Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Investing in America

Have you ever volunteered before? If so, please share some of your insights and experiences with your classmates. If not, what are your apprehensions? What are your initial thoughts about volunteerism? At the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Virginia in February of 2008, Barack Obama said that as President, he would invest in America's young adults and that in turn he would expect them to invest in America. Specifically, he was referring to young people investing their time to make America and even this world a better place through volunteering in organizations like Americorps, the Peace Corps, veterans' homes, homeless shelters, the Red Cross etc... I think this is an interesting and inspiring message for a number of reasons. First is the idea of "investing" which is such an American capitalist idea, except that Obama calls on Americans to invest time and themselves, not their finances. Second, what is interesting is the idea that we are investing in this country to make it a better place for EVERYONE to live. By helping others, we are really helping ourselves. We learn about others and understand what they are going through. We are more connected and united in our country together instead of being simply individuals all using this country for our own gain and self-interest. This reminds me of Schwalbe's "Sociological Mindfulness" which talks about seeing the big picture and how we can make positive changes in little ways. What do you think about Obama's ideas? How about investing in America to make it a better place and not investing for self-interest? Is this what Schwalbe had in mind in the excerpt we read for class? What do you think? Watch the Obama speech if you have time. It is a little long, but impressive. The part I was referring to is right around 18:45. Incidentally, he also mentions not emphasizing tests (something else we have tried to do in sociology).

Friday, September 19, 2008

"I do." easier said than done.

There has been a lot of talk about teenage pregnancy lately. From last year's unlikely hit movie Juno to Bristol Palin's pregnancy teen pregnancy has found its way into our national discussion once again. Sociologists note the difficulties that teens face in both pregnancy and marriage. The NY Times recently printed an article about the difficulty that teens face in staying married. The article said,
Studies show that today teenage marriages are two to three times more likely to end in divorce than are marriages between people 25 years of age and older. The most comprehensive study on marriage and age that sociologists cite was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001, from 1995 data, and it found that 48 percent of those who marry before 18 are likely to divorce within 10 years, compared with 24 percent of those who marry after age 25.
This is not to mention the challenges of teen marriage which adds enormous complexity to the difficulty. Here is a program about the difficulties pregnant teens face and how to overcome them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mindful shopping

Lots of students have commented on some of my shirts lately. They wanted to know where I got the shirt. Ever since reading Schwalbe's Sociological Mindfulness, I have been thinking a lot about what I wear. First, I am tired of being a walking billboard for these companies. I am not wearing anything with a blatant logo on it. I am not wearing a baseball cap that says "Gap" or a tee-shirt that says Ambercrombie in huge letters across the front. I don't want my identity tied to some brand name. I am more than that. Instead I started really thinking about what I am promoting. I wear an Obama shirt because I believe in him and his vision for America. I wear a shirt that says Chicago because I am from Chicago and that is a part of my identity. Another aspect of this is authenticity. It seems so generic and so bland to be wearing a t-shirt from some nationwide chain store that sells the same garments all over America. It's like some kind of upper-middle class uniform. I wish I could make my own clothes, but I can't. I have also started thinking mindfully about where the clothes come from. I have found a number of websites that sell fair-wage clothes, organic clothes, that are not harmful to the environment. Obviously, if you can buy used stuff it is even better because it is not creating any extra waste or using extra resources, but if you can't do that, try some of these:
American Apparel
They support fair wages for American workers. If you buy American goods it keeps the money closer to home and helps American workers. It also uses less fuel to get the clothes to where they are being sold. (If you don't mind the misogyny.)
Clothing of the American Mind
An American owned company that uses environmentally friendly products and supports social causes.
This magazine is dedicated to helping readers rethink how they have been shaped by media, especially corporate media. The magazine has a shop where you can buy clothes that support fair-wage workers and support causes that are more than simply supporting some amoral corporate conglomerate.
This site is mostly about creating t-shirts that express your ideas. You can even create your own.

What do you wear? Why do you wear it? Can you recommend any local/authentic/ethical clothing that I might not have heard about?