Despicable Professors and Beyond: An Analysis on Stanley Cohen’s Moral Panic Concept

Many times we fear a professor for the wrong reason or fear a professor that we never want to take that professor ever. Using the moral panic concept, I am going to argue that students, online professor rating websites, and other professors can greatly influence one’s fear in a particular professor. In my opinion, everyone falls to judgement, especially if our lives depend on it. That is, if our lives depend on a pending decision, we rely on other people’s judgement to make our decision. We do not make our own judgement because we assume that other people who have been on campus longer or have taken the professor know their stuff.I fell into this trap too.

Developed by Stanley Cohen, moral panic is when a person or group of persons who appears to be socially defined as an extreme threat by other people [1]. The Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy Era scare were examples of this. Sometimes students, professor rating websites and teachers can be those people that define another professor as a threat. Students may use strong and sometimes profane adjectives to define a professor. We associate profane adjectives with nasty people who we would rather avoid. Students can also succumb to and trust professor rating websites. If students see a low rating compared to a high rating, they know to avoid. Sometimes, but not always, other professors can hint to you whether a professor is hard or not. I have heard some professors say something to the effect of, ‘ ‘it’s not what you think’ . If some students hear this then they will avoid it because it is not an easy class. On the contrary, if the professor says all good things about the professor in question, the students will take the professor. However, sometimes if you base you decision off of others you will lose a chance to learn something from that professor or maybe that professor would be the best professor you ever had! Who knows!?

On a grander scale, I believe that moral panic has an effect on us not just in school, but in the world as a whole. The mass media bombards us with panics constantly. Despite the fact that crime is going down, we see on the news, like the 5 o’clock news, “someone shot, you can be the next victim tune in to watch more on how to protect yourself at 5″. These tag lines cause people to think that crime is everywhere and happens everyday. Similarly, the whole immigration issue in the 21st century has the same effect.

1. Bonn, Scott Alan. 2010. Mass Deceptions: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


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