Crime, Law, and Society

Mar 2010

This course was interesting but also frustrating. The reading covered topics such as theories of social deviance and crime, policing, the prison system and corrections, and others, but there was definitely a focus on the connections between race and crime and how that impacts every level of the criminal justice system. Most of the reading was quite interesting (albeit somewhat repetitive at times) and not difficult. Weekly response memos on the reading and in-class discussions were kind of annoying for me because I didn't feel like I could make a good argument and address most of what we'd been discussing in one page. Prof. Shedd is not a very good lecturer and it's hard to write down cohesive notes as she talks. She usually lectures with powerpoint, which helps somewhat with organization, but she never really goes in depth to explain theories and readings. Most of the class is class discussion, either talking in groups or as a class, which is usually kind of disapointing. I definitely feel like I never got anything additional out of lecture that I didn't get from the readings, which makes class feel pointless. Two guest speakers, Prof. Carl Hart from the psych department and a NYC police officer were really great. Also, there is a more of an emphasis on the sociology of crime than on law, which may be good or bad depending on what you're more interested in learning.

May 2009

I don't usually write CULPA reviews, but I decided to on this one because the previous reviewers were a little too harsh. I took Professor Shedd's course this semester and genuinely enjoyed it... although it's true that she wasn't teaching any math or statistics in this context. To start off, while I love Professor Shedd, it's true that she's not the best lecturer. She used PowerPoint and when she would elaborate on various points I often found it difficult to take coherent notes. This didn't really bother me, however, because you really didn't need your notes for any of the assignments (there were no in class exams - just take home assignments which you just needed the readings for). She also didn't actually lecture all that much. Even though this was a "lecture" course, she devoted a huge amount of time to class discussion (which counted 10% of your grade) and she did a great job raising interesting questions and getting people in the class talking. My class had a bunch of outspoken GS students with "real world" experience, and this generally made class interesting. I should also mention that she took attendance almost every class. I thought Professor Shedd put together a really interesting syllabus. While some of the readings were redundant (too much about race & crime), the workload was not very intense. This is the only sociology course I've taken, but I never had any problem completing all of the reading - which consisted mostly of journal articles & book chapters - and it was definitely less than what you'd find in a history course. The readings were also interesting; I especially liked this book assigned on Willie Bosket that we read over spring break. Besides reading, we had to do a total of 10 memos, in which we "reflected" on that week's material, brief a supreme court case, complete a case study analysis, write a book review, attend and summarize a criminal court proceeding and complete a take home final exam. She had relatively high standards on all written work, but I didn't have trouble getting A's as long as I wrote a few drafts (she won't accept sloppiness). There also are sooooo many assignments that if you don't do well at first you can definitely improve!