Archive for August, 2009

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Forcing Women’s Roles to Evolve?

August 2, 2009

familyWhen I was growing up, it was common for most families to be nuclear in structure (dad, mom, and two or so kids) with the father being the “bread winner” and leader (patriarchal organization). Forty some years later, things have changed a bit. Modern American family structure accommodates same-sex families, single parent families, sandwich families, and families where parents are replaced by grandparents (I haven’t heard a catchy phrase for this structure yet).

The income sources of families have changed, too. Now it is common for the mother (if one is present) to work and have a broader role in family leadership, what sociologists call a equalitarian setup. But, after talking to many of my students and even a few professors—I wonder if this last change was chosen by many women (achieved status) or simply one that women are now inheriting (ascribed status).

Would you like to voice an opinion about this? If so, please respond to one of the questions below:

1. Do you think that when women entered the work force in large numbers, this resulted in a decrease in men’s salaries compared to past cohorts? If so, what effect would this have on newly formed families? Do you think this might have increased the pressure on women to enter the workforce?

2. Many studies have shown that women, whether career-oriented or working in less-skilled jobs, are paid a percentage of what equally educated and experienced men are paid. Why do you think that is? What effect does this have on the quality of life for single parent families headed by a female?

3. Some people complain that while women have taken on more responsibility, men’s roles have stayed the same or even shrunk. What do you think?

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Can Cartoons Promote Violence?

August 2, 2009

In sociology there is a theory called “modeling.” It refers to a process through which we watch other people and learn from their behavior. For example, if a person always dresses in a business suit and we notice he is promoted faster than those who don’t—some of us might start wearing more formal attire if we want to get promoted, too! In more scholarly terms, we copy behavior we associate with positive outcomes in society. Now, the rub is, how responsible are we in the behavior we choose to copy? Watch the cartoon below and see if it associates violence with social success:

Would you like to discuss this cartoon? If so select one of the topics below and reply to it.

1. How did the characters in the cartoon attempt to dominate each other through education or violence? What might this suggest about the social utility of violence versus intelligence in social competition ?

2. How much credibility do you think cartoons would have in determining your own social behavior? Do you think a nine-year-old would view the content of the cartoon differently? What are the possible implications of the modeling theory being applied to determine the possible effects of violence in cartoon content?

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Does Context Affect How We Understand Our World?

August 2, 2009

I’ve posted two different excerpts from an ABC News special in which President Obama answers a woman’s question about her 99-year-old mother receiving a pacemaker. The woman’s mother is now 105. With the ongoing debate on nationalizing health care, President Obama’s “take a pain pill instead” remark has widely been reported. Regardless of your stance on the specific issue of health care, I want you to see how context can affect understanding. If you like, watch both of these popular edited excerpts from YouTube and respond to one of the discussion topics below:

Excerpt 1:

Excerpt 2:

So what do you think?….

1. Was your understanding of the President’s responses different in each video? How did context affect your understanding of the President’s responses?

2. Can you generalize how the context of information affects how we respond to this information within our social environment? Do we assign different meanings to different words or behaviors? Do different values and norms mean we ignore some information and prioritize other?

3. Do these videos illustrate the impact media may have upon members of society? How?

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