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16 J. Crim. Just. Educ. 340 (2005)
Horton the Elephant Is a Criminal: Using Dr. Seuss to Teach Social Process, Conflict, and Labeling Theory

handle is hein.journals/jcrimjed16 and id is 344 raw text is: JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE EDUCATION VOLUME 16 NUMBER 2 (OCTOBER 2005)

Horton the Elephant is a
Criminal: Using Dr. Seuss to
Teach Social Process,
Conflict., and Labeling
Angela D. West
It is fairly well known that Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) often used art and
storytelling as political and social commentary, but no one has attempted to
interpret his work through the tens of socioLogical/criminological theory. This
paper argues that several of his tales can be used as aids in teaching the basic
principles of many sociological/criminological theories. The author analyzes
several of his works and uses one, Horton Hears a Who to illustrate his subtle
but powerful commentary on the creation and application of laws, the impact of
social stratification, the pervasive and dangerous influence of social and politi-
cal power derived from economic power, and the nature of crime, punishment,
and rehabilitation. The author describes how to create a classroom exercise to
teach theory using this particular Seuss story.
Teaching theories of crime and criminality can be challenging because the
majority of theories derive from more generalized theories of behavior. Crimi-
nology, as a social science, has evolved (and continues to evolve) from sociol-
ogy, social psychology, psychology, and other sciences (e.g., economics,
political science). Therefore, the criminological theory instructor must have an
understanding of those fields, in addition to how those theories are applied to
criminal behavior and to the processing of offenders through the system.
One major difficulty is the tendency for instructors (and students) to desire
neat categorizations of theories, based on some epistemology or paradigm. For
example, leading criminology texts tend to differentiate and/or classify theories
*A version of this paper was presented to the American Society of Criminology, Denver, Colorado
(November 2003).
ISSN 1051-1253 print/1745-9117 onLine/05/020340-19
Routledge     © 2005 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
Taylor&Fn-S Gop  DOI: 10.1080/10511250500082302

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