Monday, November 9, 2009

Hine's 13

Thomas Hine's book, The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager examines how society has created teens and how it affects them. You can hear the author discussing his ideas here. According to Hine,
Our beliefs, about teenagers are deeply contradictory: They should be free to become themselves. They need many years of training and study. They know more about the future than adults do. They know hardly anything at all. They ought to know the value of a dollar. They should be protected from the world of work. They are frail, vulnerable creatures. They are children. They are sex fiends. They are the death of culture. They are the hope of us all.
Do you see these contradictions in your own life or in the teens around you?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


There is a large I in amerIca. That I is our individuality. Our culture emphasizes the individual. Is this what we witnessed during the Olympics tonight? Both the men's and women's relay teams are made up of some of the fastest individuals in the world. But as a team both groups dropped their batons! Why would the US Olympic team put these individuals together without ample training as a team? Is there just an assumption that 4 great individuals make a great team? I think this was a lesson learned in Athens by the US Men's Basketball team. They were dominant NBA athletes. But they lost embarassingly by playing as individuals and not as a team.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's Shocking What A Sociological Imagination Can Reveal

The most major way sociology will change your way of thinking is what sociologist C. Wright Mills called a sociological Imagination. Mills calls the "sociological imagination" the merging of biography (a person's experiences) and history (where and when a person lived). So in other words, where you live and when live greatly affects the individual who you are. Obviously, a child born in Japan will be greatly influenced by Japanese culture - he will speak Japanese and acquire a taste for Japanese foods etc... This much is obvious. But in Milgram's study (revisited in the video above), he finds that we are influence in more subtle ways. Most of us would like to believe that we could not be convinced to electrocute a stranger. We would even take it personally, thinking, "I would never do that" or "that's sick" or "I think for myself - my better judgement would not let me do that." But the reality is that many of us would do that and it would not be solely our faults. We have been influenced to follow those in charge. We have been trained to be obedient and to follow status symbols. Once we begin to realize these influences are upon us, we can begin to try to unlearn them. Can you see how these subtle influences might be at play in your own life? Understanding the sociological imagination can change how you think about your own life and how we all think about the world. One group working to make social science more important and relevant is the sociological imagination group.

Monday, March 23, 2009

the nature and nurture of poverty

NPR interviews Sudhir Venkatesh and William Julius Wilson


Slate article

Monday, February 16, 2009

A lesson for the Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial called "A Teaching Moment." The Tribune irresponsibly picked up on the Statesman article about hooking up. Click here to read the Tribune editorial. Here is my response to the Tribune:
Dear Editor,
The teaching moment here is in responsible and quality reporting. This is a lesson the Tribune could stand to learn. It's the same lesson Fox needs to learn after showing up at the school after the article ran. This is really a story about poor reporting. Did you get a copy of the paper? Do you have any idea of the content? If so, why not discuss it within your editorial? If not, why are you commenting on it? Fox sent a news reporter out to the school to report on the story with live coverage, but they never read the article either. The student article was based on the opinions of one student. There was no survey, no research, no statistics of any kind. While I do not support censorship, and I do support Thill's efforts at covering topics traditionally left out of school papers, I do not support the way the Tribune, Fox news, WGN radio and other media have used the story as a sensationalized caption of teen life. The article itself was poor reporting and your use of it is even worse, unless of course you consider your paper on the level of a high school newspaper, albeit an award-winning one.

What do you think of this editorial? Do you see how the media irresponsibly reports on stories that might get them some notice? These stories seem credible to those who are not on the inside - which most of the time is not us. But this time it is us. Knowing what you know, I hope this episode will make you more media saavy. Be mindful of what you read, listen to and watch.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


We had an alumnus return and talk about his experiences covering the election for Fox news. What I thought was significant was his candidness about the recent trend in media to create conflict, especially on pseudo-news shows such as MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olberman or Fox's O'Reilly Factor. In both cases, these shows focus on the polar divisions of two sides rather than the middle ground. Both shows focus on the extremes and both taylor their news to cater to a certain demographic (Countdown = liberal, O'Reilly = Conservative). This leads me to sources. As we study sociology we realize the tremendous influence that our environment has on us and that environment includes the media. We have to be aware that corporate media like Fox and NBC is designed to get ratings and increase stock value. This means we (the public, the citizens and the consumers of this media) must be knowledgable about these dynamics. A terrific example of this recently was when SHS was on Fox News the other night.

Why is this on the news and where did they get their information? Being from SHS, this is a valuable opportunity for you to see how the media take information (often from an unreliable source) and create a spectacle or controversy. In this case, Fox is getting its sources from Kevin - one student, who was interviewed in the school paper! All of a sudden, if you are not from SHS it appears that the school has a hooking up problem. The reality (as you know) is far different than how Fox makes it out to be. We are lucky to know the truth in this case, but imagine how many other stories are spun in this way and we are not on the inside to know the difference. Watch your media carefully and critically!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Homework change!

The gang leader reading is now due wednesday.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear Kevin,

This is in response to a recent article appearing in the student newspaper. In the article, a student named Kevin details his definition, method and frequency of "hooking up."

I read about your hook-ups in the statesman today and I want to write to you about your ideas. Let me start by saying that YOU ARE A MIMBO - that's right, you are a male bimbo. Just so you know, recent research shows that most teens do not engage in behavior like yours. Instead, hook-ups happen with a limited number of partners. For example, an average student who hooks-up might have just one or two people who he/she has hooked up with - not the whorish number you are bragging about. However, let me explain that in fairness to you, it is not totally your fault. Here's why, using a sociological imagination.
First, you probably watch a lot of tv and movies and listen to a lot of music (probably rap, right?). Yeah, I thought so, there is far more sex on tv and in the movies than in real life - FAR more. It is especially prominent in media marketed to teens. This creates the idea that masculinity is related to sexual encounters. You are being influenced by the media to assume that you need to be sexually active to be cool, successful and masculine.
Secondly, the age of puberty/sexual maturity has been gradually getting younger. We know this for a fact over the last few decades. We are not sure why, but teens are experiencing sexual physiology at a younger and younger age. However, socially and emotionally, teens (especially you, Kevin) are maturing at an older and older age. So physically your body is ready for sex, but mentally and emotionally you are not. Think about the average teen 80 years ago - he/she likely didn't go through puberty until 14 or 15 years old and he/she would be working a full time job by 18 years old. Millions of teens were fighting overseas in World Wars I and II. They came home and supported themselves. They were emotionally, socially, financially more mature than you are. This meant that they handled the feelings of attraction and sexuality much differently than you do.
Thirdly, The average age of marriage has been rising and rising so the ability to wait until marriage has gotten harder and harder to do. Now that being said, hopefully you realize these dynamics have changed and therefore you can deal with them in a way that promotes your growth as a person. Right now, however, you are giving in to these sexual desires - partly because of your biology and partly because of your exposure to media and yet you are obviously not able to handle this responsibility. This what animals do - they give in to their biological urges and to the way they are trained. Promote your humanity - your ability to control these is what makes you human. Not to mention, you are creating a reputation (mimbo) for yourself in your group of friends, the school and the community. Furthermore, you are putting yourself at risk for stds, becoming a father, and for emotional baggage that could prove to be a real burden for yourself.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bye, bye, Blago

Well this historic day for Illinois is both woeful as it represents the pinnacle of the corruption our state has been plagued by, and hopeful as it might begin a change in how Illinois politicians do there business. I don't know how we can call our government a democracy when we allow unlimited political contributions to campaigns. When a government runs its campaigns with private money, can we really call that a government of the people? Is it not an aristocracy? That being said, I do think this impeachment is interesting from a sociological imagination. It is true that Blago has not been convicted of anything. But this has been an incredible year for Illinois - like it or not, Obama, an Illinois Native Son has risen meteorically to the highest office. Illinoisans are full of pride and this includes the Illinois legislature. That is why when Blago was caught on tape disrespecting the vacated Obama Senate seat and disrespecting the Obama transitional team the Illinois legislature was sure to act. Honestly, it is a little scary how quickly a legislature can railroad a sitting governor out of office. So I think there is a subconscious feeling deep in the minds of the legislators that their Obama had been disrespected and they were not going to take it. Can you see how these legislators might see Blago's private conversations as being disrespectful of their native son Obama? Do yo think that identifying with the new President might be a factor pushing these legislators to impeach? Blago about, I mean blog about it :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Everything and nothing changed - Inauguration 2009

I bought tickets in October to the Illinois State Society Ball which is open to whomever. I think they always throw something, but this year it ended up being BIG. It was really cool. There were a dozen different rooms all decorated with a theme from Illinois - there was an Irish Pub complete with a Motown Band? Go figure. There was a 50s diner set to look like Grease which was based on a Chicago high school (Taft), a riverboat with a piano player. I said hi to Senator Durbin and saw Jesse Jackson Jr.The President-elect was originally scheduled to show but he didn't make an appearance because of security concerns.

Today, I was able to get 2 tickets to the inaugural address. I know someone who knows someone. I was about 100yds away from the President's Address. I was off to the right. Getting there was insane - The Metro was completely jammed, wall to wall people, but surprisingly people were cordial, patient and jovial. They were chanting things like O-B-A-M-A, OBAMA and YES WE CAN. After that there was a long confusing and zigzagging walk to get to the checkpoint where we enter the viewing area. I heard J-Lo and Spike Lee were in our section. I sat next to a PIC staffer.

When we got out we walked 2 miles to get out of that mess. We had lunch at the Embassy and Bill Murray was there! He was leading the crowd chanting "Go Home" as CNN aired the footage of former President Bush flying back to TX.
What a weekend. What a movement. But this is only the beginning - we have work to do and promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep...