Class Calendar

Friday, February 27, 2015

Our culture is in the toilet...material culture

First - please take out your ipads and search for a picture that represents American culture.  Save that picture, then:

Fill out page one of the "Blog Self Assessment" form.

Yesterday we examined two metaphors for understanding culture: The card game and the fishbowl. Take a minute and think about how each of these is like a culture. In class today, find a partner.
The older partner share how the card game was a metaphor for culture.
The younger partner share how the fishbowl is like a culture.

Today, let's examine a real life cultural situation. The Danish mother visiting NYC. For example, it is normal for Danish parents to leave their babies in a buggy while they eat inside a restaurant. American culture, especially New Yorkers do not accept this. But this is very accepted in many Scandanavian cultures. So when a Danish mom left her child outside in a baby buggy for over an hour while she ate dinner in a restaurant, it created quite a stir among New Yorkers.
 In this scenario, who experienced culture shock?  Ethnocentrism? And, who was culturally relative?

Could sociology have helped all of the participants to be more understanding of each other? Have you ever been to a foreign culture and experienced culture shock?

My best example of culture shock was the Japanese toilet. At first, the experience can be a culture shock as the traditional Japanese toilet is very different from ours. As we examine this toilet as well as other cultural components we must remember to be culturally relative. In other words, try not to be ethnocentric, but in stead understand each culture from its own perspective.

When understanding culture, sociologists examine material culture (things) and non-material culture (gestures, language, norms, values). Material culture often reflects non-material culture. 

In the case of the Japanese toilet, not only does it look and function differently from ours, but it also represents fundamentally different non-material culture. The Japanese are very germ conscious and they try hard not to spread germs. They also do not have a lot of furniture - they do not sit on furniture in their houses so why would they sit on a porcelain throne in a bathroom? And finally, they are used to sitting and squatting in positions difficult for westerners.

The Japanese do have a "Western style" toilet that  is more like the toilet we are used to however, it still represents differences in both - its material and non-material culture.

In either case, the point is that there is nothing natural about culture.  In other words, there are no weird ways of doing things that come quite natural to us.  There are only different ways of doing things.  And material culture, although physically different, often represents a different non-material culture, such as a different way of thinking about the world.

Another example would be how people eat around the world.  That is, what utensils they eat with.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Culture can be tricky...

Welcome to Unit 2: Cuture!

Download the packet for Unit 2 here.

Today in class we examined how people react when they come into contact with different cultures. Culture is essentially all the rules we learn about how to live our lives. We played a card game that illustrated this. When we are exposed to other cultures and we see such different rules, we are sometimes in shock of how different the other culture is (culture shock). If this shock results in our judging a culture based on the rules we have learned that is called ethnocentrism. Instead, sociologists try to use cultural relativity when examining a culture.

 Another metaphor for culture that we use is a fishbowl. All of the stuff in the fishbowl is material culture. But what you can't see (the water) is just as important (if not more so): the ph value of the water, the temperature, whether it is salty or not, etc... This is called nonmaterial culture. Additionally, the fish has never known life out of water just like we have been surrounded by culture from the moment we are born. And lastly, the fish must look through the water to see the world just as we always look through our culture to understand the world. We are limited and shaped by our cultural experiences. If the water in the bowl is blue then the whole world looks blue to the fish.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Post 3: Social Construction of Reality, Macro/Micro sociology, Research, Groups & Identity, Ingroups/outgroups, Categories & Stereotypes.

For the second half of Unit 1, we examined Social Construction of Reality, Macro/Micro sociology, Research methods, Groups and Identity, Ingroups/outgroups, Categories and Stereotypes.  A few reminders for when you post:
1) Be sure to look back at my blog and read over the posts that apply.  My posts contain explanations of what each of the concepts were that we learned and sources that apply to them.

2)Be sure to explain some of the concepts that we learned and try to apply them to an original example from your own life/experience.

3)Be sure to explain how a couple of sources apply to the sociological concepts we are learning.  Demonstrate an understanding of how the source applies to the sociology.

4)Spell check and proofread.  Do not use casual/texting language.

Note: For the end of the unit, we will watch a movie that will allow you to apply the concepts we are learning.  Feel free to use the movie as a source and use the prompts to help you apply what you have learned.

Post 3 is due by our first class period after the movie is over.

Sonny had five fingers, but he only used 'tree'

We are watching A Bronx Tale as a sort of case study for our first unit.  Watch it here on mediacast (if that link does not work, try this one.) A Bronx Tale is based on a true story. Chazz Palmenteri (who plays Sonny) witnessed a murder growing up in an Italian neighborhood in NY. He wrote a one man play about it in 1989. A few years later it was made into a movie and Robert DeNiro directed it. When I first heard Palmenteri talk about the real life events, I couldn't believe it. If you get the chance, listen to this interview with Palmenteri about the story. Click listen now for the full story.
Also, in the spring of 2009, Palimenteri performed the story as a one-man play in Chicago. I got to see it live!

If you need reminders from the movie, click here for a list of important quotes from the movie.

There's a few ways that I like to think about the movie. One is the theme of love throughout the movie. I think the movie is really about love, especially the love of a father for his son. But it is also about love versus fear/violence. Sonny told C that "Fear lasts longer than love," but at the end of the movie, no one fears Sonny any more, but his C still loves him and still feels loved by him. Also, Carmine stops by and so does C's dad both to show that they care about Sonny and they still love him. Love transcends death, but fear does not. Fear on the other hand, leads to violence and violence begets more violence. We see this throughout the movie as violence starts small (throwing a stick at the bus) but then it grows and gets out of control (firebombing at the end, and even Sonny's fate). I also think the idea of art imitates life imitates art imitates life... is interesting. This movie was based on real life events of Chazz Palimentieri and then the movie influences real life when it thrusts Lillo Brancato into stardom and seals his fate.
Sometimes they say "art imitates life imitates art..." Here is a link to a 20/20 interview about how Lillo Brancato became the wasted talent that his friends were in the movie.
Micro-Macro Dynamics
The racism throughout the film is obvious. What is often taken for granted is where the racism comes from. What are the micro and macro sociological forces that create this racism? Think in terms of the Abandon Ship exercise. How did micro and macro forces come together to influence who was saved and who was tossed? Apply this to the racism in the movie. Can you see any micro or macro sociological forces in your own life?

What are all the groups that Calogero belongs to? (Think in terms of the circles exercise we did in class.) Would you put him in Sonny’s crew, or would you put him and Sonny in their own group? What is Calogero’s Master Status? Why do you think so? Do you think his master status changes throughout the movie? What is your own master status? Has it changed throughout your life like it has for Calogero?  You might even discuss the characters in terms of their ingroups/outgroups.

Social Construction of Reality
How is their reality in the neighborhood socially constructed? What are the unwritten rules that govern how you can or can’t act? How do you think this construction came about? Can you see their racist attitudes as a social construction? What are some socially constructed ideas that you believe?

Sociological Imagination
Use your imagination to think about the dynamics and social forces that created Calogero’s “world”. How did the neighborhood come to exist? How did the different groups within the neighborhood come together there? Clue: the movie doesn’t show this, you have to think about what the movie doesn’t show. Another way to put it is how are Calogero’s personal troubles (his biography) part of the bigger picture (his history and society)? How is this similar or different than the groups that have shaped your life?

Sociological Mindfulness
Who is sociologically mindful in the movie? How is this character sociologically mindful and how does this sociological mindfulness affect him? Do you think it makes a difference in his life? How might sociological mindfulness make a difference in your own life?

Polar plunge 2015!

SHS wins the high school challenge!  Thank you everyone who participated especially girls water polo.  And we even got some press coverage in the Trib with a nice quote by miss  Jordan Landau!

Service Step 2: Recording your hours

Within one week of serving hours, I'd like you to post about it.

For Step 2 of the Community Service Experience you should record on your blog what you experienced: Before, during and after you have a service experience, try to be mindful of these questions: Things to record: How did you feel about the service before going? What were your expectations? Were there aspects that you were apprehensive about? Where did you have to go for the service? Had you been there before? If not, what was it like going to this place? Who were the people you came into contact with? What were they like? What was the interaction like? What was the actual job you did? What was it like? Was there anything that surprised you? What were you thinking as you did it? How long did your tasks last? What did you think as you went home? Also you MUST include: Name of organization you volunteered? Where was your experience (address)? Date(s) and time(s) of experience? Supervisor or person in charge and phone/email address? And include a picture of you doing the service or you at the site.

After each service experience, you should write your observations down. These observations will be posted to your blog (in addition to your usual weekly posts). This should help you to remember the details about your experiences so that later in the semester you will be able to write a sociological reflection about your experiences. This also provides evidence of your participation in the service experience. Please fill out the information below or you may type and print it out, but be sure to include the information requested below. Please post about your experience within 1 WEEK after you do the service.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Stereotype Or Just A Category?

Please answer the following questions about Joel Charon's "Should We Generalize About People?"
1. Does Charon believe that categories and generalizations are useful? Why/Why not?

2.What is the difference between a generalization and a stereotype?

3.  What are some groups that you belong to that have been stereotyped?  Have you ever experienced that?

After reading Joel Charon's "Should We Generalize..." hopefully, you realize that yes we must generalize because it is what makes us intelligent human beings. But our great strength as humans can also be a horrible flaw. If we do not generalize and categorize accurately then we run the risk of stereotyping. We must realize that although individuals can be categorized into certain groups, it doesn't mean that all individuals fit that group's generalization. Toward the end of the reading, Charon says,
"If we are open-minded and reflective, we can even evaluate how good or how poor our generalizations are, and we can alter what we know as we move from situation to situation."
This is both the task and the promise of sociology. Sociology challenges us to think about our generalizations and assumptions about what we know and it promises us that with proper thought and care we can understand people better. There is a poem I like that illustrates Charon's point. The poem called "The Cookie Thief" by Valerie Cox. We are all cookie thieves sometimes in how we erroneously use the categories that Charon talks about. When was the last time you were too quick to categorize or judge someone? Have you ever been stereotyped or judged wrongly?

Here is a link to a video called I am an American that shows the dangerous power that extreme stereotypes can lead to. In this case, Islam is the example, but it could be any religion or ethnicity or whatever group. United States' history is littered with examples of groups that have been scapegoated and vilified. This is how Muslims have been treated in many cases in post 911 America. But I have had so many Muslim students who prove that this is just a stereotype. And that is what this video is showing. There are caring, loving, neighborly Muslims all around us but extreme stereotypes lead us to only see the stereotype and ignore the reality.

One example of people stereotyping quickly might be this Washington Post experiment in which Joshua Bell, violin virtuoso, played some of the greatest classical pieces ever written on one of the most expensive violins ever made. And yet few people noticed because he was dressed like an average guy and he was playing in the subway. Maybe people assumed he was a homeless streetperformer, so why stop and listen?

Some other examples of people shattering stereotypes are:

Here is an article in the Daily Herald about a motivational speaker who was born with no arms and no legs. We might categorize him as disabled, but we should be careful about the assumptions and stereotypes that go along with that category.

videoLikewise, here is a link to Nick Vujicic's website. He is a motivational speaker who also has no limbs.

videoHere is a video about Aaron Fotheringham, an "extreme sitter." Aaron has been in a wheel chair his whole life, but he sees it as an opportunity. Again, we should be careful of our stereotypes. Aaron is way more rad than I will ever be, but he is in a wheel chair and I am not. If you search youtube, you can see Aaron doing a double back flip! But there are also lots of videoes of him crashing over and over again and again. It takes hard work and lots of effort to become good at what you do.  Hard work was a theme in all of the above videoes.  And if you read the rest of Outliers, Gladwell makes the case that the most successful people spend ten thousand hours developing their skills.  The other theme that comes out in all of these videoes from Brett Eastburn to Aaron Fotheringham is that in order to find meaning in your life you must find a way to serve others.  Find a way to help other people.  You have talents.  Develop them and find a way to use them to help others.  That is your purpose.

Another great source about stereotypes is episode 362 from This American Life. Click here to listen to the episode where 5 people tell stories about stereotyping. Listen to the prologue about people with disabilities, and Act One about NY cops stereotyping people coming from Brooklyn.

videoFinally, when you feel like you have been stereotyped, how do you react? What do you do? Anis Mojgani suggests that you shake the dust. Checkout his slam poem. Here is a link to his poem in writing.

videoHere is a video about a different type of street performer that also challenges your assumptions about the category "disabled".  I love how these "disabled" people see their opportunity to teach others.  Their lessons seem to be similar:  The world doesn't owe you anything.  You owe yourself hard work and dedication to become what you want.  Find a way to help others/teach others.  Don't stereotype and keep an open mind.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In-n-out is not just for burgers!

In and out is not just for burgers, it is also for groups! Sociologists use the terms ingroup and outgroup to refer to groups that you are either a member of or not a member of. It is much easier to feel attached to the groups you are a part of and feel judgmental about your outgroups.

To illustrate this, today we separated the class into two different groups. Each group made a list of reasons why the other group was wearing what they were wearing. Every time I do this lesson, the reasons break down into judgments against the other group. For example:

This was a lesson about in-groups and out-groups. In discussing the different groups that makeup society, we see that there are in-groups and out-groups. An in-group is a group that you are a part of. You have membership in it, and because of that, you feel aligned to the group and you have ownership in it. By contrast, it becomes easier to judge the out-groups, or the groups you are not a part of. As this semester goes on, be mindful of the groups that we talk about that you are not a part of. You must make a conscious effort to understand these groups. Try to become conscious of your judgments so that you can also consciously work against them. Watch this video clip about the famous "Angry Eye" classroom lesson done in the 1960s by teacher Jane Elliot. Think about how you may have judged out-groups in your own life. Also, think about how you become allied and bonded with your in-groups. Can you see how this happens in society? Can you think of examples in your own life? video You can watch the whole video at Frontline's website.

And there is an updated version of this.  Jane Elliot returns to do the experiment with college kids.  It is called Angry Eye.  Here is the link to watch it on mediacast.
I think that the point of sociological mindfulness is becoming more aware of others and part of that awareness is an understanding of how we may have portrayed that group in our own minds.  So understanding the idea of in-group/out-group dynamics is easy but applying it to ourselves is the challenging part.  In this TED talk by Sam Richards, he explains how understanding outgroups might lead to a radical experiment in  empathy.  Check it out:

Now think about your own life.  What are your in groups?  What are the outgroups that you could become more aware of, more empathetic to?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Complex You: Social Statuses & Roles

Today, we listed all of the groups that make each one of us who we are. A group can be as few as two but as many as millions of people.  Students listed groups like family, friends, clubs, sports, gender, ethnicity, music, sexuality, school, age, and others. And then we listed our position or status(es) within each group. This is the social construction of our own lives-we are made up of socially-constructed groups. These groups provide identity for individuals and they provide a structure for society.
I am always interested by all of the groups that students are influenced by and especially the unexpected groups that surprise me along the way. Sometimes it is someone who I never thought to be religious and they list a religion or sometimes it is someone who I never realized was black who lists her race as an important influence on her. All of these groups we belong to are the complex way we as individuals are made up and that is the way sociologists understand individuals; through their groups. For example, I am part of a family, a school, a group of friends and a neighborhood. In each of these groups I have a status (dad, teacher, friend) and each of these statuses comes with a role that is expected of me (make dinner, show up prepared for class, return a phone call, etc...).

These groups shape my life. For example after becoming a dad I will never be the same. I can't help looking at kids through the eyes of a parent; I think about music lyrics differently; I am overly critical and cognizant of my own behavior and manners etc... These groups can also come into conflict in an individual's daily life. For example, if I have to go home and cook dinner and my daughter demands attention, it is very difficult to get grading and lessons prepared for the next day, and if a friend calls to socialize or to get together, that becomes a third conflict. My roles as a parent, teacher and friend are all conflicting. This is called role conflict. There are also times when I experience what sociologists call role strain. That is when I am having difficulty meeting the expectations of one role. An example of this might be parenting. I have never been a parent before and so when my daughter is challenging me, I am not always certain how to react; do I give in, ignore or punish her? Some statuses we choose (achieved statuses) like those I already mentioned, but sometimes we are not given a choice (ascribed statuses) like that of a balding man. Don't get me wrong - I thank goodness everyday that Michael Jordan
brought baldness back into fashion in the 90s and I hope it stays there, but I am definitely not choosing this 'do :-).

I hope this exercise helps students see that our class might seem homogeneous but really it is quite diverse. The unique diversity comes from each person's membership in different groups. I hope this is another way we can become sociologically mindful of each other in the class; that is, we can appreciate each person's unique membership in different groups.  This way we can be more understanding of each other and more compassionate for each other.
Some ideas for posting on your own blog: Explain more thoroughly about the groups that make up who you are. What is your status in that group? Which statuses are ascribed and which are achieved for you?  Have you experienced role conflict or strain? Which groups memberships were you surprised to learn about in our class?  Can you see how this lesson increases your sociological mindfulness of both yourself and our class?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Self-assessment for blog posts

Please look at your post and check off the boxes that apply:
(All italicized items are required to meet standards.)

4 Exceeds standards           
3 Meets standards
2 Shows some proficiency               
1 Doesn’t demonstrate any proficiency

Sociology  (concepts and terms)  
__  I completed the assignment
__  I explained at least some of the concepts, terms or ideas of the class.
__  I fully explained the concepts, terms, or ideas from class and I used the terminology from the class.
__  I gave a unique example or application that was my own and not an example from class. 
__  This example/application was used correctly. 

Literacy (sources such as readings, videoes, charts, websites)
__  I completed the assignment.
__  I referred to a source from class.
__  I referred properly to a source from class
__  I explained the source’s connection to sociology in the student’s own words.
__  I referred properly to multiple sources from class
__  I explained the connection of an outside source that I found on my own.

Academic Expectations                                         
__  I completed the assignment.
__  I completed it on time.
__  I had no misspellings.
__  My grammar was correct.
__  I commented on two other student posts.
__  The comments were meaningful.
__  My writing was clear and understandable.

Social media and mindfulness

This article in the New York Times is a reminder to be mindful when using social media. Social media is a great example of how our influence spreads. Before Twitter or Facebook it may have spread by word-of-mouth and friends talking to one another so we would never see it but now with social media you can follow your influence around the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sub Day!

Today I am out at a professional development meeting.  Here are your tasks for the day:

1.  Please take the following quiz.  Take the quiz and answer True or False for each.  You can use page 41 in your packet to write your answers down.  Answer quickly using common sense.  Go with your first instinct.

Here is the quiz:  Click here for the quiz

Write your answers individually on page 41 of your packet.

When your whole group is finished, click here.

2.  Now that you see the importance of research in sociology, brainstorm some topics that you would like to know more about. It can be anything you are curious about:  dating, college, facebook, cell phone use, etc...  Make a list of topics. Again, you can use page 41.  Do this as a group.  

Next, go onto the SHS library page and use the search engine JSTOR to search for sociological research about some of the more interesting  topics that you brainstormed.
JSTOR is an online database that you can search by subject.  Click here for the SHS JSTOR Advanced search.  Type in your search term(s) and then scroll down to select "sociology" then click search.

Read the abstract of the article or skim the whole article.  Then look for:
A. What method(s) did  the researchers use?

Research might be:
Qualitative (open-ended observation and analysis) or  Quantatative (numerical data)


Observation (fieldwork, ethnography, participant observer)

B. What did they find?

Search for a few studies and make brief notes to share with the class.

3.  If there is time, use the handout from the sub titled "Self-Assessment."  Re-read your second post  that was due on monday.  Evaluate it for the three areas on the sheet.  After you have done this for your own post, exchange sheets with someone else and let him/her evaluate your post on the back of the sheet. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

He doesn't speak Spanish, but he probably speaks Mexican!

Please answer the following questions on the page after Gang Leader for a Day in your packet:
Review from yesterday:
1.  What does it mean to study macro sociology?
2.  What does it mean to study micro sociology?
3.  How is the Abandon Ship activity an example of the social construction of reality and the sociological imagination?

Questions from the Gang Leader reading:
4.  How was Venkatesh's survey flawed?  What are the limitations of using it?
5.  How does Venkatesh decide to study his subject in the end?  What might that research reveal that he would not have known from the survey?

Sudhir Venkatesh explores so much in his book Gang Leader for a Day. You can read an excerpt from the book and download Venkatesh reading and talking about his book from NPR.   I want to use the excerpt to show you that there are different ways that sociologists do research and each way has its benefits and drawbacks.  In this case, Venkatesh sets out to do a quantitative survey, but then he changes to a qualitative observation.  Can you identify some of the ways sociologists might do research and the advantages and disadvantages of each?  (See your textbook for more info on this.)  If you could design a study to examine something from our school, what would you study and how would you research it?  Can you think of both quantitative and qualitative ways to study it?   Can you see how sociologists need both quantatative data and qualitative data to study their subjects? Which do you feel is better for measuring how much you learn in class, quantitative tests like multiple choice or qualitative testing like essays?
Here is Venkatesh speaking on the Colbert Report and he explains that there are important ways of doing research correctly:

Here is a quiz based on sociological research.  Take the quiz and answer True or False for each.  Answer quickly using common sense.  Then scroll down to the bottom of this post to check your answers and see what the point is.

For more about Venkatesh:
Here is Venkatesh speaking about his book and the research he did.  Lastly, here is an interview at between Venkatesh and Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here).

For more examples of research:
Here is an example of some sociological research from the Pew center.  Notice how the researchers conducted their research.  Choose a study and look for:
1. What were the study's findings?
2.  How did they gather evidence for this finding?
Another example is JSTOR, an online database that you can search by subject.  Click here for the SHS JSTOR Advanced search.  Scroll down to select "sociology" then search any subject you would like.

Answers to the Quiz:
Okay, ready?  All of the answers to this quiz are based on sociological research.  What is important is that research often reveals contradictions to common sense.  That is why sociology is based on research and evidence and not just one person's opinion about society.  So, the answers to the quiz are all false.  That's right!  Go check.  There are reasons that explain each answer.  So, don't be tricked into thinking that sociology is common sense.  Sociology might study everyday life and common issues but the understanding of this might be anything but common sense.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Abandon Ship!

We just did an activity based on the real life events that were portrayed in the movie Abandon Ship! (1957). The activity helps to understand the different levels (macrosociology and microsociology) that sociologists study and the Social Construction of Reality. On the macro level, sociologists look for the large-scale groups that people are a part of. For example, students in our class are Americans, teenagers, high-schoolers, from an upper-middle class suburb. All of these groups have an effect on an individual, so that even when an individual makes choices alone, he/she is still being influenced by these groups. On the microsociological level, sociologists study how groups interact in face-to-face conversation. That is who makes eye contact, how loud people speak, where they sit, who is the leader etc...So each class that does this activity is different based on how the group interacts. This activity is a metaphor for any group that you are a part of; all of the groups that shape you are governed by both macrosociological forces and micrsociological forces.  For example, see my example of high school below.

If we examined these two levels in high school, there are certain macrosociological values that one would expect to find no matter where the school is located: grades, learning, homework, rules etc... So as you move from one class to the next, you will see these macrosociological values present. On the other hand, every class is different because of the microsociological dynamics present in that class: some teachers are more casual, some teachers use rows vs. a horseshoe shape, some classes have a few loud boisterous individuals and other classes might be mostly girls or mostly guys etc...

Can you see these two levels at play in your own life? Perhaps in your family, your classes or with a group of friends, or at your job? Think about that lifeboat activity and how it is a metaphor for any of the groups that you are a part of. There are macro forces like culture and social class that affect your group but there are also micro forces at play too such as the dynamic of how the group interacts. For example, because we live in America there are certain things expected of family. Even though we had a child under 2 months of age, my wife and I were expected to be at our jobs working (as opposed to other countries where they give 6 months or more of leave for new parents). But the micro forces are present too - because my wife makes more $ than I do, I work part time and spend the rest of my time being a daddy. Can you see how this plays out with your groups?

And this activity can also be an example of the social construction of reality.  All of those on the boat were shaped by how their character is viewed by the group.  So rather than being seen as an individual, each person's role was viewed a certain way because that's how society has trained us to view that person - such as the elderly couple is old and frail so put them overboard.

As a side note, here is a link to the article in the Daily Herald about the students who met in my class as the football player and cheerleader.   They met in my class and then asked me to marry them!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Constructing a teenager

Please answer the following questions related to the Parent-teen conflict reading:
1.  What is rolelessness?

2.  How does the author say $ or economics plays a role with the difficulty between teens and parents?

3.  What changes in society have created difficulty between teens and parents?

We read an excerpt from sociologist Stephanie Coontz called "Parent-Teen Conflicts."  Hopefully the article helped you see that the idea of a "teenager" is a social construction.  The idea of a teenager has only been around since the 1940s.  Before that, individuals went more from childhood to adulthood very quickly.  Now, the process of childhood has a long drawn out middle period.  This encompasses the "teenage years" but it also includes what sociologists call "young adulthood."  Sociologists estimate the average age of independence in the United States  to be 27.  That is when (on average) individuals can be self-sustaining financially and emotionally and socially enough to have a family and residence of their own.  So this leaves a long middle period between the age of puberty (10) and independence (27).  And throughout that time, there are many mixed messages being given to young adults.  This results in "rolelessness," or a feeling of not knowing what is expected of you during those years.  One example was the lack of meaningful work.  Teens generally have jobs that society deems as unworthy or meaningless.  This can leave teens feeling like they don't matter.  Can you see how Coontz makes that point?  Do you see how that can be true?  Can you see how being a "teenager" is a social construction?  I wonder if by the end of the year, our community service helps erase that notion?