Tuesday, May 15, 2018

I Am

We are watching the documentary called I Am.  You can watch it here on mediacast.  Below are my movie notes about the most important parts of the movie and in parentheses are the parts of our class that relate to the movie.  I think this movie is a great inspirational way to sum up our class and apply to your life.  But, come back and revisit it, rewatch it and remind yourself of the lessons of our class. They will mean different things to you as you get older and more experienced.  This is true for all of the lessons of our class, so I hope you will stay one of my students and one of my teachers.  Peace and love to you,

This documentary was created by Tom Shadyac a writer/director of many Hollywood blockbuster films: Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, Accepted , and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. After a serious injury, Shadyac confronts the truth in front of him and sets out to find more meaning in his life and in our world. The film displays a number of ideas and themes that we have discussed throughout our class. Shadyac asks, “What’s wrong with the world? And what can we do about it?”
“Humanity is going to require a new way of thinking if it is to survive” – Albert Einstein
Science is a story. It changes over time. Part of the story of science, since the Enlightenment, is that people are like machines; we are made from materials and we are mechanistic. We operate in the world under that assumption. We compartmentalize each other and our world this way.

This way of thinking creates a separateness (individuality & cultural values), a competitiveness and a materialism that pervade Western society, especially the United States. (Culture and US values)
“Be suspicious of what you want.” -Rumi
Native Americans noticed this way of thinking when Europeans first came to the Americas. They have a word called “wetico” which means a sort of cannibalism where one culture eats or destroys another culture’s way of life.

What we now know is that we are more than the sum of all of our parts and we are connected to much more than ourselves. Each individual is connected to all other humans, not just in the United States, but in the world. And each human in the world is connected to all living things. And all living things are connected to the non-living.

One myth that has been promoted that prevents us from realizing this interconnectedness is the belief that essential nature of humans is to be competitive, instead of cooperative to dominate instead of subordinate, to seek kingdom over democracy. This is a myth promoted inaccurately by supporters of Darwin. Instead, the basis of nature is egalitarian, cooperative and democratic. Darwin mentioned, “survival of the fittest” twice and “love” 95 times. Humans evolved to cooperate. Sympathy is the strongest human emotion. We have mirrored neurons that help us have sympathy. Our vagus nerve helps us to elevate us to compassion. Desmond Tutu says, “We belong because we need other to make us human.” (Socialization) When we serve others with empathy, love and compassion, it creates deep contentment that literally makes us healthier and nourishes our mind and body. (Community Service) Anger makes us stupid. It inhibits our thinking. Our heart is our primary access point to our higher self. “Do something that makes your heart sing.”
“What was said to the rose to make it open was said here to me in my chest.” – Rumi
“There is only one way to eat an elephant; one piece at a time.” “The sea is only drops of water that have come together.” We can’t solve global poverty, but we can do something about that guy over there. Each of us should do something and because we are all connected it all makes a difference. (Sociological Mindfulness)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Social Class and Education

From The Upshot, Ny Times, this interactive site allows you to see what percent of students from the top 1% and bottom 60% attend each school of higher education.


This graph shows where students from different social classes end up after high school:

Review for Final

Here is a list of concepts to review.  Talk through them.  Explain them to someone.  Also, read through my explanation of the course narrative.  Hopefully that helps you put the concepts into perspective.

Terms for Review:

social construction of reality

sociological imagination

sociological Mindfulness




sociological research








nature and nurture

agents of socialization





social class



explicit bias

implicit bias

Course Narrative

Unit 1:  Introduction to the Sociological Perspective
            The sociological perspective is viewing individuals as members of different groups and recognizing how these groups shape individuals.  There are a number of theories that help establish this perspective.  Social construction of reality is the idea that society/people create how we feel about things and how we experience the world.  Sociological imagination is the connection between history and biography, or a person is who they are because of when and where they live.  Sociological Mindfulness is taking our knowledge of sociology and applying them to our own life; it is realizing that we are impacted by society and we also play a role in society.  Another way that sociologists understand how individuals are influenced is by looking at the groups that individual’s belong to.  Each group is an ingroup for the individual and it shapes them.  These groups are categories which we make generalizations about if we use scientific methods to study the group.  If the generalizations are not accurate or are applied too broadly, they may become stereotypes.

Unit 2:  Culture
            Culture is perhaps the most pervasive group membership that shapes individuals.  It is so omnipresent that it affects all groups the individual is part of.  Because of that, culture is important to understand and to take a step back from in order to see the whole picture.  Culture shapes everything about how individuals act and even think.  The second part of this unit focuses specifically on culture in the United States and how students have been shaped by the values of our culture.

Unit 3:  Socialization
            After learning the importance of understanding culture, socialization helps students understand how the process of being shaped takes place.  The process of socialization begins even before childbirth and continues throughout one’s life.  Many taken-for-granted aspects of being human are really learned from a young age.  This is true in how we learn about our gender as well.  Females and males learn to act differently and learn that there are different expectations for them from childhood.  We explore the negative impact that our constructions of masculinity and femininity have on young men and women.  Then we examine how to change individuals drastically once they are shaped by society – that change is resocialization. 

Unit 4: Deviance and Social Class
            This unit begins with an understanding of what deviance is; that is, when someone breaks the norms of society.  In other words, deviance is when individuals go against the socialization process.  Using William Chambliss’s study called The Saints and the Roughnecks, I connect deviance to social class and perception.  Using this connection, we explore how the prison system has exploded over the last 20 years especially with those from lower income social classes.  This leads into what creates social class and how individuals are affected by it, especially how the poor are affected by their poverty.

Unit 5:  Race
            Race is, like gender, a taken-for-granted social construction that people assume is natural or biological.  However, there is no scientific way to discretely categorize humans into distinct racial groups – not through DNA or any other traits.  Race is a social construction that changes depending on where or when you live.  However, even though race does not exist biologically, it does exist as a social construction which has enormous impacts on individuals.  The impacts can be in the form of prejudice or discrimination and explicit or implicit bias.  One type of implicit bias is through institutional racism.  This is also a form of white privilege.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

As students enter the room, look at your list of social class components.  Be sure that you can answer these questions:

What are all the components that sociologists measure to examine social class?  

What are the data that we examined?

How do these components create inequality?

Once you understand that social class exists, let's examine what that means for our society.

Social Class Inequality has been widening in the last few decades.

First, the social class gap is widening.  See this post from Socimages.  Here is one graph from the post.  It explains how income has shifted steadily to the top percentiles over the last few decades.

And here are some charts from Business Insider about the growing inequality in the USA.

Inequality from country to country shows greater inequality has damaging effects on individuals

Second, cross national studies show that social class inequality correlates closely to a number of troubling outcomes such as:  infant mortality, mental illness, drug use, educational achievement, incarceration, obesity, homicide and social trust.

Within the United States, an individual's life chances are greatly affected by social class, especially poverty.

Criminal Justice
Poor people are more likely to enter the criminal justice system and remain there.  From Spotlight on Poverty and Georgetown University Law Professor, Peter Edelmen's book, Not A Crime To Be Poor;

This chart shows the different stages of the criminal justice system.  In each stage, a person of lower social class is more likely to progress through the system than a person of upper social class.

Physical Health 
a lower class person has a higher chance of dying at any age than a wealthy person!  Some other health outcomes for those in poverty:

From the American Journal of Pediatrics; Poverty and lack of nurturing in early life may have a direct effect on a child’s brain development, according to a study that found smaller brain volumes in poor, neglected children.

 Impoverished black children, for example, are twice as likely as poor Hispanic or white children to have levels of lead in their blood that is at least 2.5 micrograms per deciliter. Some researchers have found that even that small amount of lead is enough to cause cognitive impairment in children — especially the kind that impacts their reading ability.

 hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetesheart disease,  

From the Huffington Post, the poor are more likely to experience asthma and other health issues.  From the Florida Times Union;
...poor black children are more likely than poor white or Hispanic children to be diagnosed with asthma — another ailment that plagues poor children in Jacksonville and one that is linked to living in older, more industrialized areas. Poor white children, though, are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke, or to be born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy than poor black or Hispanic children. And poor Hispanic children, it found, are twice as likely to have no place to go for health care, as compared to poor white or black children.

less access to healthy food (i.e. fruits and vegetables); see this link for a TED talk about one man who is arrested for planting a vegetable garden in a poor neighborhoodsmokingdrug use and abuse, exercise less,

The connection between poverty and diabetes including obesity and poor diet and sedentary life style from the American Diabetes Association;
One reason may be that violence tracks with poverty, thereby preventing people from being active out-of-doors. Similarly, parks and sports facilities are less available to people living in poor counties (5), and people who live in poverty-dense regions may be less able to afford gym membership, sports clothing, and/or exercise equipment. There are multiple individual and environmental reasons to explain why poverty-dense counties may be more sedentary and bear greater obesity burdens.
 unsafe sexobesity, cancer, HIV

Medical Care 
less access and poorer hospitalslack of health insurance.

Mental Health 
higher stresschildren feel effects of stress for lifemental disorders, suicide,

From the Frontline documentary, Poor Kids;
Twenty percent of the children in the US are growing up in poverty! That's 1 out of every 5 kids in the United States is living at the poverty level! Yes, you read that correctly - 1 out of every 5 children in the United States is living in poverty right now!  That's a higher rate than 34 out of 35 Western countries

From Voices For Illinois Children, we see that the number of children in poverty has been increasing and the effects can be very damaging; 
Growing up in poverty can have serious and long-lasting effects on children’s health, development, and overall well-being. The effects of poverty have a well-documented impact on young children’s developing brains. And children who grow up in poverty are more likely to experience harmful levels of stress, more likely to struggle in school, and more likely to have behavioral, social, and emotional problems than their peers.

Unnatural causes is a website and documentary about the connection between social class and health;
UNNATURAL CAUSES is the acclaimed documentary series broadcast by PBS and now used by thousands of organizations around the country to tackle the root causes of our alarming socio-economic and racial inequities in health. 
The four-hour series crisscrosses the nation uncovering startling new findings that suggest there is much more to our health than bad habits, health care, or unlucky genes. The social circumstances in which we are born, live, and work can actually get under our skin and disrupt our physiology as much as germs and viruses.
Among the clues:
• It's not CEOs dropping dead from heart attacks, but their subordinates. 
• Poor smokers are at higher risk of disease than rich smokers. 
• Recent Latino immigrants, though typically poorer, enjoy better health than the average American. But the longer they're here, the worse their health becomes.
Furthermore, research has revealed a gradient to health. At each step down the class pyramid, people tend to be sicker and die sooner. Poor Americans die on average almost six years sooner than the rich. No surprise. But even middle class Americans die two years sooner than the rich. And at each step on that pyramid, African Americans, on average, fare worse than their white counterparts. In many cases, so do other peoples of color.
But why? How can class and racism disrupt our physiology? Through what channels might inequities in housing, wealthy, jobs, and education, along with a lack of power and control over one's life, translate into bad health? What is it about our poor neighborhoods, especially neglected neighborhoods of color, that is so deadly? How are the behavioral choices we make (such as diet and exercise) constrained by the choices we have?

From the CDC, here is an explanation of the social determinants of health;
Conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.1 These conditions are known as social determinants of health (SDOH).We know that poverty limits access to healthy foods and safe neighborhoods and that more education is a predictor of better health.2,3,4 We also know that differences in health are striking in communities with poor SDOH such as unstable housing, low income, unsafe neighborhoods, or substandard education.

Economic Life Chances

Researchers have documented that it costs more to be poor.  From the Economist, this article, explains the numerous ways that in the United States, life is more expensive the less money you have.

And the award winning book Evicted from Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond shows how society profits off the poor and how lack of housing can lead families to spiral downward.

In this groundbreaking book, Harvard sociologist and 2015 MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Matthew Desmond takes readers into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee, where families spend most of their income on housing and where eviction has become routine—a vicious cycle that deepens our country’s vast inequality. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, Evicted transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem.

A Culture of Poverty?

Some people will argue that there is a culture of poverty among those in the lowest income levels. This culture of poverty represents individuals making choices that create or worsen the impoverished situation they are in. But, it is important to understand how these choices come about. A life of deprivation, punctuated by emergencies creates a lack of “deferred gratification." In other words, it is difficult for these people to invest in their own future; many of the poor see the future as more of the same or even worse; enjoy what you can, because tomorrow may be worse; poverty influences attitude which influences behavior which leads to poverty, etc…

Other Resources:

Here is a link to the University of Michigan's school of Poverty Solutions, which is full of resources and research on poverty. 

Here is the website, Spotlight on Poverty with numerous resources, stories and links.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Components of Social Class in the USA

The common thinking about the American class system is that there are no rules in America and anything is possible. "Only in America" is a common myth. The reality is that there are "rules" to the class system, but few Americans see it (then again, few have a sociological imagination!).

Here are the components of the U.S. social class system that create the distribution of wealth similar to the rules of the coin flipping metaphor:

The highest earning Americans have continued to earn more and more over the last 50 years, while the lower earners have earned closer to about the same. The more money you have, the more you can earn.
What do you think the average household income in the United States is?

Click here to see an answer. Note the percentile for each income bracket and note the median.

Note the actual median household income: _______.

Now look for your community's average income.  Click on the American Factfinder and search by zipcode. Then click on "Income" and look next to median family income.

 What percentile is your community in?  What percentile is your family in?  Is this surprising?

Here is a link to Marketplace where you can input your income and compare it to social class data in the US.

Also, This graph displays the inequality by occupation.

Checkout this post from Slate about income inequality. You can scroll down a bit and enter your zipcode and see where it stands by comparison.

Wealth in tricky to understand.  It is everything that a household owns, such as the home, vacation home, cars, 401K, savings, stocks, jewelry, etc...But, you must subtract what the household owes.  So, if my house is $200,000 but I owe $160,000 then my wealth is only $40,000 on the house.   One way to examine wealth is through quintiles (20% increments).  if you lined all the households up in the U.S. by wealth, what percentage would the top 20% own? And then the next 20% and so on...

How much of the wealth in the U.S. do you think each quintile has:

Bottom 20%:______   2nd 20%_______  3rd 20%________  4th 20%_______ 5th 20%_______Top

How much do you think each quintile should have?

Bottom 20%:______   2nd 20%________ 3rd 20%________  4th 20%_______ 5th 20%_______Top

After you have finished answering the questions above, watch this video:

What is the reality?

The disparity of wealth is greater than that of income (see the pie graph below).  From the Huffington Post, In 2010, "The median household net worth -- the level at which half the households have more and half have less -- was $77,300  For a much more detailed analysis of wealth, see this post from business insider.
How does your family or community compare to the average American?

Average American:  50% own 2 cars,  50% have a 401K, 66% own 1 home, 6% own a second home

In the US, here are the percentages of adults over the age of 23 who have attained each degree in 2012:
High school graduate87.65%
Some college57.28%
Associate's and/or Bachelor's degree40.58%
Bachelor's degree30.94%
Master's degree8.05%
Doctorate or professional degree3.07%

This link shows that on average, the higher a family's income, the higher the ACT score

The higher your education is, the more money one can earn.  Link to College Board research report here.
Here is a post from sociological images that has a lot of info showing the connection between your degree and your income.

This graph shows that the less education that parents have, the less education their children obtain.

This research from Natasha Quadlin shows that the major a student chooses at college is influenced by social class.

From The Upshot, Ny Times, this interactive site allows you to see what percent of students from the top 1% and bottom 60% attend each school of higher education.


This graph shows where students from different social classes end up after high school:

The price of a home depends on a lot more than the physical structure of the home.
The average home price in the United States in 2012 was $175K.  The average price in BG was $346,000.  And in LG it was $765,000.  Click here to see some houses for sale in Lake County, IL in 2014.  Which do you think are the most expensive?  Which are the least? When you see the actual prices, why do you think that is?

This heat map from Trulia shows the median sales price for areas across Lake County.

Here is a map from Time showing the most economically segregated cities in America.  Can you find your town?  How does this segregation affect the residents?

This research from Harvard shows that zipcode is a better predictor for health than

Here you can find data by zipcode about the average home price ( as well as income and other data).

Location is also related to mobility:

This report from NPR's Planet Money details how where you grow up can affect your income later in life.

And here is a video and stats from CNN Money that show how where you grow up limits or benefits you.

Prestige and power
People view different occupations with different levels of prestige.  This prestige can translate to real power such as being appointed to boards or committees.  It can also simply give you credibility or respect in social situations.  Here is a chart of prestige ratings.

Power, according to Max Weber, is the ability to impose one's will on others.  One example is how the world's most powerful leaders gather in secret meetings annually to discuss how they can shape policy, economics and laws among other things. One such meeting is the American Enterprise Institute held every year on an island off the coast of Georgia where attendees can fly their jets on and off the island in private.  Another meeting is the Bilderberg meeting.

Some examples of power are the abilities to keep yourself out of jail, influence politicians and enact laws that are you favor.  Here is one example from The Daily Show comparing teachers and Wall Street Investors.  Can you guess who has the power?

Here is a link to a Washington Post article explaining that wealthy Americans use their power to create favorable government policies.

And this article from the NY Times shows that an executive at United Airlines accused of corruption charges was forced to resign. Imagine if a teacher was accused of corruption and was forced to resign. That would be it - out of a job and no compensation. But,

United filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday indicating that Mr. Smisek would receive nearly $4.9 million in a separation payment, and 60,000 shares of stock, valued at over $3 million.

Creating a Social Class Ladder in the U.S.
All of these combine to form a rough picture of social class.

The NY Times did a series of articles about social class called Class Matters. You can explore numerous graphs and stats there, including an interactive graphic that shows where a person places on various aspects of class.

What does an average American look like?  Here is a an article from the Washington Post explaining the difficulty of defining the middle class.

 Here is one representation of how all of those components might work together:

Look over your information for income, wealth, education, location and prestige.  Are they mostly above, average or below? Then try to think where that person falls on this ladder?  Why would you place them there?  Share this your group.

Was it difficult to share with the group?  Why or why not?

After you have thought about your own personal example, classify the four people in this Esquire article and analyze what class they are and why?  Try to use components other than income.  How is each person shaped by their social class?

Here are other resources for examining the components of social class that comprise the "rules" about what is possible in the USA in terms of class:

Here is a link to the Stanford Center on Poverty where you can view slides about inequality in the USA.

Here is a link to 15 statistics about inequality in America.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Review for Race Test

Race Review
 ball metaphor and traits
 ball metaphor and social construction
 essentialist theory
 can a plane ride change your race?
social construction of reality
Evidence worldwide
Evidence in US
Omi and Winant Reading
1 drop and Hypodescent
Racial Formation
Explicit bias
Implicit bias
White privilege

Colorblind and Race Consciousness/Woke