Materials

To accompany the collection of Contexts articles focused on aging, use these questions and activity to get a fruitful discussion going in your class. This collection
is available for free to ASA members.

Aging America

1)    On what grounds do the authors argue that Social Security and Medicare are not the biggest problems presented by an aging America?

Activity: The article states that policies to help the elderly often need to target young people in order to come to a long-term solution. Think of a problem faced by the elderly and what policies directed at children now might help alleviate that problem in the future.

Ageism in the American Workplace

1)    What are some of the stereotypes about older people that lead to employment discrimination against them? Are there stereotypes about young people that could spur ageist discrimination? What can be done to dispel myths and reduce discrimination in either case?

2)    How is discrimination related to economics, and how might the current economic recession affect ageism in the workplace?

 

 

Below is an activity written by Amy Alsup, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota.  The activity utilizes a clip from The Wire to teach about crime and deviance.

Turf WarThe Wire: Season 2, Episode 8 “Duck & Cover” (10 minutes 13 seconds)

Location: YouTube: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HmPZyrGGdk&feature=related)

Scene Description:

“At the Towers, Bodie organizes his crew to arrive at the disputed corner at 7 a.m., in order to beat their rivals to the spot. They bring guns and bats and when the other dealer finally shows, he threatens Bodie: “You gon’ see me in your sleep.” The other gang leaves, but Bodie knows they’ll be back.”

From: http://www.hbo.com/thewire/episode/season2/episode21.shtml

This scene illustrates a turf war that occurs between two rival gangs in Baltimore.  Members of the Barksdale crew, featured at the beginning of the scene, find rival gang members dealing drugs on the block that they normally occupy.  After a brief confrontation, a gunfight ensues.  A shot is fired through the window of an apartment building, where a mother finds her son dead on his bedroom floor.  Stringer Bell, who is running operations while gang leader Avon Barksdale is in jail, is angered by the carelessness of his crew and orders Bodie to take a time-out.  Bodie and his crew dispose of the guns by dumping them in the water.

This clip could be used to discuss crime, police surveillance, drug wars, gangs and general difficulties and hardships of life in impoverished communities.  The rival gang scene could be shown to introduce the politics of the underground drug economy.  It would provide an excellent introduction to a lecture, discussion or active learning exercise about social conditions which lead to criminal activity and the consequences of crime on the wider community.

Active Learning Exercise Idea:

Begin class with a brief lecture on theories of crime and deviance and social conditions in impoverished communities that lead to criminal activity.  Show the clip and have students break up into small groups to discuss what actions they would take to improve conditions in this community.

Ask students to (1) identify and list five problems in the Baltimore community (ie: drug dealing, gun violence, poverty, dangerous conditions for children, etc).  (2) Discuss 5 ways in which these problems could be prevented.

Then, have the full class congregate once again.  Have one representative from each group write the problematic conditions in the community on the board and then return to their seats.  Go through the list of problematic conditions in the community.  Ask students:

  • Are these personal troubles or sociological issues?  (For students who are unfamiliar with C. Wright Mills, this can be rephrased as: “Are these problems in the community psychological?  social?  local?  global?”)
  • What caused these problematic conditions in the community?  Do you think problems arise due to cultural factors, social inequalities, or individual decisions?  Why?

Then, ask students to identify the solutions they provided.  Challenge students to use theories about crime and deviance to rationalize their choices.

 

No sigas la luzProstitution is one of those topics that incites very strong reactions–making it very difficult to discuss in the classroom. In the Fall 2007 issue of Contexts, Ronald Weitzer provides us with a balanced, classroom-friendly way to get your students thinking about this issue beyond their gut reactions. Read the article here!

Use the discussion questions and the activity below to get the conversation started:

1)    Define the oppression and celebratory models of prostitution. How would you characterize the alternative model proposed by the author?

2)    What is your reaction to Weitzer’s claim that some prostitutes are empowered by their jobs? Do you agree that sex work can be empowering for women or do you agree more with the oppression model?

3)    The article states that 17 percent of American men have paid for sex at some point in their lives. Do you think this is a high or low number? Why do you think there is a stigma against paying for sex?
ACTIVITY: Organize a class debate with one side arguing that prostitution should be legalized and regulated in the United States, and the other side arguing that it should remain illegal.

 

Poor Dad

These questions were created to accompany “Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids” by William Marsiglio.

1)    In what ways can a father negatively affect his children’s health before birth and after birth?  Which mechanisms are biologically based and which are socially based?

2)    How can gendered expectations of masculinity affect fatherhood? Would ideas about masculinity would have to change in order to improve parenting by fathers?

3)    Make a list of both positive and negative examples of fatherhood in the popular media. Which are more abundant and why?

4)    The author suggests several policies that would help mitigate the number of fathers having a negative effect on their children’s health. Which of these policies seem most promising to you?  Why?  Can you think of any other policies to add to the list?

 

 

 

Business LookFor any gender, family, or business related lecture, we recommend “The Rhetoric and Reality of Opting Out” (Contexts, Fall 2007) which you can read here.
We’ve created discussion questions as well as an activity for you to use with this article in the classroom:

1)    How does your generation view mothers who stay at home? How have these perceptions changed from your parents’ and grandparents’ generations? Is this change positive or problematic in your opinion?

2)    According to Stone, what is the real culprit behind more and more mothers dropping out of the workforce? What are some underlying problems with many “family friendly” work arrangements?

ACTIVITY: Assume you’ve been given the task of re-designing your company’s workplace environment and scheduling norms so they are better suited for the types of working parents highlighted in this article. How could you change the work culture so mothers weren’t penalized for taking advantage of flexible work arrangements? Could any other problems result from your solutions?

 

Torn & Cut One Dollar Note Floating Away in Small $ Pieces

Taxes are a controversial, interesting issue to cover in class that allows you to link sociology to current events.  Almost everyone has an opinion, but people know surprisingly little about taxation in the United States.  “Tax Myths” by Lane Kenworthy examines many commonly-held views of taxes and explains that a number of things citizens and policymakers think they know about taxes are wrong.

Here are some questions that could be used with the article:

1) What are the tax myths covered in the article?

2)    Choose one tax myth that particularly surprised you. Why do you think that you, and many other Americans, believed it?

3)    Kenworthy explains that taxes don’t directly reduce inequality.  How might taxes indirectly affect levels of inequality?

 
ACTIVITY: Chart a day in your life and show where taxes affect your daily routine. For example, your taxes help pay to enforce environmental regulations that protect your drinking water.

**You could also use this article to discuss current events in Wisconsin as well as with the national budget.**

 

Full Disk Image of Earth Captured Feb. 7, 2011
Lane Kenworthy’s article “Is Equality Feasible?” (Contexts, Summer 2007) is a great article to get students thinking about inequality in society.  Below are some questions that you can use with the article.

1)    What is the Gini coefficient and how can it be used to influence social policy?

2)    Summarize the argument that inequality contributes to affluence in a given country. What is the equality/jobs trade-off?

3)    The author talks about the non-pay benefits of employment. Can these benefits be accomplished in other ways? What are some possible consequences of not having access to these benefits (both for individuals and society)?

4)    Beyond poverty, how does unemployment affect societies?

5) Is equality feasible?

We recommend incorporating the article “Controlling the Media in Iraq” by Andrew M. Linder (Contexts, Spring 2008) in a class or lesson on media or international relations. This article is highly readable and the topic is timely and of interest to undergraduates. Use the questions below to get a discussion started on this topic:

A PDF of this entire article is available from Contexts!

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1)    How has this article influenced your understanding of the relationship between journalism and war?

2)    The author offers two ideas of how embedded reporters come to write from a military point of view. Discuss the theories of empathy through socialization (at the extreme, Stockholm Syndrome) versus boundaries and limitations placed by the military.

3)    What do you make of the findings that embedded journalists reported more frequently from a soldier’s point of view?

Men are Missing from African Family Planning by Ashley E. Frost and F. Nii-Amoo Dodoo, from the Winter 2009 issue of Contexts would work well in any class on gender or sexuality issues as well as accompanying any lesson on population/ family planning policies abroad. Use the discussion questions and/or the activity  below to incorporate this article into your class. Africa Continent Location Map

ASSIGNMENT: Outline the main reasons the authors give for the high fertility rates among African women. In a nutshell, why aren’t current planning policies working?  Using what you learned in the article as your guide, explain how gender roles and ideologies within different cultures can influence fertility rates. Compare the African example to another community that you are familiar with.

ACTIVITY: Imagine that you are a public health official working with the U.N. on overpopulation in Africa. Given what you learned from this article, create a plan for a program that would be more successful in reducing fertility rates among women in Africa.

Drug questions

Today, it is not uncommon for children to regularly take prescription medicine.  To some, this is normal.  Others question what has been deemed a disorder and corresponding treatment.  “The Prescription of a New Generation” (Contexts, Spring 2008) takes a closer look at these and related issues.  Here are some questions to help students think about normalcy, disorders, and medicine today.

1)    Discuss how medical “breakthroughs” like the anti-depressants described in this article or the introduction of a drug like Latisse (which is supposed to treat short eyelashes) are changing ideas of normalcy and self-identity. Is there a stigma attached to either taking such medications or seeking alternative treatments?

2)    The article says that we spend more time and effort getting people onto medications than off of them. What social functions do medications serve?

3)    Near the end of the article, a student questions whether ADD and ADHD are actual problems or normal responses to the increasing—and sometimes overwhelming—demands of work and school. What do you think?

ACTIVITY: Find examples online or in the mainstream media where drugs or medications are being advertised. How do these ads explain and promote their products? To what extent do you think pharmaceutical companies help define “normal” behaviors and states?

Questions and activities like these will be featured in the upcoming Contexts Reader!