8 posts from March 2014

March 28, 2014

The Dark Side of Seeing Only the Bright Side

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As a self-starter, I like self-help books, and have read or listened to number of audio books in the genre. I have listened to many books on discovering one’s passions and creativity, on personal finance, relationships, career building, and those promoting emotional well-being. I can truly say that I have learned a lot from them, and they have taught me how to understand myself and others better.

But even while listening, on occasion I am reminded of the limits of self-help books. For instance, many personal finance books suggest that readers control their spending—stop buying that daily latte, and eventually you will have a million dollars. Well, I don’t drink coffee, and I’m sure there are many people who cannot save or invest for a million dollars even if they don’t either. As a college professor, I am in the economic group that would likely benefit more from this kind of financial advice, say, compared with a low-wage worker who struggles to pay bills each month. Advising someone in these circumstances to skimp on coffee is not going to help them.

Continue reading "The Dark Side of Seeing Only the Bright Side" »

March 24, 2014

Sincerely Held Beliefs, the Law, and Non Believers

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Recent news on religion reminds me of one of my favorite non-fiction books, The Year of Living Biblically. Author A.J. Jacobs does his best to abide by the rules of the Bible to see just how hard it is to hold sincerely held religious beliefs in everyday contemporary life.

I think of Jacobs’ personal journey in regards to the wave of “religious freedom” laws that have been proposed in several different states. These laws use the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act to make the case that parts of the Affordable Care Act (e.g., providing birth control coverage) and servicing customers with different values and identities (e.g., particularly gays and lesbians) substantially burdens the free exercise of religion for business owners who have strong, sincerely held beliefs.

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March 21, 2014

The Context of Understanding World Events

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

How aware are you of world events? As you are reading this, whats happening in the world?

As I write this, there are things happening with Russia and the Ukraine and Crimea. The missing Malaysian airplane is still missing. I wonder if theyll find it by the time you read this?

There are many things going on in the world that concern people--if they know about them.

Continue reading "The Context of Understanding World Events" »

March 18, 2014

Stop and Frisk Through a Sociological Lens

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you live in or near New York, no doubt you have heard of a policing policy called “stop and frisk.” For those unfamiliar with the practice, stop and frisk involves police officers questioning and searching pedestrians for weapons if they deem them to be suspicious. This is different from an arrest, and there need not be a crime under investigation to justify a stop and frisk.  Instead, the idea is that this practice could stop a crime before it even happens.

In 2013, a judge ruled that stop and frisk was unconstitutional, as it was mainly used to stop—and many would argue harass—people of color on a daily basis. When Mayor Bill DiBlasio took office in 2014, he vowed that the police would discontinue the practice.

Continue reading "Stop and Frisk Through a Sociological Lens" »

March 13, 2014

Gentrification in Spike Lee’s Old Neighborhood

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The old complaints about how New York isn’t New York anymore are coming up again. In truth, they are rarely far from many people’s lips. All neighborhoods change, and at times those transitions can be quite unnerving and very, very personal. But it is a tricky issue that touches on race, class, and community.

Continue reading "Gentrification in Spike Lee’s Old Neighborhood" »

March 10, 2014

Peace and Friendship in Crimea

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

If you have been following the news you have probably heard a lot about Crimea. I’m guessing that many Americans had (or maybe still have) no idea where Crimea is or why we should care about it.

This has not been the case for me. Whenever I think of Crimea I always think of peace and friendship. Such a sentiment may seem rather odd given the current geo-political strife that is confronting that region of the world. With Vladimir Putin flexing his military muscles and President Obama spewing threatening cease and desist warnings, peace and friendship are not the keywords that one currently associates with Crimea.

Continue reading "Peace and Friendship in Crimea" »

March 06, 2014

Why My Paper is Late: Excuses and Justifications

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s the middle of the semester now, time for papers and exams. It’s also time to hear many excuses and justifications by some students about why their papers are late, why they can’t take an exam, or why they did not do as well as they could have on the exam.

Part of human interaction involves the explanations we provide about our behavior to one another, often to save face or create a positive impression of ourselves. In a classic 1968 article, sociologists Marvin B. Scott and Stanford Lyman define these explanations as accounts,  “statement(s) made by a social actor to explain unanticipated or untoward behavior.” They note that accounts come in two varieties: excuses and justifications.

Continue reading "Why My Paper is Late: Excuses and Justifications" »

March 03, 2014

Poverty Education and Tourism

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Walking through San Juan, Puerto Rico during the Feista de Calle San Sebastian, I left the touristy center of Old San Juan. Away from the blue cobblestoned streets and brightly colored colonial buildings of Puerto Rico’s most viable tourist bubble, I walked through an old gate. Locals say residents often stand guard in an attempt to dissuade people like me from entering the rundown area called La Perla.

Continue reading "Poverty Education and Tourism" »

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