INSIDE Chico State
0 September 21, 2000
Volume 31 Number 3
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Renegade Kids, Suburban Outlaws

Sociologist and alumnus Wayne Wooden signs his recent book.
Sociologist and alumnus Wayne Wooden signs his recent book.

Take a handful of "candy ravers," mix in some hip hop, punk, metal, and grunge, and you have a modern high school, said visiting scholar Wayne Wooden.

The CSU, Chico alumnus and professor of sociology at Cal Poly Pomona opened the semester's first Conversations on Diversity forum September 7 by discussing a frequent topic in his books: groups that have become alienated from society and how that impacts individuals and society at large.

The social demographics of high school youth and its implications are the subject of one of Wooden's latest books: Renegade Kids, Suburban Outlaws. The idea for the book arose after Wooden and his sociology students attended a mall re-opening to observe whether teens would be staking out their "turf." Sure enough, Wooden said, there were parts of every clique imaginable at the mall -- a place considered as much a turf for middle - to - upper - class suburbanites as neighborhoods are to inner-city residents.

Wooden said the ideas for his books spring from "happenstance." "They just come to me," he said. Chapters in the book were written with similar inspiration, such as the chapter on "tagging," or graffiti. Wooden said he drove to campus one day to find all of the surrounding freeway signs tagged with spray paint. A student told Wooden that her brother was the head of the tagging gang responsible for the incident, and that he would practice painting while hanging upside down for hours in order to simulate the conditions they would face. Wooden interviewed with her brother, and the rest became a chapter.

When asked about his theories on the recent increase in youth violence, Wooden said he attributes it to loneliness, boredom, and a generation of youth living in isolated "country club settings" while the parents are working and usually not paying enough attention to their children. "The parents are away, and they tend to be disconnected from everyone," Wooden said.

The first edition of Renegade Kids was published in 1995, before the shootings at Columbine High School. In the latest edition, Wooden included a chapter titled "Suburban School Shooters." "What's changed is that there is heavy Internet access for lonely, alienated kids," he said. "They have always had the room, the technology, and the music, but now the difference is that they have the Internet."

Wooden graduated with a B.A. in social sciences in 1965 and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.

A professor at Cal Poly Pomona since 1981, Wooden was awarded the Professor of the Year award in 1988-89 and 1995-96. His published works include Children and Arson: America's Middle Class Nightmare and Men Behind Bars: Sexual Exploitation in Prison. His book

Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock, and Paydirt was nominated for the Western Writers of America Spur Award and the national Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Award in nonfiction.

The Conversations on Diversity are sponsored by the Committee for Arts and Lectures, the Department of Sociology, the Center for Multicultural and Gender Studies, and Building Bridges, a year-long series of events promoting tolerance and respect. -- RL


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