Class Calendar

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kendall and Ethan - Guest Speaker

We had two former SHS students stop in to be guest speakers about their experiences teaching.  I think it relates to our unit on socialization when you think about all of the agents of socialization in these kids lives: family, neighborhood, school, peers and even their gang.

Here are the schools they teach at:

Spry Community School
Here are demographics for the South Lawndale neighborhood where Spry is located.

For the kids who have textbooks, this is what they look like.
The halls at Spry.

Stagg Elementary School
Here are demographics for Englewood where Stagg is located.
Here is a map from the Chgo Tribune showing crime in Englewood.

Here is an article about the firing of all staff at a CPS school.

Here is a series from WBEZ that documents the difficulties that students face in CPS.  The series was done in 2009 when the CPS dropout rate was 50%.
 For nearly a year, WBEZ explored the real-world forces driving the high dropout rate inside Chicago’s public high schools. Our team of reporters - including Linda Lutton, Julia McEvoy and Natalie Moore – spent much of the school year deeply immersed in the lives of the students, teachers, administrators and parents at Robeson High School in Englewood on Chicago’s South Side. The series earned multiple journalism awards and audience plaudits for its deeply engaging, insightful and rich, narrative approach to education reporting.

Monday, April 14, 2014

LGBT Panel

We were fortunate to have a panel of lgbt students who shared their experiences with those of us willing to listen. Thanks to all who attended. Whether you were able to make it or not, the message was to be mindful about other people. Using language like "That's so gay," or "You're a fag" is hurtful to those who are gay. And, by using that language it really limits how those of us who are not gay are allowed to act and  I don't want to be put into a really narrow box.  Secondly, realize that all people are different and this includes those who are glbt. They might be categorized as such but be careful that you don't turn that category into a stereotype. Each person is an individual with his/her own preferences about how to act, talk etc... Try to see each person as individuals and do not make assumptions about how they are. Besides those two main points, I also think it was revealing how strong family was to their development. In some cases, their family had them convinced that they were not gay. But in the end, they did not have a choice about their sexuality, it just comes with who they are. If you are interested in resources or how you can help checkout and

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The agents of socialization, especially the media, shape women to think about femininity a certain way.

This video called "Onslaught" from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty highlights the unbelievable number of negative ads that young girls are shaped by:

Killing Us Softly 4 is a video that highlights the dangerous influence that media has had on our culture - especially how women are socialized to think about themselves, but also men too. (Click here to watch it on mediacast) I think it's shocking, but true. And it is especially dangerous because in everyday life, you don't pay enough attention to these adds to notice their influence. But, I think the video puts it all together and it really highlights how destructive these images are. And research shows that we see about 300 adds per day, everyday! Look for some ways that you are influenced to think about femininity in your life. Maybe the socialization comes from friends, family or ads/commercials. Post about them. Do you see how we are shaped to think about women? Do you see how harmful it can be? Do you know any examples of this personally? Here is a link to Jean Kilbourne's website which includes resources for you to fight these messages. There are a lot of interesting resources there so please check it out.  Here is a preview clip:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gender is a social consruction; We are socialized to think about being male or female in a spcific way.

Gender is one of the social constructs we learn from an early age and we often take it for granted. Nearly everyone is born biologically with a sex (that is male or female) and a sexuality (that is a sexual attraction such as heterosexual or homosexual). Most researchers who study people such as doctors, biologists, psychologists, sociologists will say that all of the research shows that people are born with their sex and sexuality. These are part of our biological makeup, our nature. However, gender is learned. Gender is how you react to your sex and sexuality. So, for example, if I am a heterosexual male, how should I act? What colors should I like, what clothes should I wear, how should I talk, what sports should I play is it okay for me to cry to be rough to like violence to be sensitive etc...These are all our gender and they are all learned reactions. From a young age, we treat people differently based on whether they are girls or boys. Checkout this post that shows how gender is a construct and because of that, our perception of gender changes over time. All of the agents of socialization are a part of this:
family: See this essay

toys: See this post from the Society Pages, or this page from the feministgal blog, and this redundant post from the Society Pages And see this post about other products that are pointlessly gendered thus reifying the idea of traditonal gender traits.

peers: see the book from Patricia and Peter Adler on preadolescent peer pressure.

media See this post.

school  See this postHere is a post from sociological images that shows Barbie helps to reinforce lessons learned from teachers.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Post 6: Socialization

Post 6 is due tuesday, April 8.  We have been learning about the socialization process.  This includes the distinction between nature and nurture and the importance of nurture.  We also saw that certain agents of socialization play a strong role in the nurture process. 

Please remember to

1.  write properly and post on time.

2. explain at least one source such as a reading (What is human nature? or Agents of Socialization), or a video (Danielle, Consuming Kids).

3. explain two or more topics we have learned (such as those above in bold) and give unique examples of how they might apply to your own life, or something unique from your perspective.

The Media, especially TV is a powerful agent of socialization.

--> By watching the documentary Consuming Kids and doing the The Un-TV experiment, I hope you became more aware of how the media impacts you. Hopefully you were really able to experience this experiment. If you did, you may have noticed the mindless trance that TV creates. You may also have seen that TV is in its essence quite boring and so it uses technical events as well as tv's own message that you should believe it is entertaining and exciting. Regarding the news on television, it is really one more entertainment program that presents itself as news. Very little of the news is actual news (in the sense that it is information that you need to know). See this post about headlines that you won't see in the news. Furthermore, the news is there to give you a sense that it is important. Here is a video making fun of the typical news magazine story. Isn't that funny? How true is that? Another one that is pretty funny, though politically charged is comedian Lewis Black's critique of Glenn Beck.All of this is interspersed with a message to you to be a consumer and a conformer and don't question what you are doing, certainly not while you are watching the TV. The TV is in many ways like a good friend of ours waiting for us in our living room. It's there with us giving us the feeling that we are connected and engaged to society, when the reality is exactly the opposite. Hopefully, the Consuming Kids video helped illustrate the socialization messages that TV has for us and the reality that it is more like a two-faced back stabber than a friend. Below is the trailer for Consuming Kids. But you can see the whole video by clicking here and logging into mediacast, orin parts at youtube and find more info on the Media Ed website.
And if you are skeptical that you have been socialized by the media, try playing one of the corporate logo games here. See how much you have been influenced.  Or try this quiz of tv show theme songs.Or this quiz from sporcle for commercial jingles.  Or this commercial juingle quiz from business insider.
 Even more evidence of the powerful force the TV has on us comes from the small Pacific island of Fiji. Ann Becker studied Fijian norms before the island was able to get satellite TV. After getting satellite TV, in a very short time period, just a few years, the island had reversed its norms and was now experiencing the body dysmorphic disorders of the United States. Here is one summary from Harvard. And Here is one from the NY Times. Here is an excerpt:
'You've gained weight'' is a traditional compliment in Fiji, anthropologists say. In accordance with traditional culture in the South Pacific nation, dinner guests are expected to eat as much as possible. A robust, nicely rounded body is the norm for men and women. ''Skinny legs'' is a major insult. And ''going thin,'' the Fijian term for losing a noticeable amount of weight, is considered a worrisome condition. But all that may be changing, now that Heather Locklear has arrived. Just a few years after the introduction of television to a province of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, eating disorders -- once virtually unheard of there -- are on the rise among girls, according to a study presented yesterday at the American Psychiatric Association meetings in Washington. Young girls dream of looking not like their mothers and aunts, but like the slender stars of ''Melrose Place'' and ''Beverly Hills 90210.'' ''I'm very heavy,'' one Fijian adolescent lamented during an interview with researchers led by Dr. Anne E. Becker, director of research at the Harvard Eating Disorders Center of Harvard Medical School, who investigated shifts in body image and eating practices in Fiji over a three-year period.
Here is a poster called "What are you missing?" from Media Ed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Agents of socialization are important groups that shape who we are.

Agent S
Agents of socialization are groups that we are a part of that shape us significantly throughout our life. Often, the influence these groups have are taken-for-granted so we don't realize the significant impact they have on us; in this way I think of them as "secret agents" nudging us here or there.

Some significant finds regarding agents of socialization are:

Family - the first agent that has often the greatest impact on a person. Families intentionally teach skills, values and beliefs (manifest lessons), but they also can teach unintentional (latent) lessons. When I was growing up, besides teaching, I considered being a cop or working for the FBI. Both of these were jobs my parents did. It is funny that with so much opportunity in America, how often students pursue careers related to what their parents do. Is this true for you? How are you shaped by parents or friends? Check out this post about 7 things good parents do that screw up their kids. Humorous, but based on real research.  One of the 7 things that I find really powerful is the way parents praise their kids.  Telling your kid "you are so smart" is actually harmful to their learning.  See more about why in this post about Carolyn Dweck's book, Mindset; the New Psychology of Success.

School - also teaches both manifest lessons like reading and writing and latent lessons like patriotism, consumption and obedience. Obedience as in Beavis vs. Barbie. Consumption in schools is illustrated by Murray J. Milner,

Religion - important even if you are not religiously involved yourself.

Day Care - significant findings that there is less of a bond with mothers if child attends daycare, but daycare kids develop more language skills.

Sports Teaches things like hard work, achievement, teamwork and competitiveness.

Work Work affects adults so much that it becomes a part of their identity. For example, "What do you do?" Is a popular greeting when you meet someone new. When adults retire, they often have trouble adjusting to a new life without work because there is a loss in identity.

Friends/Peer Groups - Starts esp. because of school and cohort groups, becomes significant.


98% of American homes have TV (that’s more than have phones 94%)
- the average American household has at least one set turned on for 7 hours per day.
-the average American child watches 20,000 commercials per year.
- TV watching is a routine that children learn before learning to read.
- many children spend as much time watching TV as they do interacting with parents.
- Sex, violence and wealth are more prevalent in mass media than in real life.
- Minorities watch 40% more TV than those in the majority, but they are not involved in the shows.
42% of children under 8 years old have a television in their bedroom.
Half (52%) of all 0- to 8-year-olds have access to a new mobile device, such as a smartphone, video iPod, or iPad/tablet.
More than a third (38%) of children this age have used one of these devices, including 10% of 0-to 1-year-olds, 39% of 2- to 4-year-olds, and more than half (52%) of 5- to 8-year-olds.
In a typical day, one in 10 (11%) 0- to 8-year-olds uses a smartphone, video iPod, iPad, or similar device to play games, watch videos, or use other apps. Those who do such activities spend an average of 43 minutes a day doing so.
Checkout how much the big media companies own; you can download a chart here. This allows them to cross-market and create a sense that their shows/products are important. Another resource on media ownership is from the Columbia Journalism Review. Checkout how much Disney owns, but then you can see what other media conglomerates own. Merchants of Cool, though a little older, highlights the media's impact on teens. And if you are skeptical that you have been socialized by the media, try playing one of the corporate logo games here. See how much you have been influenced.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Socialization, Nurture and Love

I am convinced of the overwhelming power of love in the world. As a sociologist, my interest is in the effects that people's environments have on each other. Below I will outline the research that has lead me to believe in the power that loving each other has on our being. To learn to love each other and allow ourselves to love should be our ultimate cause. This may sound corny or anecdotal, however, there is research that supports this. From Henslin's Sociology; A Down To Earth Approach, we read about Skeels and Dye's study of institutionalized children (1939) and Skeels follow-up study in 1966. The research found that children given love, affection, stimulation and intimacy are able to be more independent, socially-attached, more successful adults later in life.  Look at the difference between the children that stayed behind at the orphange receiving proper care, but little stimulation, love and affection versus the children who went to a home where adults with special needs could show them love, attention, nurture and stimulation:

Institutionalized Children (Skeels & Dye)
Orphanage 12                                                Home for Special Needs 13
More functional at first                              More severely dysfunctional
Proper care, but no stimulation                Stimulation, play, challenge and affection
    -30 IQ pts                                                       +28 IQ pts
     - avg. less than 3rd grade ed                     - avg. of 12th grade 5 complete 1+ years of college       
      - 4 live in institutions                                -  all 13 were self-supporting or homemakers
     - low level jobs                                            - 1 grad school
     - 2 marry                                                      - 11 marry

There is a power in our interaction with other people that is difficult to measure.
Dean Ornish M.D. writes about this force in his book, Love and Survival. Checkout the excerpt below:
Love and survival.
What do they have to do with each other?
This book is based on a simple but powerful idea: Our survival depends on the healing power of love, intimacy, and relationships. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. As individuals. As communities. As a country. As a culture. Perhaps even as a species....I have no intention of diminishing the power of diet and exercise or, for that matter, of drugs and surgery....As important as these are, I have found that perhaps the most powerful intervention-and the most meaningful for me and for most of the people with whom I work, including staff and patients--is the healing power of love and intimacy, and the emotional and spiritual transformation that often result from these.

In this book, I describe the increasing scientific evidence from my own research and from the studies of others that cause me to believe that love and intimacy are among the most powerful factors in health and illness, even though these ideas are largely ignored by the medical profession. As I review the extensive scientific literature that supports these ideas, I will describe the limitations of science to document and understand the full range of these implications--not only in our health and illness, but also in what often brings the most joy, value, and meaning to our lives. I give examples from my life and from the lives of friends, colleagues, and patients.

Medicine today tends to focus primarily on the physical and mechanistic: drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules. I am not aware of any other factor in medicine--not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and premature death from all causes.

Cholesterol, for example, is clearly related to the incidence of illness and premature death from heart disease and stroke. Those with the highest blood cholesterol levels may have a risk of heart attack several times greater than those with the lowest levels and lowering cholesterol levels will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, cholesterol levels are not related to such diseases as complications during pregnancy and childbirth, the incidence of illness and premature death from infectious diseases, arthritis, ulcers, and so on, whereas loneliness and isolation may significantly increase the risk of all these. Something else is going on.

Smoking, diet, and exercise affect a wide variety of illnesses, but no one has shown that quitting smoking, exercising, or changing diet can double the length of survival in women with metastatic breast cancer, whereas the enhanced love and intimacy provided by weekly group support sessions has been shown to do just that, as I will describe in chapter 2. While genetics plays a role in most illnesses, the number of diseases in which our genes play a primary, causative role is relatively small. Genetic factors--even when combined with cholesterol levels and all of the known risk factors--account for no more than one-half the risk of heart disease.

Love and intimacy are at a root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had the same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients. It would be malpractice not to prescribe it--yet, with few exceptions, we doctors do not learn much about the healing power of love, intimacy, and transformation in our medical training. Rather, these ideas are often ignored or even denigrated.

It has become increasingly clear to even the most skeptical physicians why diet is important. Why exercise is important. Why stopping smoking is important. But love and intimacy? Opening your heart? And what is emotional and spiritual transformation?

I am a scientist. I believe in the value of science as a powerful means of gaining greater understanding of the world we live in. Science can help us sort out truth from fiction, hype from reality, what works from, what doesn't work, for whom, and under what circumstances. Although I respect the ways and power of science, I also understand its limitations as well. What is most meaningful often cannot be measured. What is verifiable may not necessarily be what is most important. As the British scientist Denis Burkitt once wrote, "Not everything that counts can be counted."

We may not yet have the tools to measure what is most meaningful to people, but the value of those experiences is not diminished by our inability to quantify them. We can listen, we can learn, and we can benefit greatly from those who have had these experiences. When we gather together to tell and listen to each other's stories, the sense of community and the recognition of shared experiences can be profoundly healing.

I have just started reading another book about the psychology of love and it's impact on our lives. The book is A General Theory of Love by Amini, Lannon and Lewis and here is a review:
Drawing on new scientific discoveries and seventy years of collective clinical experience, three psychiatrists unravel life's most elemental mystery: the nature of love.

A primordial area of the brain, far older than reason or thinking, creates both the capacity and the need for emotional intimacy that all humans share. A General Theory of Love describes the workings of this ancient, pivotal urge and reveals that our nervous systems are not self-contained. Instead, our brains link with those of the people close to us, in a silent rhythm that makes up the very life force of the body. These wordless and powerful ties determine our moods, stabilize and maintain our health and well-being, and change the structure of our brains. In consequence, who we are and who we become depend, in great part, on whom we love.

A General Theory of Love applies these and other extraordinary insights to some of the most crucial issues we face in our lives. Its authors explain how relationships function and where love goes wrong, how parents shape a child's developing self, how psychotherapy really works, what curbs and what fosters violent aggression in our children, and how modern society regularly courts disaster by flouting emotional laws it does not yet recognize.

A work of rare originality, passion, and eloquence, A General Theory of Love will forever change the way you think about human intimacy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

nature AND nurture

Based on the growing man metaphor, we see that people are not born with their full human potential.  Instead, we need others to nurture it out of us.  Not only do we need other people to do this, but we are made through our biology to be social beings.  The influence of others on us (socialization) actually happens before we are even born!  One example of this is in identical twins who have the same exact DNA and biology.  Because they are exactly the same, nurses will often paint the nails of twins differently so that they can tell them apart.  But, often the parents of these twins can tell them apart from a very early age because they have already started developing different personalities even before being born.   Another example of socialization happening in utero is in this study that shows what mothers eat can affect the unborn baby's sense of taste.  In a more extreme example, researchers have found the the experiences that a grandmother has can affect the genes that she passes down to her grandchild!  In other words, the nurturing or socialization process might start decades before you are even born!  Here is a trailer for a show on NOVA that explores the connections between genes and social experiences. The researchers theorize that social experiences can affect the genes of a person and, more amazingly, these genes can be passed down to a generation or two. So the grandchildren may experience the effects of their grandparents' lives on their genes. How crazy is that? They call it the "ghost in your genes".

Don't let these mind blowing examples complicate things for you. Here is the simple idea: nature provides you a starting point or aptitude such as DNA and genes. And then nurture (or your socialization) works with your nature to enhance it, repress it or change the nature to something else. The point being that we need both nature and nurture to make us who we are.  If we do not have that nurture we cannot reach our higher power of consciousness and awareness.

Besides starting surprisingly early, nurture also plays a surprisingly powerful role in our development.  One example is studying the differences in identical twins; they have the same DNA, genes and biology; the same nature but they are different.  It is amazing to me that so much of what we take for granted as being human (part of our nature) is actually learned from our environment (nurture). The video above is about a girl named Genie that was locked in a bedroom alone for 12 years of her life is one small piece of evidence of the power of social experiences on individuals. Here is what Susan Curtiss wrote about her in her book Genie; A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day Wild Child. 

Genie was pitiful. Hardly ever having worn clothing, she did not react to temperature, either heat or cold. Never having eaten solid food, Genie did not know how to chew and had great difficulty in swallowing.  Having been strapped down and left sitting on a potty chair she could not stand erect, could not straighten her arms or legs, could not run hop, jump or climb.  In fact she could only walk with difficulty shuffling her feet and swaying from side to side. Hardly ever having seen more than a space of ten feet in front of her she had become nearsighted to exactly that distance....Surprisingly, however, Genie was alert and curious. She maintained good eye contact and...She was intensely eager for human contact. 

You can also check out this website for examples of feral children. This website, though sad, provides further evidence for the importance of human nurturing in socializing individuals to their full human potential. How have you been shaped by the experiences of your life?
In class we watched a video of a girl Danielle who was found at age 6.  She had very little socialization from her mother who was later arrested.  Here is Danielle's website.

Lastly, checkout this post from the Society Pages it has a number of different examples showing the socialization influence on kids.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The start of Unit 3, socialization; a metaphor called "The Growing Man"

The metaphor that I use for the unit on socialization is called The Growing Man Metaphor. I developed the metaphor after being inspired by Richard Strozzi-Heckler's book Holding the Center; Sanctuary in a Time of Confusion. The idea is that to go from being a baby ruled by emotions, instincts and training to being a fully human adult (conscious and aware), we need other people. As humans we were made to be social. Our nature - biology, our language, our dependency all make us social beings. For more proof on how we are made to be social, checkout this link to see a story on 60 minutes about how we have an ability to interpret and remember human faces. So we are made to interact with other people and it is through other people that we become human and that we develop our potential. The process of this influence in sociology is called "socialization."  Here is the Unit 1 handout that I gave in class..

Friday, March 14, 2014

Post 5 and Tuesdays With Morrie

 For Post 5, please post about American culture.  Using your sociological imagination, you can explain how living in the United States might affect someone.  We especially focused on cultural values.  Then using your sociological mindfulness you can post about how you might be affected by American cultural values and how you might want to make changes or fight against certain values that our culture promotes.  You can use Tuesdays with Morrie as a guide to various topics to discuss.

We watched Tuesdays With Morrie as an example of American culture. Watch it here on mediacast. The movie reflects on both American norms and taboos and on American values. The following prompts each relate the movie to American culture.  Here are some links that might help you think about the movie: Here is a list of quotes from the book. And here is a link to a story about priorities.  Here are some prompts to help you apply the movie to sociology and write about it.  Remember to apply it to a unique example from your own life:

Are Americans afraid of death? Is death a taboo topic? Why do you think this is the case? How might our feelings about death be related to our materialism? I also think that our feelings about death are rooted in our culture's individualism. See this post about the way our culture associates individualism with grieving one's death.  That is why I think most students would say the movie was a sad movie (at least parts of it) even though those same students would admit that Morrie doesn't want them to be sad.  Morrie himself explains,"Don't be so sad because I'm going to die Mitch...Death ends a life but not a relationship..." And Morrie explains, I'll still love you and you'll always love me.

What are some ways that Mitch values hard work, achievement, success? Is this true for you or your parents? Does this start in high school or even sooner? What ways? Is it possible to obtain a different type of success? Think about (click here for more info) the Nothing assignment and how we connect what we do to who we are as people. Our culture constructs a reality where we are not allowed to just be. We must be doing at all times; it is valuing personal achievement, time, work, competition, materialism and success. Note that happiness is never a apart of the equation.  The hegemonic assumption is that happiness simply comes with those values.  See this post about happiness and it's relationship to money.  Contrast these values with the values that Michael Buettner writes about in his book Thrive.  What are the lessons you learned from Thrive?  How would you like to live your life differently after reading this?  What would be a message you would like to share with the rest of your classmates who don't have the privilege of being in our class?  This value cluster also reminds me of this joke about an American businessman and a Mexican fisherman

Do you think that Americans are afraid to love each other, or show that they love each other? If we are afraid to love, why might that be? Does our culture socially construct our reality so that we are afraid to love? What values in our culture might make us feel this way? How can we overcome this? What is the difference between the value of “romantic love” and real love - the love Morrie talks about?   I think these different types of love are related to American values too.  See this post for more on the idea of romantic love vs. real love.  How is this a part of your life?

Close your eyes.  Think of someone influential in your life.  Now write down who thought about and why you thought about that person.

When you are finished, call them and read it to them! Why not? Check out this video from Upworthy on how this creates happiness: 

In what ways are Americans afraid of being dependent on others? Do you think that this is related to our value of independence and freedom? In what ways do you depend on other people? Does this bother you? Both the prompt above about love and this prompt about dependency remind me of the TED talk by Brene Brown. She speaks about vulnerability and our cuture. We want to numb our feelings of vulnerability, but in doing so we also numb our feelings of connection to others and our sense of worthiness which allows us to feel love and happiness.

The feeling of individualism and independence that creates this lack of invulnerability may also detach us from feelings of gratitude that help contribute to our happiness.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Subtle Way that Values Shape Your Life

Let's think with sociological mindfulness for a second about values.  They shape you in so many different ways. And they also shape the entire culture in certain ways.  These values lead to behaviors that we all participate in unconsciously.  These behaviors can have an enormous impact on a culture when you view them as cultural behaviors.  Watch this TED talk by Chris Jordan to see how the behaviors impact our culture:

After watching that video, take a moment and think about this:
1. What are the behaviors that SHS students participate in unconsciously that when taken as a whole, has a huge impact?
2. Try to estimate what the total impact of that behvior is. Use data/research to figure that out.
3. What American cultural values shape the behavior in your example?
4. How could you display that data for others to see?
5.  How is Chris Jordan's work an example of sociological mindfulness?

Bemused in America and in Sociology...

Today We assigned an experiment and a reading for next week. The experiment is called "Zen and the Art of Sociology; Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!" It is in the packet for Unit 2. Admittedly, it is a little weird and bemusing. But I implore you to trust the process. Please really try this. Follow the directions on the handout and turn it in 1 week from today. The reading that was assigned is from the last chapter of Dan Buettner's book called "Thrive". The book details different places around the world where residents report higher than normal levels of happiness. This chapter is about the conclusions and suggestions that Buettner makes about how to live happily. It is a long reading so please simply annotate the findings that you find surprising or the suggestions that you want to remember and incorporate into your life.

Lastly, we talked about Bemused in America.  The article shows how someone from a country relatively similar to the United States, Germany(Western, industrialized, Democratic) can find many cultural differences that are quizzical and strange to him. These differences can be attributed to the different values that Americans have. For example, think about the Supermarket article. We like 24 hr stores because it is practical and efficient to have stores open all night and it allows us to control our time and shop whenever we want.  Here is the list of values (once again) that we compared to what the German author finds strange:

Kohl's "Values Americans Live By" is a really succinct explanation of American values.
American Values                                                         vs.Other Cultures’ Values
Personal control/responsibility                                    vs Fate/destiny
Change seen as natural and positive/Progress            vs. Stability/tradition
Time and its control                                                      vs. Human Interaction
Equality/fairness                                                           vs. Hierarchy/rank/status
Individualism/independence/freedom                           vs. Group welfare/dependence
Self-Help/initiative                                                        vs. Birthright/inheritance
Competition                                                                   vs. Cooperation
Future orientation                                                         vs. Past orientation
Action/work                                                                   vs. “Being”
Informality                                                                    vs. Formality
Directness/openness/Honesty                                       vs. Indirectness/ritual/”face”
Practicality/efficiency                                                   vs. Idealism/theory
Materialism/Acquisitiveness                                         vs. Spiritualism/detachment
Achievement/Success                                                    vs. Acceptance/Status Quo
Morality/judgement                                                      vs.Consequentialism/situational ethics

And here is how other cultures view American culture. Many cultures have "American" themed parties based on their perception of American culture.

And here is an Australian's perspective of strange things Americans do.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The week ahead...

Today,  we reviewed the lesson (and post) from last friday.  Hopefully you can see how American values shape our everyday life and how the Kohl reading explains those values.

I also assigned the nothing experiment from  page 25 of the UNit2 Culture packet.  Please read this and turn in the reflection on the back (page 26) by monday March 17th.

Also, I assigned the reading called Thrive which starts on page 27 and goes about 20 pages.  It is long but interesting.  PLease read that for next monday as well.

Friday, March 7, 2014

When I realized I was an American...

When I was in Italy, I felt like I was returning home. I had always thought that because my Grandfather emmigrated from Italy, that I was Italian too. I looked Italian. I had an Italian surname. So when I went to Italy I met Italians and I told them that I was Italian too.
They said, "Where were you born?"
"In Chicago," I answered.
[LAUGHS] "You are not Italian!"
"But my grandfather was born in Italy."
"Ohh, your grandfather is Italian, but YOU are American."
"Look at you - blue jeans, baseball cap, gym are American!"

This was such a revelation for me. I had always thought of myself as Italian, but bow I realize that my heritage was Italian, but my nationality was American.

Although it is difficult to define at times, Americans do have their own unique culture. There are reasons that this culture is difficult to understand. Some of the difficulties in understanding American culture are:
Real vs. Ideal Culture - Sometimes a culture of people will believe in an ideal, but their reality is different.  For example most people in the U.S. will agree that equality is an ideal, but the reality is that we are more unequal than most countries and realistically we do not support a lot of programs designed to equalize people, instead that is seen as socialism and is frowned upon.
Value Contradiction - Some values contradict each other, such as individualism and equality.  It is difficult to see all people as individuals and treat them equally.  Inherently, if you are an individual, you are not equal, you are different and unique.
Value Cluster - Sometimes values work together to create a really strong system of belief, such as: personal control, work, achievement, success, materialism.
Globalization and cultural leveling - Some values from the United States have spread around the world so we see them as natural, but really it just our influence that has spread them.

But those who study culture have identified values that Americans hold that make them unique. Kohl's "Values Americans Live By" is a really succinct explanation of American values.
American Values                                                         vs.Other Cultures’ Values
Personal control/responsibility                                    vs Fate/destiny
Change seen as natural and positive/Progress            vs. Stability/tradition
Time and its control                                                      vs. Human Interaction
Equality/fairness                                                           vs. Hierarchy/rank/status
Individualism/independence/freedom                           vs. Group welfare/dependence
Self-Help/initiative                                                        vs. Birthright/inheritance
Competition                                                                   vs. Cooperation
Future orientation                                                         vs. Past orientation
Action/work                                                                   vs. “Being”
Informality                                                                    vs. Formality
Directness/openness/Honesty                                       vs. Indirectness/ritual/”face”
Practicality/efficiency                                                   vs. Idealism/theory
Materialism/Acquisitiveness                                         vs. Spiritualism/detachment
Achievement/Success                                                    vs. Acceptance/Status Quo
Morality/judgement                                                      vs.Consequentialism/situational ethics

Robin Williams (The sociologist, not the actor), studied American culture in the 1970s and came up with his own list of values, which is largely still applicable today.

Can you apply any of these American values to your own life? Perhaps you can show how these values pervade your experience at school?  Note that the values are subtle but strong.  They affect you in so many subtle ways that you don't notice but you are shaped by them in a profound way.  Here is an example of how we are shaped as a culture in subtle ways: