Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Oh You Got Trouble, Right Here in River City (#SOL 15, Day 18)

Gaming (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

For the good citizens of River City in 1912--it was the pool table.

Harold, con man, music man tells the parents that "the idle brain is the devil's playground!" You know the story: The young boys of the city allowed to spend their days at the pool hall will likely be frittering away time playing pool, betting on games, ignoring their chores--and later associating with libertine men and scarlet women as they dance to shameless music that is sure to grab your son and daughter.

Moral panic.

Certainty (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

Moral panic is a term coined by British sociologist Stanley Cohen in the early 1970s in his book Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and the Rockers. Cohen defines moral panic as:

A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible (p. 1). 
When faced with a societal crisis that is felt by the in-group, blame happens. Often it's the schools, regardless of decade or century.  In 1912 it was the pool hall. Some years later it would be alcohol, gambling, then television viewing, marijuana, hippies, draft dodgers, rockers, television violence, drugs, metal heads, rappers, absent fathers, school bullying, video violence, and more recently--video gamers and hackers.

Moral panic requires a suitable enemy, a suitable victim, and a belief that the action being denounced is an integral part of society.  These conditions maintain power and privilege.


Being a parent is hard work.  I tell this to my son at dinner.   I want him to know that it isn't the usual stuff that makes parenting so challenging, but rather the awful norming that comes in the guise of friendly truths.  These are the truths of your day--the ones your neighbors and mayor and school crossing guard tell you. These are the truths that your peers live and in doing so they may find it imperative that you to live accordingly, too.

If not...


Cohen explains that "[s]omething done by an out-group is simply condemned and fitted into the scheme of things, but in-group deviance is embarrassing, it threatens the norms of the group and tends to blur its boundaries with the out group" (p. 222).

What norms us, often kills us--not necessarily our bodies, but surely our spirits.


  1. The tyranny of normalcy. I agree with your closing line.

  2. What norms us, often kills us--not necessarily our bodies, but surely our spirits. - a powerful line. Lots here to think about!

  3. These are tough conversations to have with our kids. Sadly, there are too many adults who hold them to a definition of "normal" thus creating for kids an uncomfortable world to be in. It is hard to be yourself and love yourself when others tell you that you do not fit the "norm". Your son is a lucky, lucky boy to have such an amazing mom!

    1. Thanks Teresa. I'm very fortunate to have the son I do. Normal is such lie.

  4. You made some great connections, and I especially love how you tied in the Music Man! That is one of my favorite movie musicals of all time.


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