395 posts categorized "Behind the Headlines"

April 22, 2024

Jail and Prison Education Programs

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

In sociology, we read a lot about the criminal justice system, deviance, and policing. We also learn about education, the hidden curriculum, tracking, and similar topics. It’s a challenge to talk about the interconnections between the criminal justice and education systems in our Introduction to Sociology classes.

There has been some good research on policing in schools—what some call the school-to-prison pipeline. Aaron Kupchik’s Homeroom Securityfor example, focused his work on “school resource officers” as a failed policy on preventing or limiting student crime, while increasing the chances that students will enter the criminal justice system. Yet we still need to expand opportunities for education for incarcerated citizens.

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April 15, 2024

Animals and Inequality

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

When our cat was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, our vet very gently let us know that one option would be not to offer further treatment besides palliative care to keep her comfortable. She acknowledged that if her cancer could be treated, that it would be costly, and that there would be no shame if it was not an option for us.

This came as a shock, considering a week before this conversation we thought we had a perfectly healthy 11-year-old cat. As it turns out, the type of cancer she has is aggressive but treatable, and we requested a referral to a veterinary oncologist. During this consultation, the oncologist carefully detailed that the cancer wasn’t curable but could be treated, and laid out the costs of providing such treatment. She also let us know that if the cost of treatment was out of reach, or if we decided we couldn’t or didn’t want to proceed, that was a perfectly reasonable option.

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March 14, 2024

"Fast Car" and Country Music

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Perhaps the highlight of the 2024 Grammys was Luke Combs’ duet with famously limelight-averse Tracy Chapman, singing Chapman’s “Fast Car.” While I had been pondering this song for over a year, it took the Grammy performance to really get a sense of what was going on here, especially with Beyoncé’s new songs promising to spark new controversy over what “country music” should be.

Combs’ version of the song is likely the one that most college-aged Everyday Sociology Blog readers know, but when most of your older professors (like me) were of a similar age, Chapman’s song was a big deal. These days, most hit songs come and go but, in 1988, the song was in heavy rotation. It was on the radio; it was in the mall.

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March 11, 2024

Embracing the Icon, Debating the Message

Bossick Headshot

By Mike Bossick, Professor of Sociology, Central Piedmont Community College

I was asked to give a presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about racism and poverty. The more I thought about Dr. King’s message of racial and economic justice in the context of recent backlash to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I wondered whether most people support the sanitized folk hero version of MLK, or his message of radical racial and economic justice? Keep in mind that anyone under the age of 55 wasn’t even alive when MLK was assassinated in April, 1968; much of our culture’s collective memory comes from soundbites, summaries, or short excerpts of his work.

While MLK, the famous Morehouse alumni and sociology major is revered today, that wasn’t always the case. The Pew Research Center compiled public opinion data originally collected by Gallup showing MLK’s favorability rating between 1963-1966 as ranging between 33-45%. In addition, National Public Radio (NPR) discusses evidence in the MLK/FBI documentary stating that the FBI under director J Edgar Hoover feverishly sought to discredit King. Keeping him under heavy surveillance, they sent him compromising tapes they recorded and even created and sent an anonymous letter suggesting he should kill himself. Clearly, the former sentiment from the public and the FBI does not align with MLK’s 2011 favorability rating of 94% when the MLK Memorial opened in Washington, DC.

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February 26, 2024

Here’s a Tip: It’s about Inequality

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Many news stories about inflation have focused on tipping—sometimes called “tip-flation.” If you haven’t read any of these stories, you’ve probably paid for something when a tip screen came up, recommending a certain percentage for gratuity in addition to the amount due.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of nearly 12,000 Americans, respondents perceive that the pressure to tip has increased in recent years. Nearly half of respondents said that whether to tip depends on the situation, and 40 percent said that they didn’t like when tip amounts are suggested. The most common times when more than half said they left a tip included servers at sit-down restaurants, a hairdresser, and food delivery. Respondents were less likely to tip taxi or ride share drivers, or at fast casual restaurants or coffee shops.

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February 05, 2024

Community Development Studies in Sociology, and What Sociology Offers Students

CKing headshot 1 4.3 Calvin-odhiambo IMG_5518

By Colby King, Calvin Odhiambo, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Lizabeth Zack, Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, University of South Carolina Upstate

The recent decision by the Florida Board of Governors to exclude Introductory sociology from the list of courses that fulfill the social science general education requirements for Florida public college students has sparked discussions highlighting the vital role of sociology in academic curriculum. Stacy Torres wrote here about the life-changing role sociology course can play in students’ lives.

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January 29, 2024

Gender, Sexuality, and Social Exclusion

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Recently politicians have continued attempts to police gender and sexuality through the passage of laws that seek to exclude and punish. It is important to consider why the attention to other people’s gender and sexual practices are part of public and political discourses, and why some people are the target of social exclusion.

For context: while laws attempting to limit transgender rights have dominated the last decade, criminalizing same-sex relationships is not by any means new, although new laws have been passed around the world in the past few years. Human Rights Watch maintains a list of criminal codes outlawing same-sex relations around the world dating back to the nineteenth century. Many laws criminalizing LGBTQ people were passed in the middle of the twentieth century. Why?

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January 24, 2024

AI and Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

My inbox received two very kind and curious emails from students this semester. One was to our listserv, expressing remorse and solidarity for someone who had a death in the family. The second was a note of gratitude for my teaching this semester. The instincts behind were kind. Both students wanted to share meaningful feelings with our community in the first case, and with me in the second. They were interesting because they were both written entirely by AI.

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January 17, 2024

Florida, Don’t Deprive Public College Students of the Opportunity to Develop their Sociological Imaginations

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

Even though I’m a professor, sometimes I fantasize about going back to college. Everyone should have the chance to experience that electric feeling of discovery. General education requirements exposed me to worlds I scarcely imagined as the first person in my family to go to college. I remember the thrill of encountering new subjects such as philosophy, theology, Spanish literature, art history, ancient Greek and Roman history. Like many high school students, I’d never had the opportunity to take classes in the social sciences, including anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

I could have never predicted an introductory sociology course would change my life.

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November 22, 2023

The Impossibility of University Neutrality in Times of Crisis

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Campuses are being torn apart due to the Israel-Hamas war. Students are protesting, getting arrested on campuses, and being threatened. While acknowledging that there are unspeakable horrors of war happening across the globe, it can still be said that it is the most challenging time to be on a U.S. college campus in my memory.

I am certain that even what I write here—which is tentative based on thoughts that are in-process—could be interpreted for this, against that, or not for anything and, therefore, bad. A lack of certainty, when faced by colleagues, friends, and students with very clear beliefs on very brutal realities, can be interpreted as a moral failure. My scholarship is not on colonialism, war, or international conflict, however. No one could or should look to me for enlightenment on this, and there are far too many people online who have spent a little time on Wikipedia and self-appointed themselves as experts in the history of Middle Eastern conflict.

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