23 October 2014

On Howard Becker's latest...

...and possibly his last. We hope not, but he is 86.

Times Higher Education review here, including:
This book is a delight. Howard Becker is that rarity: an academic writer who brings you into his presence, makes you comfortable, then entertains and educates you from first to last page. He is a writer who effortlessly communicates his enthusiasm and general glee with a career going back to the sociology department of the University of Chicago in the early 1950s, and still enthrals himself and his devotees as he approaches his tenth decade.
He's been a hero of mine—and every other aspirant sociologist of the era—ever since the '70s, when he wrote his seminal Outsiders; studies in the sociology of deviance, including his famous paper generally known as "How to smoke pot" (not as deviant as it sounds—it's a discussion of the social elements contributing to how the drug experience is interpreted).

Mnay times I've used his email conversation with Shirah Hecht about teaching a research methods course as an exemplar of informal mentoring,

And his classic 1972 article on "A School is a Lousy Place to Learn Anything In" which antedates all the situated learning (Lave and Wenger) stuff but makes the arguments so much more clearly. [It's not easy to access online for copyright reasons, but many thanks to David Stone, who wrote in 2011; "I was happy to discover that my institutional subscription gave me access to the original Becker article. Just in case others should be as lucky, here is the DOI link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/000276427201600109 "] The formal reference is (1972) “A school is a lousy place to learn anything in” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 85-105,  reprinted in R J Burgess (ed.) (1998) Howard Becker on Education Buckingham; Open University Press.
(I've reserved the only copy at Heffers in Cambridge, so there!)

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