Materials

Last month, as a Special Feature on The Society Pages, Jennifer Lee (a sociologist at University of California at Irvine) provided our readers a sociological take on “Chinese mother phenomenon.”

Lee is responding to Yale Law professor Amy Chua’s highly controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011). In advance of the book, The Wall Street Journal published “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” In the article and the book, Chua argues that Western parents do their children a disservice by not raising them with strict and demanding expectations for achievement.

Lee’s is another piece that is definitely going on my Sociology of Families syllabus in the fall, but it would fit well in any Intro to Sociology class or any class on education, culture, or youth. I would assign both Amy Chua’s WSJ article and Lee’s Tiger Kids and the Success Frame. What I love about Lee’s piece is that it does not reject Chua’s argument outright, but explores it from a sociological perspective. She asks (and answers):

How do we explain the academic achievement of Asians, especially when the patterns defy traditional status attainment models?

This topic is especially suited for most undergrads (18-22 year olds) in that they have only recently left their parents home and generally do not have families of their own. This life stage puts them in a unique position to compare how they were raised with how they want to raise their own (hypothetical) children when it comes to educational achievement.

For further context, check out the audio review of Chua’s book and parenting method on NPR and an excerpt from the book, as well as a response from Amy Chua to reader’s questions and a response her oldest daughter (age 18) to the criticism her mom received after publishing Battle Hymn.

 

 

Sociological Images has posted a new course guide on the Sociology of Sports!

Check it out!

118:366 A quiet corner

One of TSP’s newer additions is The Reading List, which is (the start of) a compilation of both classic and new research that can help inform our understanding of current events.  Soon, it will be organized by theme, so don’t forget to check it out as you plan your courses!

Abolish Death Penalty April 4 2011 Janet Valder 003
Photo by codepinkphoenix via flickr.com

The Office Hours Team recently sat down with Dr. David Garland, professor of sociology and law at New York University.  He spoke with the team about his most recent book, Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in the Age of Abolition.  The podcast, found here, would be a great assignment, as it provides a concise review of key arguments he makes in the book.  Below are a few discussion questions you could use in class or assign with the podcast.

1)   In Garland’s eyes, why is the death penalty a peculiar U.S. institution?

2)   What reasons are usually given in favor of the death penalty in the U.S., and what does Garland think about them?

3)   Are there patterns found among defendants on death row?

4)   Do you have an opinion about the use of the death penalty in the U.S.?  If so, what is it?

5)   What is one thing you learned from this podcast?

If the questions are assigned as homework:

6)   Conduct some quick online research.  When did states start outlawing the death penalty?  How many states allow it?

I’m planning a Sociology of Families course, and I am definitely putting Eric Klinenberg‘s New York Times article One’s a Crowd and Office Hours interview with him–Eric Klinenberg on Going Solo–on the syllabus. He cites many sociologists and sociological research in the NYT article. This article and the interview would be great for a Soc of Families class or any Intro class on the subject of families or individualism in Western culture.

In any discussion of families in the United States, we cannot forget about all the people (40-50% in prosperous American cities) who choose to live alone.  He points out that, because of new technologies–cell phones, internet, social networking, etc.–people who live alone are not alienated or isolated in ways that they may have been twenty years ago. I love the counterintuitive finding that people who live alone are actually more social than those with families.

This article and interview would be great for use in the classroom because many young people today view living alone as somewhat of a ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood, but do not envision themselves living along in middle-age. It would be very interesting to get students’ perspectives on this topic. Some discussion questions to get to conversation going or to have them answer at home:

1. Have you ever lived alone? Do you see yourself living alone at any time in the future? What are the advantages to living alone in your opinion? What are the disadvantages?

2. How is privilege related to living alone? Who gets to live alone and who doesn’t?

3. What do you think of Klinenberg’s point that people who live alone are actually more social than people who live with families?

4. Klinenberg discusses the internet and cellphones as tools that allow people to feel connected to others even when they live alone. How often do you communicate with people through text or on social networking sites like Facebook? How do you think this compares to face-to-face interaction? Do you think the rise in digital communication is a positive or negative development? Why?

172/365  I Want to See the World

With Earth Day fast approaching, we’re seeing more stories about climate change (for example, see this sighting) and other environmental issues.  While there are many ways to study our environment sociologically, courses about environmental justice are becoming more popular.  Here we share a syllabus graciously provided by David Pellow at the University of Minnesota.  The description for his course, Race, Class, and the Politics of Nature, is provided below.  You can download the syllabus here:  Race, Class, and the Politics of Nature.

The phenomenon known as environmental racism has made headlines during the last three decades, in large part because the movement for environmental justice has placed this issue on the public agenda. This course introduces students to the theoretical and historical foundations of environmental racism and environmental inequality. We will examine and interrogate both the social scientific evidence concerning these phenomena and the efforts by governments, residents, workers, and community activists to combat it. We will consider the social forces that create environmental inequalities so that we may understand their causes and consequences. We will also consider ideas and practices that may lead to (1) a more equitable social distribution of the costs and benefits of markets and (2) more ecologically sustainable forms of production and social organization. Students will be expected to master several social scientific theories and concepts related to the subject matter. In particular, we pay close attention to the ways in which the concept of race intersects with gender, class, citizenship, indigeneity, and nation in order to better understand how systems of power and inequality are constructed, reinforced, and challenged.

Image by karen horton via flickr.com

I posted last month about The Society Pages’ Roundtable entitled Laughter and the Political Landscape  but realized I didn’t link to the Office Hours interview with Heather LaMarre. The interview is a great addition to the Roundtable because it addresses two main points that I think are crucial for using this in the classroom:

1. that political humor is not made or consumed exclusively by political liberals (11:15), and

2. she asks what effect this type of political humor may have on the way young people participate in politics? (17:52)

Image by david_shankbone via flickr.com

“The big question is going to be whether people under 30, since they’ve sort of grown up in this era of political satire and entertainment…are themselves as a generation developing a sense of humor about politics that’s good for democracy or a disgust about politics that’s bad for democracy? And that remains to be seen.”

What do your students think??

Prisoner of the Heart

TSP’s Sarah Lageson recently sat down with Megan Comfort to talk about her research on women in relationships with incarcerated men.  You can read a summary of the fascinating interview here and listen to the entire interview here.

This interview would be particularly useful to demonstrate the effects of prisons beyond the incarcerated individual.  Below are a few discussion questions that can be used with the interview.

 

 

1. Briefly explain “presence creation” in your own words and provide an example.

 

2. What were some of the key things that women in Comfort’s study valued about their relationships with incarcerated men?  Did any surprise you?  Why or why not?

 

3. Can you think of any examples of secondary prisonalization that you’ve seen first-hand or heard about through friends or family?

Abe Lincoln statue sw park blocks

Earlier this week, a guest on NPR noted that Abraham Lincoln took second (to Jesus) in the number of books written about a modern historical figure.  Wow!!  It’s clear that he is one of the most remembered U.S. Presidents.

The TSP Reading List suggestion for Presidents’ Day, “History, Commemoration, and Belief: Abraham Lincoln in American Memory, 1945-2001,” explores how Abraham Lincoln is remembered in the U.S.  This would be a great article to assign during a unit on collective memory.  Before the students read the article, have them each quickly write about how/why they remember Abraham Lincoln.  Afterward, survey the class to see if they remember him as the Great Emancipator (the primary memory found in the article), the Savior of the Union, the Man of the People, the Self-Made Man, or the First Frontier American.  This article would go well with Gary Alan Fine’s “Reputational Entrepreneurs and the Memory of Incompetence: Melting Supporters, Partisan Warriors, and Images of President Harding.”


The Society Pages’ first White Paper, published earlier this month, focuses on the intersections of politics and sport. White Papers are in-depth explorations of relevant topics in the social sciences and  will be an ongoing part of The Society Pages. We recommend using this White Paper, “Politics and Sports: Strange, Secret Bedfellows” by Kyle Green and Doug Hartmann, in your classroom as a great overview of the politics of sports…and the sport of politics. Score

This easy-to-read and informative paper explores many topics relevant to your students. Here are a few:

  • Do sports play a role in maintaining racial stereotypes, in particular the athletic prowess and intellectual deficiency of black men?
  • Similarly, how do gendered stereotypes of ability and interest in sports get reproduced? And how can such stereotypes be understood damaging for women?
  • Should sports be understood as a site where boys learn how to “perform” a hegemonic brand of dominant and physical manhood?
  • Are sports the “opiate of the masses”—something mindless to occupy the working class’s time and energy, which might otherwise be invested in creating drastic political change?
  • How can we understand the infusion of sports language and metaphors in politics? Why do politicians use such language and what are the possible repercussions of this type of language?
  • How should we understand the display of anthems, flags, and military personnel (or fighter jets) at sporting events of all kinds (e.g. standing for the national anthem)?
  • Should tax dollars be used to fund professional sports stadiums? How has this taken-for-granted link between state government and for-profit sports teams been formed?