159 posts categorized "Social Institutions: Work, Education, and Medicine"

November 14, 2016

Institutional Discrimination: An Inadequate Concept

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

This post is based on a sociological riddle: How is it possible that we live in a country full of racism and sexism, and yet very few people are willing to admit that they are racist or sexist? In other words, how can racism and sexism be so pervasive in a country devoid of racists and sexists?

This sociological riddle has been gnawing on my mind for many years. And my preoccupation with it has gotten much worse with the election of Donald Trump. Trump ran on a campaign of open and unabashed racism, sexism, and xenophobia, among other forms of intolerance. He was even endorsed by white nationalist groups like the Klu Klux Klan. And yet, during his campaign and after his victory many of his supporters denied that they harbored racist or sexist sentiments. Donald Trump himself even proclaimed on many occasions that “I am the least racist person” and “there’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do.”

It is certainly troubling that the president-elect of the United States is now the poster child for a society of racist and sexist deniers; however, the deeper problem is that if no one is willing to admit to holding these views then the possibility of ever ridding ourselves of these forms of oppression is remote to nil. And to make matters worse, the situation is unintentionally exacerbated by the one answer that is often given to this sociological riddle: institutional discrimination.

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October 19, 2016

Tips on Successfully Taking Exams in Sociology

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Nobody really likes exams—professors don’t particularly like grading them, and obviously given the choice most students would opt out of taking them. But they are typically a requirement of educational social institutions that want to remain accredited institutions of higher learning.

Instructors create different types of exams, so there really aren’t one-size-fits all instructions on how to take them. Keep your instructor’s suggestions in mind as you prepare for exams in each class. But the following tips will likely apply more often than not.

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October 17, 2016

Where Young Adults Live and Why

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you want to move out of your parent(s)’ home, go to college. And be sure graduate.

A recent report by the Pew Research Center found that living with parents is now the most common living arrangement for young adults aged 18 to 34. Using census data going as far back as 1880, young adults in this age group are less likely to be living with a marital or romantic partner than in the past. They are also more likely to be living alone, with roommates, or heading a single parent household today than in previous years for which we have data.

In 2014, 32 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds lived with their parent(s). Living with parents in early adulthood had been common until the middle of the twentieth century; in 1940, 35 percent of people in this age group lived with parents, but by 1960 just 20 percent did. Why did the percent dip, and why has it risen since?

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October 04, 2016

Risk-Taking and the Celebration of Failure

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

I teach at a small liberal arts institution. As part of the college’s ethos, we believe in working with students to focus on a holistic education that fosters creativity, critical thinking, civic engagement, and social justice. In order to facilitate a greater and deeper education, several faculty members (including me) have talked about ways to encourage risk-taking among our students. This is difficult for a variety of reasons that include the possibility for failure. As a society, we have socialized ourselves into celebrating success and admonishing failure as, well, a failure. It is something to be ashamed of, feared, and avoided. This ideology frames everything from education policy to the design of social safety nets to promotion practices to how we answer well-meaning family members’ nosy questions about our lives.

But what if we flipped the narrative on failing? What if we instead viewed failure as part of the learning process and celebrated thoughtful failure? This is something we think we inherently know; how often do we tell children to try, try again. Or how many of us have seen inspirational quotes where successful people talk about all the times they failed, before they succeeded. Yet, when put into practice the idea of failing is still very scary.

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August 29, 2016

Bullying and “Doing” Gender

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

One of the most challenging concepts new students in sociology struggle with is the idea that gender is not just something we are born with, not just something we are socialized into as young children, but something that we actively “perform” throughout our lives. Might a more widespread understanding of how we “do” gender reduce bullying and violence?

Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman’s now classic Gender & Society article, “Doing Gender,” notes that “gender is not a set of traits, nor a variable, nor a role, but the product of social doings of some sort.” Gender is not just something we learn to perform in childhood, but something that we are continually performing, although we might not be aware of this process.

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August 18, 2016

The Logic of Consumption: Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In a recent post, I asked readers to think critically about the logic of consumption. This doesn’t mean that we start thinking about consumption as harmful, or that consumption is either good or bad. Instead, challenging the logic of consumption means that we acknowledge that we tend to view ourselves as consumers in arenas of social life where the consumer model doesn’t neatly fit. In that post, I used the examples of relationships and health as two modes of social life where viewing ourselves primarily as consumers can be problematic.

Education is another example where the logic of consumption fails both students and faculty.

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August 15, 2016

“Who You Gonna Call?” Movies and Representation

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

The summer blockbuster season, as with any year, includes everything from large-scale action films like Captain America: Civil War, to family-friendly flicks, such as Finding Dory, Secret Life of Pets, and The BFG.

Although I’m not a big moviegoer, I went to see the Ghostbusters remake of the 1984 classic during its opening weekend.   I enjoyed watching the original movie and the subsequent cartoon series as a child, but I didn’t really identify with any of the characters.   Given the controversy over the reboot of the film--particularly the critiques regarding the presence of redundant and reductive racial stereotypes--I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was also excited to see a movie with four female leads.  

Recent studies show that there is a persistent underrepresentation of speaking female characters (let alone protagonists) within the movie industry. The numbers are even lower for women of color and for members of the queer community. As I noted in a previous post, “Popular Culture, Race, and Representation,” these limited representations showcase the ways that our society devalues and undervalues nonwhite and female stories and experiences. A lack of representation also means a lack of role models and a missed opportunity to represent other voices and experiences.  

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August 09, 2016

Amazon’s Workplace Culture

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

In a previous post, I described my tour of an Amazon Fulfillment Center. I was impressed with the level of efficiency I saw there; it is important to understand how efficiency is supported by the company culture and social norms. I can only speak to what I saw on my short visit, but so much was apparent!

Once inside the warehouse, along the main walkway, there are posters reminding workers of the leadership principles, or "articles of faith" that serve as guideposts to workplace expectations behavior. Customer Obsession, Ownership, Learn And Be Curious, Hire And Develop The Best, Insist On The Highest Standards are just a few. These social norms are taken seriously; not only are they posted all over the place, but our tour leader mentioned that they are reinforced often through performance reviews and standing meetings.

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August 02, 2016

Amazon and Efficiency

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I recently took a tour of an Amazon Fulfillment Center. It took me two hours to drive there, but I got there on time – you cannot take the tour if you are late. The Center is located in a depressed industrial area, and you see many closed businesses until you turn a corner and see many, many long buildings. Other businesses also have distribution centers in this area, thus they weren’t all owned and staffed by Amazon. Yet.

I signed up for the tour a year and a half ago and received via email with a long list of rules. No hair below the shoulders, no purses or bags, close-toed shoes were required, and no kids under 6. Cellphones were okay to have, but we could not take photos once we entered. One could only reserve a maximum of four spaces at that time. Currently, there are no open dates because they are booked for the next year and a half.

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July 28, 2016

Using Other People’s Things: Collaborative Consumption, Norms, and Implicit Bias

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Over that past few weeks, my mother and eldest brother mentioned that they could not do what I’m doing. You see, this summer I’m spending time in Chicago to finish up data collection for an on-going project. Since I’m only going to be in the city for a few months, I’m renting a furnished condo that belongs to a woman I’ve never met. In fact, I’ve never even spoken to her; all of our communication happens via email. I think she’s traveling for the summer, but I don’t really know. I sit on her couch, watch her television, use her dishes, sleep on her bed, write blog posts using her desk, et cetera. It’s this intimate interaction with a stranger’s space and things that creeps out my family members. They can’t fathom allowing a stranger to use their home while they’re gone; and they can’t imagine how I’m able to stay in a stranger’s house.

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