Acclaimed MSU Sociologist Carl Taylor Honored for Lifetime of Work Reducing Youth Violence

Feb 18, 2019

Renowned Michigan State University sociologist Carl Taylor is being honored by the university with the MSU Community Engagement Scholarship Lifetime Achievement Award. 


This award program has been established to provide university-wide recognition for senior faculty members of outstanding sustained accomplishment in community engaged scholarship through research, creative activities, teaching and/or service, and practice over the span of a career. Due to the highly selective nature of this recognition, it is intended to be conferred rarely and only as warranted by a truly exemplary body of work.

Given Dr. Taylor's long years of collaboration and leadership in University-community partnerships anchored in the rigor of scholarship designed to improve community life, MSU is honored to present Dr. Taylor with this award.

“I’m humbled by this award,” says Taylor, whose research is focused on reducing violence among American youth. His work has evolved over the years.

“It focused in the beginning on urban America and in particular Detroit,” Taylor says. “That means we're looking at post-industrial America, post-industrial Detroit. And it's a very conflicted viewpoint, my work is. It started with me looking at really - I don't like the word inner city because Detroit is designed funny - but it definitely is the urban location and urban schools. There is a tightening knit fabric of social justice and social injustice.

“We're now looking at the dissolution - I think, very strongly - of public education. We're looking at the loss of employment and the introduction of artificial intelligence. More importantly I think we have ignored, or not put enough focus on, the disintegration of the American family in different communities, in particular the black community.”

Taylor discusses the challenges and opportunities facing Detroit, other urban centers, and, really, the entire nation. And he talks about the profound impact former MSU president Clifton Wharton had on him. Taylor was part of Wharton’s Presidential Fellows Program at MSU.

”That was the pivotal turn in my very young career. I was very fortunate to be exposed to the Wharton's, not just Dr. Wharton, but also Mrs. Wharton.”

Taylor talks about how students have changed over the years and how the curriculum has changed to adapt.

“One of my major protests as a professor in the classroom - and it's the whole society – is we don't read newspapers. How we get our information has changed. I think that's hurt us tremendously. I see it in the students. We used to have more contact one-on-one, or even collectively, with human beings. What we have now is more interaction with what you're surrounded by, the technology. Phones.

“That's how it's changed immensely. They don't read, which drives me nuts because I love books.”

Dr. Taylor is somewhat optimistic about the future.

“I've had enough experience with being pessimistic to know that is not the answer. As far as being optimistic, in some shades I am. I run into that student or that coworker or someone who's not allowing themselves to become entangled in all the modern technology.”

Solutions?

“I think number one, Americans and America have always done what they want. We are a superpower and what we value is where we place our resources. I think our two greatest challenges are, first, family. The reality is that we need to come together with agreeable, functional, basic training or understanding. That's what we used to have. Families are the foundation for everything else.”

Taylor shares his thoughts on Larry Nassar’s impact on MSU and his frustration with the ubiquitous social media.

“If I was a czar I would put away this nonsense with the violence. I just wouldn't tolerate violence. I wouldn't promote it.

“I would really work one-on-one with families. I think that we need something like a Peace Corps to go in. And it's not only an urban issue. I'm seeing very tough times in rural communities, too. The rural folks are part of our family as Americans also.

“I would work to develop more unity; we're afraid of each other. We can agree to disagree. You and I, we don't have to hate each other because we don't agree on something, you know?

“I think that more public education is important. And public education goes beyond the bricks and mortar. Public education is in our spiritual faith-based institutions, but is also about the atmosphere that we create.

“I think right now, what's very depressing, I talked to a young woman this morning whose brother just had a heart attack this morning and passed. I was desperately trying to get her, because she's poor, some good mental health support. And that's something that we don't talk about enough. We don't put money into mental health. We should have passed this whole era of: ‘You're cuckoo, you're crazy.’ Mental health is as important as physical health. They go hand in hand. So we need to support that and we need to be able to support and help folks. You know the old saying: Do I teach you to fish or do I give you a fish? I want to teach you to fish so you can get your own.

“And we have to create meaningful jobs for people, and education is critical. The technology's important. How far do we go with the technology? That's the question I have.

“I think we need to just be a little more - not a little more - a lot more mindful of humanity.

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