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Punishing Schools

Fear and Citizenship in American Public Education

William Lyons and Julie Drew

Publication Year: 2006

In a society increasingly dominated by zero-tolerance thinking, Punishing Schools argues that our educational system has become both the subject of legislative punishment and an instrument for the punishment of children. William Lyons and Julie Drew analyze the connections between state sanctions against our schools (the diversion of funding to charter schools, imposition of unfunded mandates, and enforcement of dubious forms of teacher accountability) and the schools' own infliction of punitive measures on their students-a vicious cycle that creates fear and encourages the development of passive and dependent citizens. "Public schools in the United States are no longer viewed as a public good. On the contrary, they are increasingly modeled after prisons, and students similarly have come to mirror the suspicions and fears attributed to prisoners. Punishing Schools is one of the most insightful, thoughtful, and liberating books I have read on what it means to understand, critically engage, and transform the present status and state of schools from objects of fear and disdain to institutions that value young people, teachers, and administrators as part of a broader vision of social justice, freedom, and equality. William Lyons and Julie Drew have done their homework and provide all the necessary elements for understanding and defending schools as public spheres that are foundational to a democracy. This book should be required reading for every student, teacher, parent, and concerned citizen in the United States. In the end, this book is not just about saving schools, it is also about saving democracy and offering young people a future that matters." --Henry Giroux, McMaster University "This is an important book . . . a distinctive contribution. The authors move back and forth convincingly between the micropolitics of school discipline and the 'politics writ large' of the liberal left and the utopian right. The result is an expansive, idealistic, and well-grounded book in the spirit of the very best of social control literature." --Stuart Scheingold, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Washington William Lyons is Director of Center for Conflict Management and Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Akron. Julie Drew is Associate Professor of English, University of Akron.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Law, Meaning, and Violence


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List of Tables

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p. vii

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p. viii

We would like to express our appreciation to the University of Michigan Press and to Jim Reische in particular. The research for this book would not have been possible without the support we received from the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English, the Department of Political Science, and the Center for Conflict...

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1. Punishing Schools and a Zero Tolerance Culture

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pp. 1-11

On a chilly November morning we approached the side entrance doors at Suburbia High School (SHS) in Ohio to conduct half a dozen prearranged student and teacher interviews.¹ We were met at the door by a teacher who told us in a tense, excited voice that the school was “in lockdown” for a random drug search and that if we came in we would...

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2. Talking Out of School: Living and Learning in Suburbia

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pp. 13-46

The small town of Suburbia, Ohio, is lovely. The visual impact of its rolling hills, spacious green lawns, and renovated town square, where band concerts are staged in the gazebo on summer nights and everyone turns out to see the high school homecoming parade, is amplified by our collective, willful nostalgia for the small...

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3. Popular Culture and Public Pedagogy: Fear and Identity in Suburbia and Pleasantville

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pp. 47-91

In the previous chapter we explored the ways in which one suburban high school community experiences and responds to the fears of parents, teachers, and students—fears that appear to center around the students themselves. Asking questions about why we fear young people, why we fear some young people more than others, and what...

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4. Punitive Politics and Punishing Schools

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pp. 93-133

This statement from the president of a local state university represents the politically anemic progressive flank in the education debates taking place in Ohio. The prevailing position in these education debates at least since the end of World War II, and as the state has dropped from fifth to twenty-second in highest income in the nation, has been...

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5. The Place of Urban High School in Central City Political Culture

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pp. 135-172

It is clear that while some see UHS as the city’s flagship school, others, including most of the city’s current public and private leaders, see it as a frightening school without a neighborhood, a building coveted by a rapidly expanding university neighbor, and a dumping ground for the school system’s behavior problems. Part of the explanation for this gap...

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6. Zero Tolerance Culture: Fear as Punishment, Patronage, and Pedagogy

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pp. 173-203

The homogeneity of Suburbia has a history. The differences we found there were less physically visible and more emotionally stark than initially expected. There were nearly no black bodies, and even the poorest students were from solidly middle-class families. But difference still cast a long shadow over Suburbia in three ways. First, even...


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pp. 205-207


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pp. 209-240


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pp. 241-249


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pp. 251-255

E-ISBN-13: 9780472021741
E-ISBN-10: 0472021745
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472069057
Print-ISBN-10: 0472069055

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 10 Tables
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Law, Meaning, and Violence
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OCLC Number: 464700526
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Punishing Schools

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • School violence -- Ohio -- Prevention -- Case studies.
  • Education and state -- Ohio -- Case studies.
  • High schools -- Security measures -- Ohio -- Case studies.
  • Social control -- Ohio -- Case studies.
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