If you have recently decided to teach a course in the sociology of gangs and gang violence as well as the complex relationships that gangs have with law enforcement agencies, you may be wondering what materials you can and should use to base your lessons on. Many students will have ideas in their heads about gangs based on television, movies, and even music that will influence their opinions even before the first day of class. However, if you are looking for materials that rely on facts and real-life accounts to use, you want to choose items that confront your students' assumptions but will also hold their interest. Get to know a few of these topic and material options so that you can teach a class that is interesting and informative.
In the 1980s and 1990s, various law enforcement agencies were pursuing leads about the Aryan Nation gang and their activities in Idaho. During this pursuit, they came across a man named Randy Weaver, a conspiracy theorist whose distrust of the government had lead him to relocate his family to Idaho for home schooling and preparation for the apocalypse he was sure was coming.
The issues all came to a head in August of 1992 when a 10 day siege ended in the death of Weaver's wife and son (as well as a U.S. Marshal) and the arrest of Randy Weaver and a friend. A few books were written about the incident and the events that lead up to the siege and the complex nature of government agencies, the gangs they pursue, and the tragedies that occur as a result. This book deals with a gang many of your students may be only marginally familiar with and an incident that will capture their interest while also stimulating important discussions about the world of gangs and law enforcement. For more information, check out books from Ruby Ridge to Freedom.
Your students will likely be under the false assumption that gang activity and the law enforcement agencies that work to stop it all occur in large cities on either side of the country like Los Angeles and New York. However, the reality is that gangs and the sociological phenomena that surround them can be found all over the country, even in the seemingly safe Midwest. Focusing a portion of your course on source materials that deal with gangs in the Midwest, whether it be Chicago or some of the smaller cities and states like Nebraska and Oklahoma, can help give your students a wider understanding of gang culture and the ways in which this sociological issue has spread to affect the entire nation.
There are numerous books that you can choose from to cover this subject, from works by sociology researchers to first-hand accounts by gang members (or former gang members) in the Midwest. You can also encourage students to expand their knowledge even further by looking at the issue of gangs and the law enforcement agencies pursuing them on an international or global scale.
Now that you have a few unique ideas for topics and materials for your course on the sociology of gangs and law enforcement, you can get started planning your class and the materials you will use.
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