Archive for January, 2015
Harari’s “The theatre of terror” article is worth reading because it explicitly sees terrorism as a form of “spectacle” in contemporary Western societies – an idea referenced by Kidd-Hewitt and Osborne (1995) when they argue crime in general can be seen in terms of postmodern spectacle, a general “crime discourse” driven by two main narratives:
- Fear, whereby crime and deviance are represented in terms of threat – ‘the criminal’ as a cultural icon of fear (both in personal and more general social terms) – a narrative that involves both warnings about behaviour, the extent of crime and its consequences and risk assessments, in terms of the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime, for example.
- Fascination: Crime and deviance represent ‘media staples’ used to sell newspapers, encourage us to watch TV programmes (factual and fictional), visit news sites and so forth.
These two narratives (fear and fascination) come together when postmodernists discuss deviance in terms of spectacle – crime is interesting (and sells media products) because of the powerful combination of fear and fascination.
Woollett and Maguire’s “Acquiring ‘the Knowledge’ of London’s Layout Drives Structural Brain Changes” is a useful addition to the debate for students because it suggests brain structure is not fixed and static; on the contrary, under certain conditions (such as “The Knowledge” required to qualify as a London taxi-driver) it can be changed by “biologically relevant behaviors engaging higher cognitive functions”. And if this all sounds fascinating you can explore it further by downloading:
The “marketisation of education” is an important contemporary educational issue and while it’s relatively easy to identity significant aspects – such as the development of academies, free schools and the like – it’s a bit more difficult for teachers and students to evaluate the impact of government policies.
A recent government report, however, provides some relatively simple and straightforward evaluation.
The Report highlights an interesting snippet that can be applied to educational achievement.
“Converter academies” (schools that voluntarily changed their status under policies introduced by the Conservative government post-2010) performed less-well than “Sponsored Academies” – those schools identified as “underperforming” in terms of exam results and converted to Academies under the previous Labour government.
This suggests that where time, effort and money is applied to particular schools and students, exam results are more-likely to improve – and while this is only one dimension of “educational achievement” it provides some useful evaluative material for exam questions on this topic.
Bringing sociological things kicking and screaming into the 21st century, social and cultural capital are couple of useful concepts that could be applied to the Blunt-Bryant contretemps:
• How might membership of particular social networks (social capital) confer advantages to particular social groups?
• And how do various forms of cultural capital (such as the types of school both Blunt and Bryant attended) confer similar advantages?
The recent public spat between Chris Bryant MP and singer-songwriter James Blunt about the “over-representation” of rich, white, males in the Arts provides a neat and interesting backdrop to the concept of meritocracy.
Is it just a question of “cream rising to the top” – or does it involve more-complex ideas about inequality and privilege?
If you want to take things a little further, the article can also be used to consider Functionalist (Davis-Moore thesis) and Neo-functionalist (Saunders) arguments and refutations.
While there are loads of ways of different ways of revising and a whole industry dedicated to showing how – and how not – to revise, these “8 tips for studying smarter” offer some simple advice about what might and might not work for you.
You don’t have to use them all but you might find that, once you’ve tried, them one or two do the job.