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TEACHING > SOCIAL PROBLEMS

 

This course is designed to prepare students to think critically and participate intelligently in public debates on contemporary social problems. Topics may include the causes and consequences of structural inequality, institutional and financial crises, sexual harassment and rape, illicit drug use, racism and hate crimes, unplanned population growth, terrorism, homelessness, residential and educational segregation, and environmental degradation.

 

Syllabus

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Identify problems we face in modern society and understand some of their complexities and how they affect your life.
  • Differentiate between and apply the sociological theories to problems as a framework for understanding possible causes, purposes, and solutions.
  • Learn to think critically and creatively about social problems.
  • Be motivated to take individual action to improve the world in which we live.

To download a syllabus with class policies click here.

Overview of Social Problems

  • Week 1: Course Introduction
  • Week 2: The Sociological Approach to Social Problems
  • Week 3: Wealth and Power: The Bias of the System
  • Week 4: World Population and Global Inequality
  • Week 5: Threats to the Environment
  • Week 6: Population Problems: Migration and Aging
  • Week 7: Mid-term Exam

Problems of Inequality

  • Week 8: Poverty
  • Week 9: Racial and Ethnic Inequality
  • Week 10: Gender Inequality
  • Week 11: Sexual Orientation

Social Institutions

  • Week 12: Crime and Justice
  • Week 13: Education
  • Week 14: The Healthcare System
  • Week 15: Solving Social Problems
  • Finals Week: Final Exam or Final Paper

Required Text

  • Eitzen, D. Stanley, Maxine Baca Zinn, and Kelly Eitzen Smith.  2014. Social Problems. Pearson.

Recommended Readings

  • Glassner, Barry. 2010. The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More. Philadelphia: Basic Books.
  • James M. Henslin. 2008. Seeing the Social Context: Readings to Accompany Social Problems. San Francisco: Pearson.

 

Sample Assignments

I use a combination of exams, quizzes, traditional assignments and experiential learning assignments in this course. You can see examples of some of these assignments by clicking the assignment types listed below.

 

Course Modules

There is a Canvas page for each week that contains links to lecture videos and slides, practice exercises, homework and SPSS exercises.

This week we will:

  • Get acquainted
  • Review the syllabus and course requirements
  • Learn what social problems are and how we will approach them in this class

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 1
  • Glassner: "Introduction: Why Americans Fear the Wrong Things"

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand how sociologists approach teh study of social problems.
  • Explain the complex nature of defining a social problem.
  • Describe the two main types of social problems.
  • Explain and apply the sociological imaginaiton to different social problems.
  • Compare/contrast the person-blame approach to social problems and the system-blame approach.
  • Understand the four basic research designs and research methods that sociologists use to study social problems.

Assignments: Quiz/Review Questions

Additional Resources:

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 2
  • Johnson, “Priviledge, Oppression, and Difference”: 12-40
  • Glassner, Chapter 1: Dubious Dangers on Roadways and Campuses—How Fears are Sold

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Explain the mechanisms that promote monopolistic capitalism and the consequences of each on a capitalist society.
  • Describe how the U.S. governement is biased in favor of the wealthy.
  • Explain the links between wealth, power, and the U.S. political system.
  • Demonstrate how corporations benefit from government actions.

Videos:

Assignment: Interlocking Directorates Exercise

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 3
  • Reader: Lappé and Colling, 149–158

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the factors affecting world population.
  • Describe the extent of world poverty and the consequences of that poverty.
  • Explain the relationship between the United States and poor nations around the world.
  • Discuss how the U.S. and other wealthy nations can help impoverished countries.

Assignments:

  • Quiz/Review Questions
  • Global Poverty Assignment

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 4
  • Reader: Diamond, "Easter's End"

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Describe the nature and consequences of human-made threats to the environment.
  • Explain the role of the United States in the global war on the environment.
  • Describe the long-range international implications of and alternative solutions to threats to the environment.

Videos:

Environmental Degradation (Choose one of the following videos to watch.)

  • An Inconvenient Truth: Hi-Res Video for Rent on Amazon
    An Inconvenient Truth discusses climate change and the role of human behavior.
  • Environmental Racism: Video on Archive.org
    Environmental Racism
    discusses pollution and the unequal distribution of exposure to pollution. It is an older video, but these practices still occur today.

Solutions to Environmental Problems

  • Watch the video: The 11th Hour. Hi-Res Video for Rent on Amazon, or free Lo-Res Video
    The 11th Hour addresses potential changes we can make, collectively and individually, to reduce environmental damage.

Assignments:

  • Discussion of the lyrics to Gotye's "Eyes Wide Open"
  • Carbon Footprint Exercise

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 5
  • Falicov, “Migration and Marginalization”

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Assess the historical settlement patterns that have occurred in the U.S.
  • Explain the facts versus myths of the changing racial landscape in America.
  • Explain the facts versus myths of the "graying of America."
  • Assess the potential consequences of the "graying of America."
  • Discuss how the elderly might cope with or respond to their devalued status in society.

Videos:

  • Several short video clips from the film The State of Arizona
  • Episode 1, "Immigration" of Season 2 from Morgan Spurlock's cable television series 30 Days The episode is available on Netflix (accounts are free for the first month) or On Vimeo
  • Video about refugees.

Assignments:

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 7
  • Elliot Liebow, “The Lives of Homeless Women”

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the extent of poverty in America.
  • Explain the myths and misperceptions about poor people.
  • Compare/contrast the various explanations for pvoerty: individual, cultural, and structural.
  • Explain the costs to society of having a significant portion of the population living in poverty.
  • Describe how poverty might be eliminated in the U.S. and what programs are needed to adequately address the needs of the poor population.

Videos:

  • Episode 1 "Minimum Wage" of Season 1 from Morgan Spurlock's cable television series "30 Days" The episode is available on Netflix (accounts are free for the first month).
  • The Daily Show (Jon Stewart) discussing Utah's approach to the problem of homelessness.

Assignments:

  • Quiz/Review Questions
  • Living Wage Budget for a Single Parent

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 8
  • Ralph Ezekial, “The Racist Mind”
  • Glassner, “Black Men: How to Perpetuate Prejudice Without Really Trying”: 109-127

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand how race is a socially (not biologically) defined category.
  • Give a brief historical overview of four nonassimilated racial/ethnic groups: African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.
  • Discuss racial inequality from different theoretical perspectives: deficiency theories, bias theories, and structural discrimination theories.
  • Examine the role of public policy in both reducing racial bias and continuing racial bias in contemporary society.
  • Discuss and give examples of the growing racial strife in the United States.

Videos:

  • Video #3 from the series "RACE: The Power of an Illusion."

Assignments:

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 9
  • Miller, “Women in the Military”

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Compare the nature versus nurture arguments regarding gender differences in behavior.
  • Understand how the socialization process molds individuals into gendered beings.
  • Explain how institutions reinforce gender inequality.
  • Explain the factors that contribute to the earnings gap between women and men.
  • Discuss the social and individual costs of gender inequality.
  • Understand the three stages of feminism.

Videos:

Additional Links:

Assignments:

  • Discussion of the lyrics and video for Beyoncé's song "Flawless."

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 10
  • Naples, “Reactions to Being a Lesbian”

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Define deviant behaviors and understand the broader implications of the social construction of deviance.
  • Evaluate the problems of defining and conducting research on homosexuality.
  • Understand homophobia and its consequences.
  • Explain the ideological and legal oppression of homosexuals.

Videos:

Additional Links:

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 12
  • Glassner, “Crime in the News”: 21–49
  • Hunt, “Police Accounts of Normal Force”

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Explain the complication nature of the definition of crime and how crime rates vary by sex, age, social class, and race.
  • Explain how the United States system of justice is biased against certain groups in society.
  • Discuss potential solutions to reduce crime in the U.S.

Videos:

  • Stanford Prison Experiment slides and videos
  • Choose four of the 5-minute videos on the site One For Ten to watch. Each film details the story of an exonerated individual who had been on death row.

Assignments:

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 16
  • Coleman: "The Concept of Equality in Education"

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the consequences of having schools under local control.
  • Assess the ways that schools perpetuate class and race inequality.
  • Discuss possible solutions to address the inequities in our education system.

Videos:

Additional Links:

Assignments:

  • Quiz/Review Questions

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 17
  • Reader: Rosenham's "On Being Sane in Insane Places"

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the extent of teh healthcare crisis in the United States.
  • Explain how the healthcare system has shifted from physician-centered care to managed care, and the consequences of this shift.
  • Explain how access to healthcare varies by social class, race, and gender.
  • Compare and contrast the Bismarck, the Beveridge, and the National Health Insurance models of healthcare.
  • Discuss some alternatives to improve the healthcare delivery system in the United States.

Videos:

Readings:

  • Eitzen, Zinn and Smith: Chapter 19

Learning Objectives: After completing this module, students should be able to:

  • Describe the sociological imagination and how it can be used to seek solutions to social problems.
  • Understand the principles that should guide public policy in reducing or eliminating social problems.
  • Explain how the United states could finance a progressive agenda.
  • Assess the obstacles to instituting a progressive social agenda.

 

© Yvette Young. All Rights Reserved. Version Date 2016.