327 posts categorized "Social Problems, Politics, and Social Change"

January 29, 2016

Why Some Students Refuse to Learn

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

As a college professor, I often try to figure out the best way to help students learn. I solicit feedback from students and colleagues, I read journals and books on the scholarship of teaching and learning, I try out new exercises and assignments, and I reflect regularly on what strategies seem to be succeeding and failing in the classroom. I do this to try to find that elusive and magical formula that will automatically result in good teaching and learning. Although I know that this formula does not exist, I still stubbornly search for it and this ongoing pursuit is what helps me grow as an educator.

Recently, as I was thinking about ways to improve student learning I was reminded of one of my favorite essays on teaching and learning that is actually about not-learning. I am referring to Herbert Kohl's classic essay, "I Won't Learn from You." In this piece, written over 20 years ago, Kohl considers what it means for students to purposely not learn. He points out that some students actively engage in not-learning as a way to maintain control in a seemingly hostile world.

Continue reading "Why Some Students Refuse to Learn" »

January 22, 2016

Water Wars and Reliable Data: From Bolivia to Flint, Michigan

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

As an undergraduate majoring in Latin American and Latina/o studies, I remember watching a documentary about the Cochabamba protests against the World Bank's push for water privatization in the South American country of Bolivia. During the late 1990s-early 2000s, the country was the poorest in Latin America with 70% of Bolivians living below the poverty line.

Government officials attempted to remedy the economy by following a shock therapy model. This included the implementation of neoliberal reforms, such as halting state subsidies and the privatization of publicly-owned assets. Within Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia, privatization meant transference of the publicly held water system to a private consortium led by the Bechtel Corporation.

Continue reading "Water Wars and Reliable Data: From Bolivia to Flint, Michigan" »

January 15, 2016

Gay Marriage, Gun Control and Social Change

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Back in 2004, I was teaching an Introduction to Sociology class when I heard that the mayor of New Paltz was planning to perform same-sex marriages. At the time, the momentum in support of gay marriage had been building nationally and although New Paltz is a relatively small village (population 7,000), I knew the actions of the mayor would reverberate well beyond the town line.

Sensing the potential significance, I took a short walk to village hall to witness this event. I also encouraged the students in the Introduction to Sociology class to join me. I remember trying to convey to the class the historical meaning of the mayor's actions by saying, "30-40 years from now, when gay marriage is legal in the United States, you can tell your grandkids that you witnessed some of the first same-sex wedding ceremonies in the nation. " Little did I know that I would be offering such a pessimistic prediction. It didn't take 30-40 years for gay marriage to become legal; instead, it took only about 10 years. Most of the students in that class probably don't even have kids yet, much less grand kids.

Continue reading "Gay Marriage, Gun Control and Social Change" »

January 13, 2016

Thinking Sociologically about New State Laws

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Every New Year there is typically a new slate of laws that take effect, based on voter and governmental decision-making. Have you ever taken a look at those laws through a sociological lens? Are we enacting new laws – formalizing social norms – that make sense for the current state of our culture? How do these laws reflect changes in our society?

Every year, the Los Angeles Times publishes a list of these new California state laws. Their website has links to understand more about the story, per their reporting. The bullet points below are pulled from the 2016 list.

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December 29, 2015

If I Could Turn Back Time: Regressive Social Movements

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

When you imagine what an activist looks like, what comes to mind? The stereotypical "tree hugger?" A young, idealistic college student? A radical hippie from the 1960s? These are common images we have of activists, but they certainly don't fit all, or even most people involved in social movements.

We often think of social movements as progressive: a push for reform, a call for new ways of looking at an issue, or perhaps an expansion of rights for an oppressed group. But social movements can also be regressive: when people observe a change that has taken place that they feel is harmful, they call for a reversion to what they see as a better past. Rather than the stereotypes of activists mentioned above, activists might better resemble a college student's grandparent.

Continue reading "If I Could Turn Back Time: Regressive Social Movements" »

December 22, 2015

The Lottery as Gift: Who Wins?

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

I was trying to think about a good topic to write about for the holidays. We here at the Everyday Sociology Blog have covered shopping crowds and even a Durkheimian Christmas. Scanning for something commonplace, I was talking with a student who told me that her family always uses lottery tickets as Christmas stocking stuffers, and it got me thinking.

At first, it seems sort of charming: kids waking up Christmas morning for the chance to win money. I remembered, as a kid, scratching off a lottery ticket from an uncle, with a lucky coin. Certainly all those New York State lottery commercials I remember reinforced the whimsy: "Hey, you never know!" and "All you need is a dollar and a dream!" But, thinking about it more—and beyond the idea of the lottery as a form of gambling, and outside of The Hunger Games—the sociology kicked in quickly.

Continue reading "The Lottery as Gift: Who Wins?" »

December 15, 2015

Slacktivists, Hacktivists, and the New Faceless Agents of Social Change

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

When you think of social change activists what comes to mind? Do you think of a person with a megaphone shouting slogans to a group of supporters who are holding signs of protest, or do you think of a person lounging in bed with their tablet or smartphone? Most of us probably think of the first scenario, and we probably imagine this scene taking place in a public location such as a park, outside a government building, or on a city street. Some of the classic images we have of activists include the 1963 March on Washington, the Occupy Movements, and the Arab Spring.

Continue reading "Slacktivists, Hacktivists, and the New Faceless Agents of Social Change" »

November 23, 2015

The Impact of Place: Field Trips, Parks, and Farms

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

I recently took my Sociology of Urban America and Community Engagements classes to a field trip to Chicago. We visited the Englewood Growing Home Wood Street Farm and went on a 2-hour Toxic Tour of Little Village with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). As part of this outing, students learned about innovative approaches to community engagement and resident-led development, workforce development, and public-private partnerships. They also learned about the impact of environmental and structural racism on urban communities of color.

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November 09, 2015

University of Missouri and the Power of Student Protests

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

 Alone, you can fight,

you can refuse,

 you can take what revenge you can

but they roll over you.

These words come from Marge Piercy’s poem, "The Low Road." It is one of my favorite sociological poems about the potential power that is unleashed when people join together and fight for social change. I probably mention this poem at least once a semester in one or more of my classes and I will certainly be invoking it again as I discuss the recent events at the University of Missouri.

Black students at the University of Missouri have been protesting for months about ongoing racist incidents on campus. They are particularly frustrated by what they perceive to be the failure of the university’s administration, and particularly President Tim Wolfe, to adequately address these events. Using the hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950, in reference to the year that black students where finally admitted into the University of Missouri, the protesters were calling for the resignation or removal of President Wolfe.

Continue reading "University of Missouri and the Power of Student Protests" »

October 30, 2015

Urban Legends: Scary Stories and Halloween

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Year after year, sociologist Joel Best is inundated with calls from reporters during Halloween season. They call for a single reason, to debunk a story that you might have been told was true your whole life. Best has researched the claim that children are regularly poisoned by eating tainted Halloween candy, and found no evidence to support this widespread fear. (Check out his piece in The Society Pages on his experiences talking to reporters this year).

Continue reading "Urban Legends: Scary Stories and Halloween" »

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