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

John Devine, Author
John Devine, Author University of Chicago Press $22 (296p) ISBN 978-0-226-14387-3
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Hardcover - 279 pages - 978-0-226-14386-6
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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. (Dec.)
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