C. Pratt-Harris, Assistant Professor & Criminal
Justice Program Coordinator
Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Morgan State University
When I was a college student, I scheduled classes
around syndicated episodes of Good Times, a 1970s sitcom about the intact African American Evans
family of five who lived in a housing project on the south side of Chicago. Although
the show had been off the air for nearly 15 years and I had watched
every episode, I found myself running
back to my dorm room between classes to watch the show.
I am sure that if YouTube or a smart phone were
around then, I would have had more ease in satisfying my Good Times fix. While I
thought I was being purely entertained, I was an evolving sociologist who was
experiencing social problems on the tube.
My near-obsession with the show made sense when I became a
professor. When I teach social problems
in the classroom, I often discuss the Good
Times story lines.
I had come to realize that what I once thought was purely humorous could
become a tool in an online class.
Continue reading "Good Times and Social Problems" »
By Peter Kaufman
When I was in college I practically
lived on cereal. It was the 1980s, I had just became a vegetarian, and I was
attending a college in the Midwest that had not really mastered the culinary
arts for the non-meat-eating student. They tried, but a slab of warm, unseas oned
tofu swimming in oil just didn’t cut it.
With limited options, the cereal
bar became my best friend. Although some students might bemoan having breakfast
for three meals a day I literally ate it up. What I liked best was that I had six different types of cereal from which
to choose. As someone who grew up on Cheerios and Wheaties, having three times
as many choices—much less having them available all day long—was cereal heaven.
I loved mixing and matching flavors and with only 120 combinations (5! for you
mathletes out there—I never included Raisin Bran in the mix), I was able to try
every conceivable mixture in a year.
Continue reading "Living in the Land of Excessive Choices (sort of)" »
For the last six months I have been undertaking an informal
experiment: I have no television reception at home.
This is all the more unusual considering I am a sociologist
who studies media and popular culture, and much of my writing focuses on media.
Friends and family have been confused; “I figured you could write your cable
bill off of your income taxes,” said one surprised friend. (For the record, I never have used cable as a
tax write-off, but I guess I could.) Even the lure of a potential tax write-off
has not made me want to pay for TV any more.
Continue reading "Going on a Media Diet" »
By Sally Raskoff
How can we work to reduce bias and prejudice?
In past research we have seen that working together on a
common task with equal status reduces bias and prejudice. The film, American History X,
has a good example of that as the main characters work together in the prison
laundry and slowly get to know each other as human beings rather than as
members of different races about which they have strong opinions. Homeboy Industries, the Los
Angeles gang intervention program that Karen
Sternheimer has blogged about, includes former gang rivals working together
to eliminate conflict. However, considering the issues of confirmation
bias, where we seek out information that reinforces our pre-existing
beliefs, not to mention the
impracticality of setting up such situations, these might not always work to
reduce bias and prejudice. What else can we do?
Continue reading "Reducing Bias and Prejudice" »
By Jonathan Wynn
One of the first things I
noticed when walking around Shinagawa-ku, an area in Tokyo, were these folded
paper ornaments outside of many homes and businesses. They looked like this:
I later learned that
these paper streamers, called shide,
were hung in preparation for a Shinto festival. A piece of paper might not be a
particularly religious object and yet, folded in this fashion, it
became a significant symbol to believers.
Continue reading "Sacred Lines and Symbols: A Journey Through Japan" »
If you are like many students who enjoy sociology classes,
you might be considering majoring in sociology. I get many students visiting my
office considering adding sociology as a major who want to know what kind of
job they might get with a major in sociology. The better question might be:
what can’t you do with a major in
As I wrote
about a few years ago, you learn many important critical thinking skills,
research tools, and knowledge about diverse populations when you study
sociology. Very few college majors have set career paths, and it is important
for each student to learn about what kinds of work environments they might
enjoy through internships, volunteer experiences, and on-the-job training when
possible. Very few college majors are specifically geared for job training;
instead, it is up to you to figure out what kind of career path you would like
to start on—keeping in mind that many people have several careers over the
course of a lifetime, some of which bear little relation to their original
Sociology lends itself particularly well to a double major,
or as a skill set to acquire along your chosen career path.
Continue reading "Why Major in Sociology?" »
By Sally Raskoff
When the U.S. Supreme Court makes decisions, it is to
enforce and clarify the limits of the law. We, the people, rejoice when legal
decisions come our way or compliment our point of view. When those decisions
are not aligned with our way of thinking, we complain.
In 1965, the Civil
Rights Act and other laws that were passed which resulted in advancements
in opportunity and equal rights based on race, ethnicity, and gender. In
response to the Civil Rights and women’s movements, many states eased their
laws restricting abortion and in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe
v. Wade decision improved women’s access to reproductive health care by
legalizing abortion and asserting a woman’s constitutional right to control her
own body and make decisions about her fertility. In June 2013, the U.S.
Supreme Court made two decisions that improved access to marriage rights
for same-sex couples.
In each set of decisions, some people applauded the changes,
Continue reading "Discrimination, Prejudice and the Law" »
By Peter Kaufman
This year the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA)
will take place in New York City. As much as I’m looking forward to spending a
long weekend with thousands of sociologists from around the world talking about
all things sociological, what I’m really excited about is not taking place
within the confines of the conference.
Continue reading "Two-Wheeled Revolutions" »