Monday, November 21, 2011

Income around the world

Sometimes we forget how fortunate we are because the media is saturated with stories of the super wealthy. Here is a website that will rank you among the WORLD's population. That should provide some perspective as to how lucky we are.

If you are interested in how your community's income looks, click on the American Factfinder and search by zipcode. Then scroll down to "Economic Characteristics" and look next to median family income. It is in 1999 dollars in most cases, but that is still an accurate portrayal for comparison's sake.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On death and dying

There is a whole division of sociology that studies death and dying. We don't have room for that in our schedule, but it comes up as part of our discussion of American culture and Tuesdays With Morrie so I wanted to post about it.

Our culture trains us how to think about death. While we are living, it is a taboo topic and when it happens we don't know exactly what to think about it - all we have is sadness and a sense of loss. It is important to note that this is a cultural norm that varies in other cultures around the world. One book that examines this is called Dancing on the Grave, by Nigel Barley.  You can read an excerpt here, but the important point that Barley makes is that grief and mourning are different.  All cultures mourn death, that is they have rituals for dealing with death, but grieving is an emotion and is not part of all cultures.  Grief is a fairly modern concept and is tied into the development of individualism and (in my opinion) materialism.  We see each individual as separate and less connected to other individuals than our ancestors did.  So death represents the loss of an individual.  And because our modern culture is so wrapped up in material things, it is hard to get by the loss of the physical individual.  Instead we could see that person in all of us - we are all impacted by one another.  The love we share is a part of us.  Like Morrie said, "Death ends a life, not a relationship."  We have trouble with that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Volunteer Op: This Saturday!

Habitat for Humanity is so excited to volunteer to Paint The Town sponsored by Delilah and 93.9 Lite Fm. They will be in town THIS SATURDAY to transform Genesee Street! If you have an hour or the whole day we would love to see you out there to volunteer! Julie Donovan invited you to join her at 8:00 am at Jack Benny Plaza in Waukegan for the Habitat for Humanity crew to Paint the Town!

Here is their link.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Volunteer Op: Equestrian Connection

I wanted to post this opportunity which some students have done in the past. It's the "Equestrian Connection." It is located right in Lake Forest. They provide horse therapy for individuals who have special needs. They have flexible hours including after school and on weekends. Here is their location and contact info:
Equestrian Connection
Location: 600 N. Bradley Rd. Lake Forest , IL 60045
Phone: 847-615-8696
Email for volunteers:
Click here for the volunteer webpage.

The volunteer coordinator is named "MJ". She is familiar with SHS. If you contact her please be polite and professional. If you volunteer please work hard and enjoy yourself there. They are a nice connection for SHS students and we want to keep that relationship going!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Ladder of Social Class

This image of social class is from Henslin's A Down To Earth Approach and available here. The ladder shows one model for how sociologists view class in the United States. This model is not set in stone it is fluid and dynamic. People do not necessarily fit neatly into each class, but the model gives us a sense of how the US is divided by class. And the model shows that there is more to class than income/money. It is also about wealth, power, prestige, education among other things as illustrated in my other post.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Independence & Education

I'm 15... for a moment
caught in between 10 and 20
and I'm just dreamin'
countin' the ways to where you are

I'm 22... for a moment
and she feels better than ever
and we're on fire
making our way back from mars

15 there's still time for you
time to buy and time to lose
15... there's never a wish
better than this
when you've only got a hundred years
to live

- Five For Fighting

After reading about teens, we discussed what makes you an "adult". Legally you are considered an adult at age 18, but then you go to college and it is not the "real" world, and then after college, most students are financially and emotionally still reliant on their families. For example, you might have an apartment in the city, but you have to share the rent and/or mom and dad help pay the rent, or pay for a car etc... So some sociologists have said the age of real independence/adulthood is going up to the late 20s. Here is a link to an article in Governing magazine about what the real age of responsibility is.
Practically from puberty, young people are bombarded with mixed signals about the scope of their rights and the depth of their responsibilities. And most of those mixed signals come from the laws of state and local governments. In most respects, people are considered adults at 18. That’s when they can vote and enter into legal contracts—including the purchase, if not rental, of a car. But a 20-year-old Marine, just back from patrolling the streets of Baghdad, would have to turn 21 before he could join a local police force in most cities in the United States. A 20-year-old college junior, far more educated than the average American, cannot buy alcohol or enter a casino. In 10 states, a single 20-year-old cannot legally have sex with a 17-year old. But in nearly every state, a 16-year-old can marry—if he has his parents’ permission. (A handful of states allow girls to marry before boys.)
The most glaring examples lie within the criminal justice system. A spike in juvenile violence two decades ago spurred state legislators to adopt the mantra “adult time for adult crimes.” Consequently, in most states, a 10-year-old charged with murder can be tried as an adult.
You can listen to a discussion of the article on the radio program Talk of the Nation here.

The sociologist Ruth Benedict surmised that American culture is discontinuous. Americans learn from a young age through their teens that they are expected to be irresponsible, submissive and asexual and then as adults they are expected to be the opposite.
Many see the ability to get married and have your own family with kids as the age of independence. What do you think? Can you see how our society makes it difficult for teens?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Post Spring Break Service Op: Volunteer Center NW Suburbs

With Spring Break finishing up, this is a reminder to get serious (if you haven't already) about your community service experience. YOU SHOULD HAVE SOMETHING SETUP BY NOW FOR ALL 10 OF YOUR HOURS. Time is running out and sometimes it takes awhile to setup the service and do it, so if you don't have anything lined up, you should start to panic and find something quickly.

Here is a call for volunteers from today's Daily Herald:

If interested, contact the Volunteer Center of NW Suburbs:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Break Safety Tips

If you are going on a spring break to another culture or subculture, remember to be mindful of the culture you are travelling to. Do not be ethnocentric, instead try for cultural relativism. Pay attention to little details and appreciate the culture you are immersed in. Be weary of touristy culture. Often, this is an inauthentic version of the culture you are going to that is just setup for the purpose of taking tourists money. Instead try to get off the beaten path or at the very least, see through the touristy facade and try to see the real culture.

I also am posting a few spring break related studies to help you be safe:


New York, NY (PRWEB) March 14, 2009
Spring break time is here for countless college students across the country. Dreams of fun in the sun can provide much needed motivation to push through the grind of mid-terms. A few critical yet common-sense precautions can help prevent spring break dreams from becoming nightmares.
According to Steven Crimando, Managing Director of Extreme Behavioral Risk Management in New York, managing behavior is the main risk for students.
Excessive risk taking is pervasive among both genders. According to a University of Wisconsin study, 75% of college males and 44% of females reported being intoxicated on a daily basis during spring break. Nearly 50 percent of the males and more than 40 percent of the females also said they were drunk to the point of vomiting or passing out at least once during break.
Crimando says, "This is the kind of binge drinking that is the major cause of alcohol poisoning. Everyone who goes on spring break plans to have plenty of fun but no one is planning on getting sick, hurt, or in real life-changing trouble."
He adds that much of the risk associated with spring break is created by reckless behavior and that risk is compounded when students may be far from home, on someone else's turf and extremely vulnerable.
Crimando offers 7 tips for spring break survival:

1. Stay together: Crime prevention research concludes the probability of being victimized drops substantially if you are with at least one other person. Staying together in a group of three or more decreases the likelihood of trouble even further. Never leave a bar, club or party with a stranger. Arrange a buddy system and watch out for your friends.
2. Don't go looking for trouble: Stay out of areas known for drugs, violence or prostitution. Stay close to the hubs of spring break activity and resist exploring areas far from your hotel or friends. Become familiar with your street names, and landmarks which can be important if you get lost or separated from your group.
3. File a Flight Plan: Always let friends or relatives at home know your whereabouts. Leave your general itinerary with someone who is not traveling with you.
4. Watch that Drink: Don't accept a drink from anyone if you did not see it being prepared yourself. Also, don't leave your drink unattended for any period of time. If you have to, dump it and get a fresh one.
5. Have a Plan B: When entering a hotel, bar or club, always know where emergency exits are located in case of a fire or other urgent situation. In an emergency; don't just run from danger, run towards safety.
6. Carry a cell phone: If you're heading out of the country, check with your wireless service provider about coverage or add-ons to your plan that will allow your phone to work smoothly while away. Keep your phone charged, keep it on and learn the local emergency number if it is anything other than 9-1-1. Your cell phone can be a lifeline if you get in trouble.
7. Always carry cab fare: Don't rely on others, especially strangers, to get you from point A to B. If your friends have been drinking or there's a change of plans, make sure to have enough cash to get back to your home base.

Another study by the American Medical Association suggested that females be extra careful:
Study Warns Women About Spring Break
Mar 8, 7:11 AM (ET)


CHICAGO (AP) - The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break. All but confirming what goes on in those "Girls Gone Wild" videos, 83 percent of college women and graduates surveyed by the AMA said spring break involves heavier-than-usual drinking, and 74 percent said the break results in increased sexual activity.

The women's answers were based both on firsthand experience and the experiences of friends and acquaintances.

Sizable numbers reported getting sick from drinking, and blacking out and engaging in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner, activities that increase their risks for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The AMA is trying to call attention to underage drinking among women because their bodies process alcohol differently and put them at greater risk for health problems, Dr. J. Edward Hill, AMA's president, said Tuesday.

The AMA-commissioned online survey queried a nationwide random sample of 644 college women or graduates ages 17 to 35 last week.

Kathleen Fitzgerald, a 21-year-old junior at Illinois State University, said the AMA's effort to raise awareness is a good idea, but probably won't do much to curb drinking during spring break.

"I think a lot of students wouldn't really pay that much attention to it," Fitzgerald said. "They would just be like, 'Duh, that's why we do it.'"

About 30 percent of women surveyed said spring break trips with sun and alcohol are an essential part of college life.

Also, 74 percent said women use spring break drinking as an excuse for "outrageous" behavior that the AMA said could include public nudity and dancing on tables.

Of the 27 percent who said they had attended a college spring break trip:

_More than half said they regretted getting sick from drinking on the trip.

_About 40 percent said they regretted passing out or not remembering what they did.

_13 percent said they had sexual activity with more than one partner.

_10 percent said they regretted engaging in public or group sexual activity.

_More than half were underage when they first drank alcohol on a spring break trip.

The AMA said the findings highlight the need for alternative spring break activities. For example, the University of Nebraska, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and the University of Wisconsin offer spring break "service" trips.

Gemma Kite, a 21-year-old Lehigh junior, is in Brunswick, Ga., for spring break this week, helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

"It's so much fun. We're working outside in the sun," Kite said.

She said many students see spring break as "your chance to go wild and crazy in a different country where no one's going to know you." Kite admitted those trips have a certain appeal, and she hopes to take a more party-oriented vacation next year.

"I like to have my fun," Kite said.

Another study printed in Time Magazine from the American Journal of Sociology highlights the risk of sexual activity:
Kids complain that there's nothing to do in the Midwestern town scientists are calling "Jefferson City." For fun, teenagers drive to the outskirts of this largely white, working-class community and get wasted. Another favorite activity? Sex. A little more than half the 1,000 students in the only high school are sexually active; the average age of initiation: 15 1/2.

Shocked? Actually, it makes Jefferson's kids typical American teens. But in one way the town is highly unusual: it was the site of a unique study in which researchers tried to document every romantic and sexual liaison among high school students over an 18-month period. The purpose of the research--part of the huge National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health--was to learn how sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) travel through teen populations. But what is most remarkable about the study, published recently in the American Journal of Sociology, is the accompanying chart-- the first to map the sexual geography of a U.S. high school.

The map took researchers by surprise. Overall, 573 out of 832 surveyed students reported at least one relationship during the previous 18 months. The majority probably involved an "exchange of fluids," say the authors. There were 63 couples who had no outside partners, but an astonishing 288 students were linked together in an elaborate network of liaisons. Many students had just one or two romances, but they were at risk of contracting STDs from everyone in the chain. This, wrote the authors, is "the worst-case scenario for potential disease diffusion."

Adult sexual networks look very different and usually involve clusters of wanton individuals known to public-health experts as "core transmitters." (Think prostitutes, NBA stars.) Another surprise was the absence of tightly closed loops in which a foursome trades partners--what co-author Peter Bearman calls the Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice phenomenon, after the 1969 film. Teenagers seem to shy from such post-breakup swaps. Bearman, who heads the sociology department at Columbia University, suggests that dating the former boyfriend of your ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend may involve a loss of status or cross a line of loyalty. "It's an incest taboo of sorts," suggests co-author James Moody, an Ohio State sociologist. The behavior is a big factor in creating the long chains that spread germs.

Though girls tended to date older boys, the study found few behavioral differences between the sexes. There are promiscuous boys who prey on less experienced girls, says Bearman, "and girls who are predators of boys." Most relationships were "romantic"; only about 5% were sex-only "hookups."

Just 1% of the relationships were homosexual; nationally, says Moody, the figure is about 2.5% for teens, whose sexual identities are still emerging. The data were collected in the kids' homes back in 1995 using a secure, computerized survey. Says Bearman: "There was no incentive to lie."

Read more:,9171,1022618,00.html#ixzz1HcMdPmBp

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Could you live without money? Meet a guy who does.

One of the assumptions of American culture is that money equals success and happiness. There is a hegemonic assumption that we should all be pursuing money and we can't live without it. Here is a story about a man who gave up all money. He is educated and happy and he has a website and he even blogs about it! Although this story is an extreme one, it sure is interesting. Maybe we all won't give up our pursuit of money, but maybe we can work on giving up some of our assumptions about it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Volunteer Op: Habitat for humanity, Spring of Life in Elgin

Please check out our website for information about the current build, the volunteer schedule and our partnership in general. The following are Work Days so we'll need at least 6 volunteers...mark your calendar: 3/12 4/9 4/30 5/14 5/28
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to email either myself: or Larry Buettner:

This Saturday, March 12th is a work day. Please register on the website if you will be attending or email myself. If all the slots fill, our volunteer requirements for the day will be complete.

We will be hanging drywall and putting up siding outside. Dress warmly and bring work gloves.

From our newsletter…
This week at Habitat…Volunteers have begun to put up drywall in the 95-year-old cottage the Spring of Life Partnership is rehabbing in Elgin; on the outside of the house volunteers continue to install siding Work begins at 8 a.m.; lunch is provided. Volunteers are urged to sign-up online at, follow the links on the Volunteer tab.

Grading the blogs

Below is the rubric for the blogs. Each blog will get three grades; one for each of the following categories: Academic Standards, Sociology Content, Application.

Academic Standards
Student turns in assignment on time. Assignment is properly written using correct prose, punctuation and capitalization.

Turned in on time, but student may have a small number of spelling or writing mistakes but these do not distract from the overall understanding of the student’s ideas.

Student turns in the assignment late. Student writing is difficult to understand. There are many spelling and grammatical mistakes. The writing is unprofessional and not in proper prose.

Student did not turn in assignment at all.

Student demonstrates an understanding of the sociological content. Student illustrates a grasp of the ideas and concepts as well as the vocabulary that students use.

Student use readings, videos, activities to support their knowledge of the sociological themes/concepts discussed in class.

Student is able to show an understanding of some concept and ideas, but just makes reference to some of the other concepts and vocabulary without demonstrating a grasp of them.

Students discuss their views on the assigned themes/concepts without referencing specific class materials as evidence of their knowledge.

Student might mention some sociology terms and ideas, but does not demonstrate an understanding of the sociological ideas, terms, concepts. Student may demonstrate a misunderstanding of the ideas.

Students are not discussing the proper themes/concepts mentioned throughout the course and are not referring to course materials.

Student did not attempt to do the assignment.

Student is able to fully apply the sociological ideas to his/her own experiences (a real life experience, something s/he watched or read, another class s/he had). Student gives an authentic example of the sociology.

Student relates the sociology slightly to an experience s/he has had. Student gives an example but it is not a genuinely authentic example.

Student attempts to identify how concepts might be influential by relating it to society in general rather than their own particular thoughts.

Student does not use any example from his/her own life. Student does not apply the sociology at all.

Student does not attempt to do the assignment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When was the last time you were a cookie thief?

There is a 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? There was a 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.
Below is a video about a different type of street performer that challenges your assumptions about people and categories.

Another great piece of media 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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Service Experience Step 2

After each time you do community service, you should post about your experience. Your posts 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 of the experience. The journal also provides evidence of your participation in the service experience. Please include the information below or you may email it to me, but be sure to include the information requested below. POST ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE 1 WEEK AFTER YOU SERVE THE HOURS.

Name of organization you volunteered at:
Where was your experience (address):
Date(s) and time(s) of experience:
Supervisor or person in charge and phone/email address:

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?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Answers to the Common Sense 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.

So the lesson target here is that you identify sociology as being based on research.

When finished, click here to go back to sub-day Feb 12, 2015.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Volunteer Op: Habitat For Humanity This Saturday!

Habitat for Humanity sent out a request for 5 workers for this saturday. If you are interested please sign up on their website and also let me know. Once you are on the website, click on "volunteer" and register. For the space where it says church, you can put "Holy Family" because that is where our connection is from.

Students in the past have had a good experience there. If you can make it, I encourage you to go! You could end up with 8 hours. It would be this saturday. Plan to leave home by 7:15. The house is in Elgin. I will give you directions. Usually they work from like 8ish until 3ish with a lunch break. The work will likely be outside so dress warm - use lots of layers because you can always peel off a layer if you get warm.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

NOTE: Blog for this week

Thinking about the blog this week, with two days off it certainly poses some challenges. So, let's move the blog deadline to monday, classtime. However, I would appreciate if you tried to post by tomorrow if you get the chance. You can post about freaks and geeks, the social construction of reality, or the snow day.

Snowmaggedon 2011!

This is my driveway where the snow had drifted to 30+inches! It was higher than my snow thrower. If you are interested in thinking about the snowpocalypse sociologically, here are some ways to do that:
My first thought was about how out of tune (disrespectful) we are of nature. We live in an age where we want to go about our days despite nature, whereas our ancestors would have scheduled their days around nature. This was most evident on Tuesday afternoon as people attempted to drive home as the storm approached. There were even dozens (maybe hundreds) of people who simply abandoned their cars on the road. Do you see how we attempt to ignore nature? Do you think that being in tune with nature copuld be good for all of us?
A second way to think about the storm is the social cooperation it brings. Usually with storms and acts of nature, sociologists note that this brings people together in greater social cooperation. I saw many neighbors helping each other and socializing throughout the storm. Did you witness any of this? Were you a part of it?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Changing the World

Two service opportunities that often get overlooked are politics and protests. We often forget about the importance of local races. Our state government determines how much college costs, how much financial aid students can get, where and what roads and tollways get built etc...Furthermore, it is easy to overlook mundane tasks like stuffing envelopes, or calling people to remind them to vote. But these little things make a big difference. The spring 2008 issue of The American Sociological Review includes an article called "Can Power From Below Change the World?" by Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (Polemics). Her article basically said that we are all tied to each other and so our connection to those around us can be a source a power that creates social movements that can alter the course of America. It is in a sense seeing a sense of power in a sociologically mindful way. This reminds me that for a service project, students can go to a protest. They just need to document it with pictures. Have you ever been to a protest? What would you be willing to protest for? What you be willing to be arrested for?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Community Service Opportunity: Onward House

Ms. Fainman and GIVE are taking buses to the Onward House in Chicago to tutor students after school. A little about Onward house:
Onward House's long history dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. Over the years, Onward House has adapted and evolved with every unique generation that has called West Town their home. Yet, our mission to provide critical education, childcare and family support services to those in need has not.

The service experience meets every other thursday.
You can signup through GIVE.

Besides these days, there are other opportunities to volunteer there on your own.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blogging Info

Hey Soc class!

Just a reminder to blog before class time on the last day of the week. That means blog before class starts tomorrow. Also remember that your blog should:
1. Explain the sociology behind what we've been doing in class. So, demonstrate that you understand what the sociology is and why we are studying it.
2. Second, be sure to relate the post to something from your own life - it might be something that happened to you, something you read or watched, or something you found online. It could be anything, but I want it to be unique so that we can learn from your example.
3. Keep your writing academic. Please use proper prose, avoid misspellings and avoid abbreviations. And, post by the beginning of the last class each week.
4.Lastly, comment on two other students' blogs. Please comment on their ideas and give them a short but sweet comment about their ideas. Don't be cliche or too general, but it doesn't have to be long either. Just show them (and me) that you are reading their blog and maybe you learned something from them.

Not sure what to write about? Scroll down below this post and look for the recent posts that relate to what we have been doing in class.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Volunteer Op: Chicago Alderman 46th Ward Phelan Campaign

A friend of mine is running for Chicago Aldermen. The election is approaching fast and so there will be a need for volunteers. The candidate is Molly Phelan. Her website is If you are interested in the city or in politics, this would be a great opportunity. The 46th ward is a really intereting ward and this election will be hotly contested, though Molly is a front-runner. Let me know if you are interested.

Volunteer Op: Habitat For Humanity January 29th

Here is the latest from our friends at Habitat For Humanity:
The next Holy Family work day for our current build is next Saturday, January 29th.

Work continues outside so dress warmly. Inside is heated with hot coffee available so no worries, it's not bad at all. Last week the Knights of Columbus Ladies Guild brought us a true feast for lunch! Don't miss out!

Register - Go to " volunteer" then follow the green hammer.

If you are interested, sign up and see me for a waiver and the details.