8 posts from October 2013

October 30, 2013

Big Corporations and Big Social Programs


By Jonathan Wynn 

Having taught at a few different colleges and universities, I’ve had students who knew the real struggles of living in poverty and near poverty. But for every one of those students, there have been hundreds more who were unfamiliar with the anxieties of everyday economic uncertainty.  Poverty is a hard thing to teach about—both the very macro-level issues to the more personal, micro-level ones.

Although my blog post last year on McDonald’s was an invitation to think about work and compensation at a global scale (on The Big Mac Index) recent news offers us a chance to connect the dots between the big headlines of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, news on new campaigns against low wage pay for fast food work, and those everyday economic hardships. In all the talk about the Affordable Care Act, I’ve seen too much about broken websites and not enough about those unemployed and low-wage workers who need healthcare.

Continue reading "Big Corporations and Big Social Programs " »

October 22, 2013

The Power of Parks and Museums

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As many cities and communities face budget cuts, parks and other cultural gathering places often seem like unnecessary extravagances. For individuals recover from the economic downturn, going to the theater, a ballet or opera might also be far too pricey. The city of Detroit may even auction off its art museum’s treasures in order to cope with bankruptcy. But the arts and public places for recreation can redefine communities, socially, culturally and economically.

Continue reading "The Power of Parks and Museums" »

October 18, 2013

Redskins, Blackskins, Brownskins, Whiteskins: Race and Team Mascots

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman 

This is a busy and stressful time to be President of the United States: The government was until recently shutdown, he’s facing an impasse with Congressional Republicans, the on-going violence in Syria (not to mention the rest of the Middle East), the recent commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the early snags of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare), and the naming of the new chief of the Federal Reserve. Despite all of this, President Obama found time recently to weigh in on a matter that many Americans are probably more familiar with than most of these other current events: The Washington Redskins football team mascot.  

Continue reading "Redskins, Blackskins, Brownskins, Whiteskins: Race and Team Mascots" »

October 15, 2013

Making Social Structure Visible: America's National Parks

Headshot 3.13 cropcompress

By Karen Sternheimer

One of the most challenging aspects to learning about social structure is that it is often difficult to see the ways that social institutions shape our lives. The federal government shutdown of 2013 helps make some aspects of social structure visible.

Social structure’s impact is clearest when these structures change or stop working as they usually do. Take the closure of the nation’s national parks, which show us that even nature is shaped by social structure. People who planned vacations around visiting a national park and the businesses supported by tourists felt the government shutdown’s impact immediately.

Continue reading "Making Social Structure Visible: America's National Parks" »

October 11, 2013

Linguistic Relativity and “New” Ideas

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I recently heard a lovely eight-minute talk by Albert Einstein about “The Common Language of Science” recorded in 1941.

Einstein spoke about how words, impressions, language and thinking, concepts, statements, and sensory data are all intertwined although not identical. I thought of many things we teach in sociology, including the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, also known as the linguistic relativity principle.

Continue reading "Linguistic Relativity and “New” Ideas" »

October 08, 2013

Minor Issues with Your Major

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

I remember—so long ago!—how enthusiastic my parents were when I told them I wanted to study architecture… Then their diminished excitement when I switched to educational psychology… And how confused they were when I tried to tell them what sociology was. For them, the evolution of my college major choices made it increasingly hard for them to see a path to a career. For me, I followed the path that most challenged and excited me the most.

What kinds of decisions are you making when picking your major?

Continue reading "Minor Issues with Your Major" »

October 04, 2013

What’s in a Title?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A title is a way of framing the meaning of a paper, a movie, a book, a song, a job, and even a person. You might take great pains to come up with a catchy title for a term paper (or just stick with the tried and true “Term Paper”). What do human titles represent?

We use titles, information that precedes peoples’ names, in order to provide meaning about that person. In public forums, titles convey status and expertise. News programs regularly confer expertise on the people they interview by including a title, even it is one that is only meaningful for the story (like “witness,” “neighbor” or “resident”). Our more stable titles reveal how we create order and meaning of others’ identities on a more regular basis.

Continue reading "What’s in a Title?" »

October 01, 2013

Signs of Structure

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I saw this sign on my campus recently:

It makes people giggle when they first see it since it is right next to a door that they could certainly access in order to exit the building. It is an unlocked door that opens, thus it is accessible.

This sign is a reflection of social structure.

Continue reading "Signs of Structure" »

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