I’m a baby boomer. I was raised in a Minnesota suburb during the 1950s. I really took to reading, and I often read the magazines and newspapers in my parents’ and grandparents’ homes. People recall the 50s as a placid decade, but I remember reading lots of worried articles. Senator McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover warned about Communist subversion, of course, but there were plenty of other 50s fears, such as juvenile delinquents, rock and roll, organized crime, and inadequate schools. My fascination with social problems began early.

Today, I’m a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. My writing focuses on understanding how and why we become concerned with particular issues at particular moments in time–why we find ourselves worried about road rage one year, and identity theft a year or so later. I’ve written about the ways bad statistics creep into public debates, and about dubious fears, such as the mistaken belief that poisoned Halloween candy poses a serious threat to our kids.

If you’re interested in my work, please contact me at joelbest@udel.edu.