Materials

A group of sociologists recently revisited the controversial 1965 Moynihan Report.  Your students can read about it in the Fall 2009 Contexts feature “The Moynihan Report, A Retrospective” by Kate Ledger.  Below are some questions and an activity you can use in the classroom.

 

1) The Moynihan Report is available online at http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/webid-meynihan.htm. Read the introduction and describe how it compares with the image you had after reading the Contexts article. Which analysis do you find more compelling and/or enlightening?

 

2) According to this article, a number of sociologists think Moynihan would have had different ideas about black families had he studied class instead of race. Why would this be true?

 

3) When the Moynihan Report was leaked to the press 45 years ago, there was an outcry and social science about family, race, and inequality started to happen “under the radar.”  How can the media help or hinder social science research?

 

Activity: Use www.eurekalert.com or a comparable source to find a press release on a social scientific study that sounds interesting. Read the press release and the original article (your school’s library website will help you find the original) and compare them. Does the press release do the article justice? What parts of the original research seem overlooked? Do any seem overhyped?

 

 

 

We recommend using these discussion questions and activity with Ellen Berrey’s interesting and well-written article Sociology Finds Discrimination in the Law (read the full article for free here!) which appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Contexts.UnAmerican

1)    How would you define discrimination? How does your definition compare with a more formal, legal definition?

2)    The article states that sometimes people discriminate unintentionally. What are examples of unintentional discrimination?

3)    Based on what you learned from this article, what do you think should be done to rectify the effects of discrimination? Who should be responsible for taking action?

ACTIVITY:

Explore the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website (eeoc.gov) and read up about the different kinds of discrimination. Have you or someone you know been a victim of the types of discrimination described?

 

Escape cell, Alcatraz

In the Contexts feature “No Real Release” (Winter 2009), Jason Schnittker and Michael Massoglia explore the link between incarceration and health.  Below are some questions you can use with the article.  Also, check out some online content to accompany the article!

1)     Describe the ways that incarceration is linked to poor health and inadequate health care. In contrast, how is incarceration beneficial to the health of some prisoners?

2)    This article demonstrates how the stigma of incarceration can be “contagious” and affect how the children of ex-cons are seen and see themselves. What are some other stigmas that seem to rub off on friends and family?

3)    As you learned in the article, discrimination against ex-cons is legally sanctioned. Should it be? Why or why not?

 

ACTIVITY: Imagine that you are a social worker in a community where many former inmates return after leaving prison. What policies might you advocate to address the health needs of your community in light of prisoner re-entry? What resources would you need? What community leaders or organization would you need to enlist for support?

 

Money!

Connecting students’ lives and previous experiences to lessons is always a great way to capture attention.  “The Sociology of Bubbles” by Bruce G. Carruthers (Contexts, Summer 2009) explains the sociology of the economic meltdown, a topic that will surely be of interest to many students.

Here are some potential questions that you could use with article:

1)    Do you have any experience with the finance system in the U.S. (e.g., the stock market, school loans)? Has your experience been positive or negative?  If you have no experience, how do you think you will in the future?

2)    Has the economic recession changed your views of the financial system in this country? What consequences of the recession have you seen in your own life?

3)    Why do you think so many people invest in the stock market or borrow from banks when the risks are so high? What do you think this says about our culture?

4)    The author writes that economic inequality in this country is at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Based on what you learned from this article and your own knowledge, what are the social repercussions of such high economic inequality?

 

 

 

Encourage your students to look at marriage in a new light with Greg Scott’s photo essay “Matrimony” in the Winter 2011 issue Contexts. Scott’s article details his ethnographic short film centered on the marriage of two homeless heroin addicts. He encourages readers to explore their biases on what a marriage is or should be by asking of this couple, “Is this a real marriage?

Homeless couple, April 9 2011This article and short film would would fit well in many types of courses: on the family, marriage, sexuality, poverty, or drug use.

Have students read the article and watch the film before class, and write a short reaction paper. Then, use their responses to get a discussion going on marriage in contemporary America.

Olympic Moral Compass

Morality is a contentious topic both inside and outside of the academy.  In the Fall 2009 Contexts feature “The Good, the Bad, and the Social,”  Daniel Winchester and Steven Hitlin examine the sociology of morality and explain that every situation, no matter how brief or small, has a moral dimension.  And, our ideas of right and wrong are shaped by social forces.

When you assign the article, you could also assign a “morality test.”  Here are a few examples:

http://www.moral-politics.com/

You could also assign this New York Times article that briefly explains the work of Jerry Burger, a Santa Clara University Psychologist who replicated Milgram’s study four decades later.

Use these questions with Simon J. Williams’ Winter 2011 Contexts Feature, “Our Hard Days’ Nights.”

1.   It may be surprising to read that sociologists study sleep.  How is sleep social, and what does sociology have to offer the study of sleep?

2.  The author repeatedly refers to sleep as a “right.”  Similarly, Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts the right to rest and leisure.  How is sleep a right?  What does this mean, and do you agree with this classification?

3.  The article discusses Modafinil and other wakefulness-promoting drugs that are already being used by the military to combat drowsiness.  Discuss the pros and cons of drugs like Modafinil.

Touchdown!

 

Stethoscope
The questions and activity below can be used with “Key Findings from 50 Years of Medical Sociology,” by Katherine J. Rosich and Janet R. Hankin (Contexts, Fall 2010).  This article could also be paired with Theda Skocpol’s “One Thing I Know” on health care reform from the Winter 2011 issue of Contexts.
  1. How do the authors portray the American health care system at the start of the 21st century?
  2. The article suggests that asking questions about definitions (like “what is illness”) enables us to explore and understand the impact of definitions.  Write your personal definition of health.  Then, examine the World Health Organization’s definition of health.  How does your definition compare?  How might different ways of defining health impact how it’s understood and treated?
  3. Activity:  Hold a debate about universal health care.  Assign students to argue for or against universal health care and assign research for the debate as homework.

 

View of Singapore harbor from the top of the Marina Bay Sands

The questions below were created to accompany Michael Goldman and Wesley Longhofer’s Winter 2009 feature article, “Making World Cities.”

1)    Development is often viewed in a positive light.   But, are there possible negative consequences?  Provide an example.

2)    With these potentially negative implications of global cities in mind, why do cities and communities continue to pursue growth? In other words, what are common reasons in support of world cities like those covered in the article?

3)    The article claims that inequality in Bangalore has increased five-fold since the software boom in the ’90s. What might have lead to the increase in inequality?

ACTIVITY: The article mentions that the World Bank funds many projects related to the expansion and infrastructure of global cities. Spend 10 minutes on the World Bank’s website.  What is it, and what types of projects does it fund?

 

Genocide is fundamentally social, though sociologists often ignore it in research and in the classroom.  A lesson on genocide could be part of multiple course units, such as ethnic conflict/war, race, crime/criminology, law, human rights, collective memory, etc.   Here’s one of many ideas:

Assign John Hagan and Wenona Rymond-Richmond’s article “The Collective Dynamics of Racial Dehumanization and Genocidal Victimization in Darfur” (ASR 2008).   Also consider assigning Contexts’ podcast with author John Hagan, which can be found here.

A few questions to consider:

1.  What is the legal definition of genocide?

2.  Why are only some groups protected under the legal definition of genocide?  Should other groups be included?

3.  How does genocide differ from crimes against humanity?

4.  How do Hagan and Rymond-Richmond explain genocide?