9 posts from March 2012

March 29, 2012

Hidden Headlines: Is Your News Censored?

Peter_Kaufman_Bio_PicBy Peter Kaufman clip_image002

More U. S. Soldiers Committed Suicide than Died in Combat

Obama Authorizes International Assassination Campaign

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Bigger than Continental U. S.

U. S. Schools More Segregated Today than in 1950s

U. S. Department of Defense Worst Polluter on Planet

Have you seen any of these headlines recently? Probably not. Most of these stories went unreported in the mainstream media. Unless you read alternative news sites or you subscribe to non-mainstream magazines or newsletters it is unlikely that you would have heard about any of these stories. And yet, just by their titles they seem to be the kind of stories that should garner more widespread attention.

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March 26, 2012

Science, Resistance and Cognitive Dissonance

imageBy Sally Raskoff

Science is the tool we have to get the most accurate information possible. But do we believe what science tells us? Especially when that information may counter what we want to believe or when authority figures tell us not to believe it?

The current debate on climate change is an excellent example, as is the older environmental debate on evolution and, of course, the even older debate about heliocentrism, or how the earth revolves around the sun (instead of the reverse). Science clearly shows that evolution occurs and the climate is changing. Yet there are groups that do not accept such information or the supporting evidence for it.

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March 22, 2012

Language and Culture

ksternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

Language both reflects and reproduces culture. Think about the words you use and how you use them on a daily basis: you learned those words from people around you, but the very fact that those words exist is linked with culture. It’s telling when we have multiple words for a similar concept or very few to describe something.

In American English, we have a seemingly endless supply of superlatives that we use even in mundane circumstances: awesome, incredible, fantastic, amazing, and many others. What does this tell us about American culture?

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March 19, 2012

Research Methods and Standardized Tests

imageBy Sally Raskoff

This weekend I helped a young relative with her homework. She’s six and in first grade. Her spelling homework consisted of various words, most with the “ook” ending, for which there were sentences to be copied and pictures to be drawn.

We spent quite a few minutes learning about how we took ourselves to the brook, put a worm on a hook, and, well, you can see where this is going.

I was amazed to see some of the worksheet as it didn’t make much sense to me, much less to her. One phrase had to do with how the worm “shook the hook” which, of course, left it empty. I say “of course” sarcastically since I did not assume that was what it meant but that is what the last sentence said.

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March 15, 2012

The Sociology of Education: Can Professors Teach?

clip_image001By Janis Prince Inniss

If you fail a required class, you would have to repeat it to get credit, right? And what are some of the factors that influence your grades, what you learn, how well you learn, and whether or not you pass a class?

As a teacher, I can make a healthy list of factors that contribute to students doing poorly—many of which rest squarely and completely on the shoulders of students and leave me and other professors completely guilt free. However, you would probably indict at least some of your professors with failing grades for the frustrations you experience with learning material. Most of us recognize that our professors’ abilities as educators vary and that teaching quality is one important aspect of the equation that accounts for student learning.

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March 12, 2012

Affirmative Action in College Admissions

imageBy S. Michael Gaddis, Doctoral Student

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The concept of affirmative action often sparks bitter turmoil in both the popular press and U.S. society as a whole. You may know that affirmative action is often cited as a way to combat an historical, ongoing, and ever-evolving presence of discrimination within society. You probably also have your own opinions on affirmative action, particularly in regard to college admissions. What you may not know, however, is that there is a legal history of affirmative action in college admissions in the U.S. and a debate over both its uses and its outcomes still wages today.

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March 08, 2012

Subcultures among Us: The Amish

clip_image001By Karen Sternheimer

Many people navigate living within both the broader society and a subculture that connects people together within a smaller group.The Amish are a unique subculture living in the U.S., in that they generally do not adopt the norms, customs, and lifestyle of the broader society.

As a recently aired PBS documentary detailed, the Amish live much as many other Americans did before the Industrial Revolution, in rural areas typically without electricity or most modern conveniences that many of us take for granted. They wear simple clothing and believe that too great a focus on individuality distracts from the devotion to God; likewise, technology interferes with this devotion as well as family connections. As one member told filmmakers, working the land is the best way to be closest to God, and many of the Amish today as in the past are farmers. (Click here to see a clip from another documentary, The Amish and Us.)

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March 05, 2012

The Covert Curriculum of College

imageBy Sally Raskoff

As each semester starts, continues, and ends, I’m reminded of what students learn both in and outside the classroom. At least two sociological concepts, hidden curriculum and latent function, could be used to explain what students are learning by taking college classes and moving towards earning a degree or certificate.

People come to college to take classes, creating their status as student. A particular set of expectations come with being a student; foremost among them is that of matriculation. Matriculation means to enter a college program, but it also means that students will have the intent of completing a program.

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March 01, 2012

The Unapologetic Society

Peter_Kaufman_Bio_PicPeter Kaufman

When was the last time you heard someone offer a sincere and genuine apology? I’m not talking about a sarcastic sorry, a begrudging apology or a forced confession. What I’m talking about is when someone says, “I’m sorry. It was my fault. I’m to blame and I take full responsibility for my actions.” Period. It seems like this sort of mea culpa is becoming increasingly rare in our society. Fewer and fewer people seem willing to hold themselves accountable for their behaviors.

Just think about all of the indiscretions that we hear about or experience in our daily lives: A politician having an extra-marital affair; an athlete using performance-enhancing drugs; a police officer arresting and detaining an innocent person; an entertainer making racist, sexist or homophobic comments; a student buying a paper off the Internet; or a friend engaging in an act of betrayal. In all of these instances it is rare for someone to readily confess and apologize for their transgressions. Too often, they only come clean when the evidence against them is too insurmountable to refute.

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