occur, what can you say about why those events occured, what was done to limit the conflict, and how did the young people in the program relate to the disruptive events? You will want to think about whether the students in the program seem to buy into the activities and programs that are offered so that they consent to going along. Alternatively, consider whether the school is coercive forcing students to go along, perhaps against their will. The first kind of orderliness is called an authoritative system. The second kind of orderliness is called an authoritarian system. You will want to think about the differences between these two ways of maintaining control and how each system works to achieve obedience from students. You might want to think about how the system of consent that you observe compares to your own high school.

3. We do not think in personal terms about our philosophy of education and learning. How should education happen and how should a school contribute to learning? You will see students in the school you observe who are very interested in learning and others who are indifferent. What goals are appropriate for a school like this? How do the goals you think make sense for this kind of school match your own personal goals for learning at Bucknell?