8 posts from August 2013

August 30, 2013

Good Times and Social Problems

Pratt-HarrisPhotoBy Natasha 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" »

August 23, 2013

Living in the Land of Excessive Choices (sort of)

Peter_kaufmanBy 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)" »

August 19, 2013

Going on a Media Diet

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

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" »

August 15, 2013

Reducing Bias and Prejudice

RaskoffBy 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" »

August 12, 2013

Sacred Lines and Symbols: A Journey Through Japan

WynnBy 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:

Jw 1

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" »

August 08, 2013

Why Major in Sociology?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

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 sociology?

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 major.

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?" »

August 05, 2013

Discrimination, Prejudice and the Law

RaskoffBy 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, some protested.

Continue reading "Discrimination, Prejudice and the Law" »

August 01, 2013

Two-Wheeled Revolutions

Peter_kaufmanBy 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.

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