Crypto-Criminology – The Gothic Nature of Crime

April 10th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

Crypto-criminology refers to the dark, devious and dangerous side of human nature. That strain of humanistic proclivity that crosses the boundaries of civility into brutality. This is a realm of “practical criminology”, applicability to the real world, where human behavior defies profiling, prediction and precise definition. Such an investigation descends to the depths of human depravity, to damp gloomy dungeons of mental mayhem. For which, modern science has no useful, effective and efficient means to explain all the possibilities. Of course, myth, magic and metaphor are allusions constantly present within this region of discussion. In one sense, it’s the exploration of human evil and all its inherent manifestations. And, in another sense, crypto-criminology seeks to delve into the mystery of why people commit crimes. This is an assessment of criminal behavior to walk the eerie landscape of human deviance that foments criminality. The search for modern explanations includes consideration of the influence of “gothic metaphors” in literature, movies and other mass media. As such, “crypto” refers to the hidden, the secret and the unrevealed. Like the word “gothic”, reference is made to the primitive and primeval notions of human nature. A world of howling psychic werewolves, dreams of death and demonic influence. That subterranean mindset of monstrous meanings, vampiric violence and cunning cruelty.

In similarly related aspects of study, there is the term cryptozoology. This often refers to the investigation of unknown or missing “animal” life forms. From this point, we could extrapolate that “crypto” suggests the hidden, secret and mysterious nature of living things. By connection, there are also the elements of knowing, studying and understanding unexplained phenomena. Such a notion aptly concerns the field of criminology. To this day, we have a multitude of so called schools of thoughts. All of which fall short of satisfactory explanations. The result has been a misguidance of social policy, public confusion and failed application within the criminal justice system. Fact merges with fiction, and contemporary society flounders in the flawed chase of illusion and fabrication.

As truth becomes entangled with untruth, metaphors assert their presence to stumble at clear-cut rationalizations. The more we label, define and profile people the more we find the difficulty in understanding the commissions of crime. So, the pursuit of the inexplicable nature of humans follows the mystifying pathways of baffling occurrences, bizarre incidents and sordid acts of debauchery. “Crypto” pursues the macabre mind, especially in terms of primal existence, event selectivity and criminal causality. People make premeditated choices to commit crimes. Even the most atrocious acts of violence are planned and carried out with a uniqueness of logic and rationality. Yet, we stand in awe, shock and horror when such things occur. Maybe its because we see a sense of ourselves in the violence, aggression and destruction. In this sense, crypto-criminology is presented as a mental mechanism by which to pursue a course of study in deviant behavior. And, as a consequence, that behavior that causes injury, trauma and death. By inquiry into the strange, perplexing and complex nature of criminology, we find the seductive connectivity to gothic notions of fable, legend and allegory. Suffice it to say, the secretive, dark and shadowy mental process of human behavior remain elusive to various fields of the “pseudo sciences”.

In particular, the nature of evil eludes the precision of definitive understanding or specificity of prediction. It remains dark and buried in the fantasy of myth, magic and daydreams. So, in the realm of practical criminological issues, we look for alternatives on multi-dimensional levels. Avenues of the chase bring the forefront premeditated capers on fringes of the exotic, the supernatural and the gothic. Or, preferably the ever-expanding realm of “crypto-criminology”. These cerebral processes engage in the eternal warfare of balancing the struggle between good and evil. Myth, magic and metaphor surface in watery illusions of psychic aberrations. As we think, so do we act. To know, be and do is human nature. When we fantasize, we also want to touch, feel and sense the manifestations of our creativity. Take it from one dimension to another. Lift it out of the psyche into the real world.

Looking in the mirror, ours is a reflection of what the face of evil looks like. Criminals are us and we are them. The only difference, some control their behaviors, while others choose not to. We’re the lone gunman on the grassy knoll. And, we’re also werewolf hunter with the silver bullets, stealthily stalking in our own delusions. For us, ghouls, specters and phantoms huddle in the hidden caverns of the brain’s special mirror, the mind. Figments of imagination find eventual fruition in urges, desires and motives. Gloomy thoughts hunger after the lust of life and the opposition of death. The study of crime, criminals and criminalistics, should never cease searching the limitless spires of human thinking. Crypto-criminology asserts a developing foundation of inquiry into the deep murky projections of mental reflections. And, in this eternal quest, our sleight of hand tactics become one of answering which is the final question. Is it a who done it? Or, is it a why done it? If the latter, then why?

For a basic investigative query, we flip the pages of the basic continuum in the who, what, why, where, when and how? Open minded, interdisciplinary and logical, we should consider the mischief afoot by following rigorous investigative efforts, insights and intuition. This enigmatic inquiry presses toward the cagey weirdness of human beings. If, as some suggest, we’re “mind hunters”. And, the mind is an illusion the brain conjures. Then, aren’t we really hunting something that doesn’t exist? An apparition from the abyss of human ideation, deep in the caverns of the cerebral processes? From religion to science, and everything in between, we baffle ourselves. Questions remain unanswered in the quest of greater understanding of human personalities, motives and proclivities. By dreams and fantasies we create our inner world, which transforms at a constant rate. Figuring out deviant behavior becomes one of speculation and educated guess work. Most of which, we can’t begin to comprehend. The vast reaches of the mystery confound the scientist, the priest, the press and politicians. When relegated to the philosophical regions of metaphysics, such as religion, the universe of ideology is wide open to speculation. The dreamscape of the dominion of human darkness invites the images of vampires, werewolves and demons. Supernatural entities exude a kind of special attachment in our furtive trickery cryptic mental wanderings. The human puzzle has a multitude of pieces. Putting them all together occupies a timelessness that never ceases. In an evil world, anything is possible. Even the surprising strain of goodness.

Overall though, we struggle in criminology to establish accurate measures of human behavior. Confused by one theoretical constructs after another, we reach for myth, magic and metaphor to express our frustrations in finding the ultimate answer. And still, we have to accept that human evil stems from human thinking. A medieval realm cloaks the desires, motive and intentions of the things we do. At the same time, various “schools of thought” contend with controversial notions pertaining to core essence of human beings. Such is the sensual realm of good and evil, vice and morality, normal and abnormal, natural and deviant. Wickedness, malevolence and immorality touch every level of society. Human hypocrisy colludes to cover and conceal exposing truths. Contemporary explanations of criminal behavior have failed, yet some cling to simplistic notions and deceptively easy solutions. Fad, fashion and quick fix foster the inadequacy of effective explanations. From biological theories to sociological configurations, the search for precise determinants of our criminal nature cannot deduce a specificity of factors. Instead, what we have is a multiplicity of academic theories subject to wide speculation. We’re left with stumbling in pursuing the darkness of human inclinations. Thus, we put on our black capes, grab crucifixes and holy water. Pick up wooden stakes and load silver bullets to become “mind hunters” to “hunt monsters”. To which, we discover the complications of the human safari. Hiding in the psychic landscape is the brain’s creativity, which is an illusion for mysterious cryptic cerebral processes.

Within the complexity of human behavior, resides the potential for criminality in all of us. Influential in this process of individual ideation, is the role of religious beliefs and associated philosophical ideologies. All over the world, people of different faiths, practices and rituals project personifications of evil, devils and demons. It is reflective in the expressions of our assorted world-view. We relish in seeing badness on the outside and never on the inside. Our mental housing keeping is very private. Thus, seeing God and Satan in mortal combat mirrors the Jekyll-Hyde constructs of our own personalities. To this end, wicked forces are seen to walk the earth, tempting men and women to do deviant things. Variations of “evil figures and forces” reflect cultural assertions about human nature in a planetary scheme. So, the ideas of dark images, primitive urges and gloomy scenery persist in our thinking about crime causation.

This duality of thought, good versus evil, portrays the ongoing allegory of our cosmic struggle. Such notions influence our reference points about the nature of crime. The who done it is always a why done it. Motive marks the myths of our thoughts. Often in the assorted media, we allude to the temptations of dark side of human behavior. In doing so, our fairy tales mingle with reality and merge fact with fiction. In chasing urban legends, we conjure up “vampires or werewolves” to explain deviance and criminality in others. Folk tales, fables and related stories evoke images of imaginary manifestations. The dungeons of our mind mirror the psychic proclivities of our personal seductions. We allow ourselves to be pulled toward the covetousness of our gain. From the yarns we spin, the chronicles of our thoughts hold the secrets relative to our motives and intents.

Crypto-Criminology takes us into these mental archives where we’ve filed our allegorical enchantments. The cryptic logic, by which we rationalize, excuse and mitigate atrocities, resides in this subconscious surreal realm of belief. Such prurient carnality lives in the vast legerdemain of our psychic. We don’t want to think about the nature of our own inherent inclinations. Our penchant toward shadowy selfishness, conceited and deviant activities, is worrisome and makes us anxious. But, we are the demons and they are us. Our self-interests come before those of others when ever possible. We’ll go to any lengths to get what we want, when we want. To fulfill the fantasies of our ideation, people are capable of any act of debauchery, defiance and deception. Nefarious deeds know no boundaries in the darkened tunnels of the human mindset. Given the pervasive extent of contemporary media forms, criminological fact has folded behind the curtains of fictional depiction. The visualization of a conception of evil has become a contemporary preoccupation in both story telling and real-life. Its linkage finds the pathway to the unconscious regions of mental processes. Mystifying conduits between fantasy and reality surround the senses. Our thinking provokes intrusion into consciousness. Once there, we find ways and means to project the expressions of the psycho-drama taking place within. The darkness of human spirit ignites the flames of a personalized “holy war” in the struggle of individual good and evil. In the shaded gloominess of the dark encounters, ours is the face of enemy which we created in our own image. Accordingly, the search continues for a comprehensive revelation concerning this perplexing species called humankind.

References:…

“Crime and the Gothic: Sexualizing Serial Killers”, by Caroline Picart, Florida State University, 2006 – School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, Journal of Justice and Popular Culture;

Peck, M. S., People of the Lie – The Hope or Healing Human Evil, (New York, NY: Simon and Shuster, 1983), pages 40-41;

Schmalleger, F., Criminology Today – An Integrative Approach – Fourth Edition, (Upper Saddle River: Pearson-Prentice Hal, 2006) page 173;

Baumeister, R. F., Evil – Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, (New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1996), pages 66-67;

Keen, Sam, Hymns to an Unknown God – Awakening the Spirit of Everyday Life, (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1994), pages 60-61;

Biographical Sketch of Randy Gonzalez

Guiding Principles For Educational Reform

March 10th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

One reads a great deal concerning education reform nowadays. It might almost seem as if this were some new trend in education. Indeed, it is not. I have been an educator for over thirty years. My field of expertise is reading. After teaching in a regular elementary classroom for a couple of years, I completed a master’s degree in reading and learning disabilities. Except for a five year break to attend seminary and serve as a full time minister, I have been a teacher of elementary reading. In 1995, I completed a doctorate in reading/educational psychology. At that point, I began teaching reading methods in a college setting.

Over my thirty years of involvement in education, I have seen many, many reforms. Some have come from the right, others from the left. In the field of reading, when I began my teaching, basal reading programs were in, and we attempted to teach every skill known to humanity. Next, whole language gained quite a following. Next, an oldie, but a popular one, reappeared: phonics. Now we are emphasizing a balanced approached-I think that is likely a step in the right direction.

We can easily extend this discussion beyond the boundaries of reading. When I started attending elementary school in 1960, math was a “drill and kill” activity. The expectation was learning of the basic math facts and procedures whether you understood them or not. It is rather easy to see if you learned under this method. Just attempt to explain “conceptually” why 1/2 divided by 4 is 1/8, and why to arrive at that one must “invert and multiply.” I am surprised at how many cannot explain the multiplication and division of fractions at the conceptual level.

When I was about half way through my elementary school education, the so-called “new math” hit the educational world. I remember well spending most of my fourth-grade year (when it started in Kansas City) marking that 5 + 2 > 1 + 3. I liked this math. I was not too good at the old stuff, and I found this a breeze.

People become very opinionated about educational reform. I have seen many a battle over the issue of whole language vs. phonics. It seems like everyone gets involves. Classroom teachers form strong opinions. Politicians form strong opinions and include reform as part their political platform. They know education is a hot button issue with voters. One group that I watch with great diligence is the religious right. It seems as if they have turned such aspects of educational reform as phonics-based reading instruction and support for the No Child Left Behind Act into something resembling religious dogma. It seems to make little sense, turning reading methods into a religious or quasi-religions crusade, but that is what the leaders of the religious right seem committed to support (James Dobson, for example).

I reiterate: educational reform is not new. With that notion disposed of, I would like to suggest three principles of any lasting and useful educational reform. These are characteristics of reform supported over the long haul by much research and dictated by commonsense. I have arrived at these through observation of reform cycles that I have seen throughout my years of work as an educator.

First, education reform cannot be test-driven. Currently, the watchword is accountability. From this perspective, teachers are cagey, lazy actors who need to have their feet held to the fire to make them perform. I have observed thousands of teachers over the years, worked with thousands of pre-service teachers, and supervised well over a hundred student teachers. I must admit, one does rarely encounter a lazy, careless teacher, but it is unusual. The attempt to control teachers and student achievement by means of standardized tests is a misguided approach.

A recent study by the Educational Testing Service, makers of the SAT and nationally used teacher certification exams, revealed that there is much in student performance that cannot be controlled by schools. In fact, ETS discovered four variables: absenteeism, the percent of children living in single parent families, the amount of television kids watch, and how much preschoolers are read to daily by caregivers (especially parents) were very accurate predictors of reading test results used for No Child Left Behind reporting in eighth-grade. It seems that learning involves many variables (the four factors accounted for over two-thirds of the differences in aggregated state testing results). Home factors are things that schools and teachers cannot control.

Instead of testing and testing yet more, a better use of funding would be the improvement of conditions for parents and families. Funding Head Start results in a measurable increase in IQ scores for disadvantaged children. Why not continue to fund enriched environments for Head Start children when they leave the program and help retain ground already gained? Why not fund more “parents as first teachers” programs to go into the homes and teach parents how to help get their preschoolers ready for school? Why not spend more money eradicating poverty-especially since that seems to be the real issue?

Second, an effective reform program would insist on scope and sequence. By scope, I refer to the content taught, by sequence, I refer to when content is to be mastered. This was one of the downfalls of the whole language movement. It taught reading without any real coordination of materials, curriculum, or expectations for mastery in terms of when expected benchmarks should be met. Much more coordination of teaching needs to take place and curriculum guides and agreed upon content are essential.

At the same time, I am not implying that methodology needs to be completely standardized. There needs to be some general guidelines on how to go about doing things. Still, teaching is as much art as science. To address methodology too much turns teaching into a mechanical act, and we know that the relationship, or blending, of teacher and learner are all important concepts. What we need are standards and benchmarks without denying teachers the authority to make hundreds and thousands of critical decisions each day. What we need are flexible standards and flexible benchmarks.

Lastly, we need a new way of doing things. After all of the years of reform, after all the years of researching what works, an amazing trend is notable. Educational critic and researcher, John Goodlad, notes that the most common activity one observes in today’s elementary schools is seatwork (i.e. worksheets, quiet work from textbooks, etc). The most common activity noted in high schools is lectures. Both of these approaches are notoriously ineffective. Just consider lectures, for example, how often do you “zone out” during sermons? And, if you do attend, what keeps you “plugged in?”

We have lost the wisdom shared with us by John Dewey so many years ago and supported by study after study. Children learn best by doing. Kids need to make a classroom democracy, not just study government in their civics textbook. They need to come up with ways they can recycle and begin a neighborhood recycling program, not just read about pollution. Education needs to become real. The real is better than the contrived. As psychologist Jerome Bruner has pointed out, doing is better than seeing, and seeing is better than just reading or hearing about something. Probably the best approach combines all three methods.

Reforms come and go. However, on these three principles, we can arrive at a reform that will stand the test of time. All of us want our schools to improve. Isn’t it time to skip the political rhetoric of the right (including the religious right) and the left and do what is best for kids? Isn’t it about time?

James Alexander is a professor of elementary education at a liberal arts college in Kentucky. He holds graduate degrees in theology and education and earned his doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of Arkansas. His interests are in literacy education, philosophy, and the impact of fundamentalism in society. He maintains a blog related to fundamentalism at http://repentantfundie.blogspot.com He has published numerous articles and book chapters on education as well as religion. His latest book, Stories of a Recovering Fundamentalist: Understanding and Responding to Christian Fundamenta