207 posts categorized "Behind the Headlines"

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.

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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" »

February 27, 2014

The Social Evolution of Gender

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

In February 2014, Facebook updated the choices that users can use to describe their gender. Their options for gender were previously limited to “male” and “female” but it seems that Facebook is acknowledging both the cultural patterns outside our dominant cultural norms and the ability of people to define themselves, particularly in social settings.

These, according to Slate.com are the 56 choices for “gender” on Facebook.

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February 10, 2014

Parsons, Seeger, and Marx

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Pete Seeger, one of many well-known sociology majors, passed away in January 2014 at the age of 94. His education in sociology reflects a specific time and place in history and his life experiences and impact on society reflect changes within sociology itself.

Seeger was a folk singer and activist, best known for songs like "If I Had a Hammer" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" As is widely reported, he went to Harvard in 1936 to major in sociology to prepare for a career in journalism. Two years into the program, he dropped out (or, after failing an exam or failing to take an exam, he lost his scholarship).

Continue reading "Parsons, Seeger, and Marx" »

February 06, 2014

“Affluenza,” Privilege and Justice

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Last year, Ethan Couch, 16, drove drunk and killed four people and severely injured two others in Texas. The case made national news when during the sentencing face his legal team claimed that he “suffered” from “affluenza”. In other words, the teen got everything he wanted and did not learn that his actions had consequences because his parents were lenient. The judge allowed him to go to a treatment facility, funded by his parents to the tune of $450,000 a year, instead of prison.

Affluenza is not a new term—when I was in high school in the 1980s my school district sent pamphlets to parents warning them of the dangers of giving kids too much—and it is not actually a psychiatric diagnosis.

Continue reading "“Affluenza,” Privilege and Justice" »

February 03, 2014

The Olympics and the Politics of Sport

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 I love being a sociology professor. I really do. But as a young kid growing up, I did not lay awake at night dreaming about teaching and writing. Instead, like many young boys I aspired to be a professional athlete. More specifically, I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Ever since I was a nine-year old watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics, I was trying to figure out what sport would give me the best chance to make the U.S. national team.

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January 13, 2014

A Sociological Snapshot of Selfies

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 Twerking. Phablet. MOOC. Flatform. Bitcoin. Apols. Omnishambles. These are just some of the new words that were added to the Oxford Online Dictionaries in 2013. All of these words found their way into the popular vernacular of the English-speaking world during the past year and were used widely in various settings. But the unanimous choice for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was selfie. In fact, among the staff at Oxford there was not even any debate; selfie was the hands-down, clear-cut winner.

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January 02, 2014

Sociology and Discomfort

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Over the last few weeks two professors’ job security has been shaken over students’ complaints after feeling uncomfortable by the content and presentation of course material. Both have made national headlines and raise serious questions about academic freedom. 

The first was Dr. Shannon Gibney, a Communications Professor who was reprimanded by the Minneapolis Community and Technical College administration when three white students complained about a lesson on structural racism.

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