The Sociological Imagination. In order to do understand and develop a sociological imagination, we must be able to see a social problem from many perspectives. This is the goal of our first discussion. For example, experts are warning us about the dangers of obesity, a problem for both individuals and society. While some may suggest obesity is simply the result of individual choices, how did so many people suddenly begin to make such bad choices? Rather than the result of individual choices, perhaps obesity is the result of dietary options available to our society. This might explain variations in obesity rates from one geographic region to another. Wealth distribution, health care, and even the availability of food may also explain differing rates of obesity. In short, to those who have developed the sociological imagination, a variety of factors are clearly behind this epidemic of obesity.
After reading the assigned chapters in the textbook and visiting the website, Overweight and obesity, discuss each of the following points:
a. Using the definition provided by the text, define how obesity could be categorized as a social problem.
§ What are examples of individual and societal factors leading to obesity?
§ What are the individual and social consequences of doing nothing to address this problem?
b. Theoretical perspectives
§ How would a conflict theorist explain the problem of obesity?
§ How would a functionalist explain the problem of obesity?
§ How would a symbolic interactionist explain the problem of obesity?
c. Based on your research, and personal reflection on which theoretical perspective is most like your own views, which theory does the best job at explaining the causes of obesity? Based on this analysis, explain why or why not the issue of obesity should be addressed as a social problem.
Additional research, focusing on scholarly sources, is expected. Websites can be included in your research, and eventually included in your list of references, although you are expected to rely on authoritative sources. You may also look ahead in your textbook, since health issues are discussed in several chapters.
Homelessness. We will learn about many social problems during this course. Some problems are very complex and are typically the result of both individual and social issues. As we study these social problems, one question should always come to mind: What can be done about these problems?
The video, Homelessness is a Symptom, helps us understand the complexity of the problem of homelessness, costs of the problem to individuals and society, and the challenges associated with doing something about the problem.
a. In what ways might homelessness be categorized as a social problem? Explain your reasoning and support your points with examples from the textbook.
b. Some of these policies suggested in this video involve government policies and funds. In your opinion, is this an appropriate use of public funds? How do you define what is appropriate use of public funds, and how does the use of public funds fit inside or outside of appropriate use?
c. The policies described in this video may be controversial. What concerns do you have about these policies?
d. Complete a web search focusing on policies intended to reduce or eliminate homelessness. Provide an example of a potentially effective response to the problem of homelessness. Define the elements that make this solution effective.
Education and Equality. The videos required for this discussion each touch on overlapping social problems. Although we will examine education, inequality, and race, each of which can be defined as a social problem or major component of larger social problems, the basis of our discussion is based on a simple argument:
a. Education is an effective tool in our efforts to build a more equitable society.
b. Therefore, equal educational opportunities must be available to all citizens.
In the video, Affirmative Action vs. Cultural Diversity, Tom Brokaw asks: “How do we remedy the historic mistreatment of deserving black Americans without punishing deserving white Americans today?”
Our efforts to address the problems of racial inequality have been centered in on one of our most important social institutions – education. While the schools of this country are a local place to focus these efforts, can we fix one problem without creating another?
As always, we want more than your opinions. This question overlaps several chapters of our text, including an examination of education, race, and inequality. As such, we may see references to several chapters. We should also see evidence of additional research, properly cited, in support of positions offered in our responses.
Title IX. One of the better-known impacts of Title IX relates to gender equity in athletics. While only 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports before the passage of Title IX the number has increased to almost 1 in 2 girls in high school athletic programs since.
After viewing the required resources for this discussion, please address each of the following questions:
a. In your informed opinion, was Title IX a logical policy response to the problem of gender inequality?
b. Did Title IX accomplish the intended goals for all women?
c. Did Title IX impact your life in any way?
d. What differences do you think there are between the way girls and young women view sports today compared to 40 years ago? In effect, has participation in sports changed women and their role in society?
e. Other than Title IX, have other social changes have contributed to changes in perception? Please provide examples
Final Paper Preparation. To prepare for your Final Paper (due in Week Five), complete the following assignment and submit it to your instructor for feedback. Your paper should include a problem statement, outline, and annotated bibliography.
Problem Statement: Describe the social problem you have selected for your paper.
Outline: Using the sample below as a guide, provide an outline for your Final Paper. Remember that your final papers are expected to include a description and definition of a social problem, a discussion of the scope and consequences of the problem, and an overview society’s responses to the problem. Your papers should also present a clearly reasoned alternative, supported by scholarly research. While the following example can be modified to suit your needs, using this outline as a guide will likely result in a high quality final paper:
c. What is the social problem?
d. Why does this problem qualify as a “social problem”?
e. What are the individual and social implications of this problem? Discussion of implications should be supported by accurate research data.
f. What do the experts say about the problem? Are their conclusions methodologically sound?
g. What have we, as a society, done about this problem? Again, consider public policies and other less formal responses.
h. How is this working?
i. Describe an alternative.
j. Discuss why the alternative is, or can be, an effective response to the problem. Remember to consider negative consequences of the alternative response.
k. Conclude with reflections and thoughts about your chosen social problem. This is a good place to include personal opinions, assuming you wish to share them in a research paper.
Annotated Bibliography: The purpose of creating a list of sources is to assist you in organizing and evaluating your research. The list should include the following information for each source (minimum of five):
a. Name of the source, including the complete bibliographic citation in proper APA format.
b. Summary of the source (at least one paragraph) including how this source will contribute to your paper.
Hate Crimes. The events of September 11, 2011, contributed to an increase in hate crimes against Muslims around the world and especially in the United States. In the first year after the September 11 attacks, anti-Islamic hate crimes in the United States rose more than 1,000%.
After reading the required materials for this discussion, please address each of the following questions:
a. How has post-9/11 anti-Muslim and anti-Arab backlash and discrimination affected local and global communities? Please provide examples.
b. How are hate crimes related to fear and/or ignorance?
c. Why do some individuals and groups believe that violence directed at Muslims, as a form of revenge, is acceptable more than a decade after 9/11?
Prisons and the War on Drugs. Drug abuse has been defined as a significant social problem. This discussion provides an opportunity to examine this problem as well as the consequences of our reliance on punishment as a solution to drug abuse.
After viewing the required video for this discussion, please answer each of the following questions:
a. Discuss the differences between a culture’s folkways, mores, and taboos.
b. Why are some deemed infractions of normative expectations termed criminal and others social?
c. How does this definitional process lead us to incarcerate fellow citizens?
d. What sociological factors contribute to the criminalization of individuals in society? Explain your answer.
e. Does the seriousness of drug abuse justify our reliance on the social consequences of incarceration?
The Interconnection of Social Problems. Review the article, Race, poverty and punishment: The impact of criminal sanctions on racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequality, as you to prepare for this paper. As Wheelock and Uggen (2006) point out, “the association between crime, punishment, and poverty has long been the subject of sociological and criminological investigation” (p. 1). This assignment is intended illustrate the interconnection of social problems.
Write a paper discussing the overlap of crime, punishment, and poverty. In your paper, please elaborate on the following points raised by the authors:
a. Criminal sanctions and victimization work to form a system of disadvantage that perpetuates stratification and poverty.
b. Punishment impacts individuals convicted of felonies, as well as their families, peer groups, neighborhoods, and racial group.
c. After controlling for population differences, African Americans are incarcerated approximately seven times as often as Whites.
d. Variation in criminal punishment is linked to economic deprivation.
e. As the number of felons and former felons rises, collateral sanctions play an ever-larger role in racial and ethnic stratification, operating as an interconnected system of disadvantage.
Gay Parenting. After viewing the required video for this discussion, please address each of the following questions:
a. What core social values are most challenged by legalized gay adoption?
b. How have these “values” been defined and reinforced?
c. Assuming these values are changing, at least for some individuals or societies, how have experts explained or described the change?
d. How has your personal view of “the family” changed over your lifetime?
e. Supporters and opponents of gay adoption both claim to have children’s best interests at heart. Which do you think is in the best interest of children: banning or permitting their adoption by gay parents? Why?
Reinventing Healthcare. While we do not want to replicate our Week One discussion of obesity, this issue certainly overlaps with the growing healthcare challenge. Remember that the focus of the previous discussion was on our sociological imaginations. Keep your imaginations going, but we will shift gears a bit for this discussion with a focus on solutions.
In addition to the required video and text, please complete a web search for additional information. All sources should be authoritative, so your search should focus on scholarly papers, government reports, and other expert sources. After reviewing all of these resources, please discuss the all of the following:
a. According to experts on all sides, does the government have the right to enforce, legislate, or regulate behaviors such as obesity, health, and nutritious eating?
b. Are these expert opinions biased in any way? Provide examples.
c. Now that we have heard from the experts, do you personally believe the government has a right to enforce, legislate, or regulate behaviors such as obesity, health, and nutritious eating? Why or why not?
Decline of Rural America. After viewing the required video for this discussion, pick one of the following overlapping issues highlighted in this week’s readings to discuss:
a. How does the corporatization of farming affect all Americans, not just those living in rural areas? What can you do about this?
b. What is brain drain and what are its long-reaching effects on rural communities? Be sure to include the terms stayers and achievers in your discussion. How could the community leaders make staying more attractive than leaving?
c. Describe the positive and negative impacts of the growth of mega-cities. Will moving back to the country solve the social problems created by our move to the urban areas?
Causes and Impact of Global Warming. For information on global warming, view the required video and website for this discussion and answer the following questions:
a. How does human activity impact greenhouse gases found in the atmosphere?
b. What are some simple changes humans can do to help keep the Earth cooler in the future?
c. What are you doing to help?
Focus of the Final Paper
Select a social problem to define, describe the scope and consequences of the problem, and assess society’s responses to the problem (including public policies and other less formal responses). Papers should also present a clearly reasoned alternative that is supported by scholarly research.
While the following example can be modified to suit your needs, using this outline as a guide will likely result in a high quality final paper:
3. What is the social problem?
4. Why does this problem qualify as a “social problem”?
5. What are the individual and social implications of this problem? Discussion of implications should be supported by accurate research data.
6. What do the experts say about the problem?
7. What have we, as a society, done about this problem? Again, consider public policies and other, less formal responses.
8. How is this working?
9. Describe an alternative.
10. Discuss why the alternative is, or can be, an effective response to the problem. Remember to consider negative consequences of the alternative response.
11. Conclude with reflections and thoughts about your chosen social problem. This is a good place to include personal opinions, assuming you wish to share them in a research paper.
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