Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Affirming with action

After looking at explicit and implicit racism and acknowledging white privilege in the US, it should come as no surprise that minority groups face very difficult challenges, especially black US citizens.  For example, nearly 1 out of 3 black males in the US will go to prison.  Also, although there are far many more whites in poverty than blacks, black US citizens are living in poverty in a much higher percentage than whites - 28% of black compared to only 15% of whites.    In terms of joblessness, the black unemployment rate is twice that of whites.

Some people argue that these statistics are why racial policies are needed to help provide balance in a society that is full of racism.  For example, in education, black students score lower than all other races.  See this chart from the ACT:

There are numerous reasons for this.  First, the test may be culturally biased.  For example, here is just one sentence from one question;
The kids who hung around the community center
liked Abshu, because he never preached and it   
20clear that when they spoke he listened; so he could zero
in on the kid who had a real problem.
 In this sentence there are at least three examples of cultural interpretations on language that is not necessarily taught in school: 1) "hanging around", 2)"preaching about it", and 3)"zeroing in".  The meanings of these slang terms might mean different things to different groups of people, specifically, they might be difficult for a black child from an impoverished neighborhood to discern.  Similarly, if a white suburban kid tried to take a test written by impoverished black children, it would be very difficult for the white kids.  Here is an example, called The Chitling Test.

Similar to education, US citizens who are perceived as black face discrimination in the workplace as well.  There was a study done by the Chicago Urban League which found that resumes that are exactly the same will get less call backs for interviews if the name on the resume sounds black.  Here is a CBS news report about the study.  You can download the whole study here but here is the abstract of the study:
We study race in the labor market by sending fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perceived race, resumes are randomly assigned African-American- or White-sounding names. White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. Callbacks are also more responsive to resume quality for White names than for African-American ones. The racial gap is uniform across occupation, industry, and employer size. We also find little evidence that employers are inferring social class from the names. Differential treatment by race still appears to still be prominent in the U. S. labor market.
Note that whites received fifty percent more call backs! Fifty! And the discrimination was apparent regardless of occupation - both high income and low income jobs, and the study notes that the discrimination exists even in government jobs where legally, there is a requirement to not discriminate based on race. 

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Real Estate prestige (prices)

Here are some homes for sale listed in 2014 with their prices.  Notice how widely the prices vary.

Waukegan, IL
 Grayslake, IL
 Lake Forest, IL
 Lake Forest, IL
 Grayslake, IL
 Grayslake, IL
 Lake Forest, IL
Waukegan, IL

A Just Harvest

Sign up for A Just Harvest - December 13,  2013 3:30 - 8:30 Helping to serve meals to the hungry. Volunteers will meet in Parking lot C. Ms Fainman is the chaperone for this event. Do you need hours for your Social Studies classes? This is a great way to give back to the community and get the hours you need for class. Hope to see you there!

Final Paper: Reflecting on Your Service Experience (Step3)

Click here for a google doc for the final paper or you can read it below: Looking back at your experiences in community service, reflect on what you did and relate it to sociology. This paper should be about your experiences in general. Do not simply restate what you have already written in your journals. Instead, look at your journals to refresh your memory about what you experienced and then try to make some generalizations about the experience. Apply these generalizations to the three areas below. You do not need to respond to every prompt below, but you should have well-developed and authentic answers to each of the three areas: application, sociological themes and sociological content. Each area should be written from your perspective as an individual. Your paper will be graded on the following components. This is due the second to last Friday before final exams. Journal: Please refer back to your journals to remind you of your experiences as you think about the three areas below: Application of the Experience: Evaluate the importance and value of voluntarism. How has this and will it affect your life in the short term & long term? Do you think that being involved in community (through the service experience) gives you sense of belonging and a feeling of being necessary that teens often lack, and how? Can you see how volunteering and helping others can contribute to the happiness and well-being of the volunteers? In what ways do you think that you have benefited from the experience? Was the experience rewarding/fulfilling? What did you take away from this experience? Sociological Themes: How might your experience reflect the idea of a sociological imagination? How are the private troubles of the people you served, a part of larger social forces? Use your sociological imagination to discuss why the people you served need volunteers. How are their lives (their reality) constructed by social forces? Has this experience helped you to become more sociological mindful? Why? Why not? Has this experience impacted the, “mark that you want to leave?” See Schwalbe’s Sociological Mindfulness for more on this idea. How might your service experience help to show the interconnectedness between people within society? Use examples from your own experiences. You might want to lookup what the organization you volunteered with does. Who do they help? Where does there money go? Sociological Content: Relate your experiences to sociology content. What aspects of class (or our blog) does this encompass? What connections do you see between the content of our class and the community service? Use our class notes, readings, and your blog to review all the ways your service experience might relate. Some ideas might be: What stereotypes were there before starting? Did any of these change? Was there any relation to gender, age, social class, race or any other group we discussed in sociology? Think about how the people you helped (and perhaps yourself) are socialized to think about themselves. Does culture play a part in the service experience? Maybe American values can be used to analyze the service experience. Perhaps you can think of the group as a subculture. Is there deviance involved? Perhaps the group you are working with is considered deviant by society. How might that affect those people? Maybe you are considered deviant for volunteering. Use the suggestions on the back of this sheet for other ideas of how the service experience connects to sociology. Also use at least 4 references to class discussions, activities, readings and videos. If you need help remembering all of the specifics of what we did in class, use my blog. Go through it and refresh your memory. Format: Write in proper format. Use a standard font type, size 10-12, margins .5-1.25, double space. Use proper prose and paragraphs, be cohesive and turn it in on time. Besides proper academic writing, your paper should be authentic. Do not fill your paper with generic clichés. Explain why and how from your unique perspective. Used detailed examples from your own experiences to support your answers. Here are some ways to help you think about how your service experience relates to sociology content: Culture: Identify unique elements in your service experience, such as: material culture, norms, values and sanctions. Consider how these cultural elements aid in the functioning of the organization and how they contrast with mainstream elements of culture. Socialization: Analyze the modes of interaction that you engaged in during your service. Where there differences in the way that you acted towards the clients versus other volunteers versus members of the organization? Did you see any processes of socialization occurring with yourself or with the clients that you were working with? Deviance: Reflect on the whether the organization or clientele of the organization where you were volunteering bears any stigma from the larger community. Often times, community-service organizations have the primary goal of aiding individuals who carry a deviant identity. Whether it is poverty, substance abuse, illness, age, disability, etc. Observe how the clients manage their stigmatized identities. How do the workers at the organization treat the clients? Do the clients manage or reject the label of deviant? How does the work of the organization help change societal perceptions of the stigmatized? Social Class: What role does class inequality play in their organization? How is the organization funded? How do community service organizations in general generate enough interest for people to volunteer their time and donate their money to help others? How does charity fit into the American Dream ideology? Do you believe that most Americans are willing to sacrifice some of their own wealth to help those in need? Why? Why not? Race/Ethnicity: Reflect on the racial and ethnic dynamic of their organization. Is there a difference between the racial or ethnic composition of the staff, the volunteers, and the clientele? Did your experiences of the racial or ethnic composition at the organization parallel your everyday experiences? Have you gained any insight into a particular group? Explain.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Preschool Privilege

One of the final points that the People Like Us movie made was that we are separated by class from a young age.  For example, when the wealthy take steps to ensure their child be accepted into the upper-upper class, they begin early. A few recent articles and a documentary highlight this subculture. Wealthy parents in New York City hire consultants and special tutors to get their child into a handful of elite preschools and then they pay costly tuition ($15,000+) to send the child there. This article from Bloomberg News highlights the competition to get in,
...An average of 15 applicants vie for every spot in about 200 preschools, Uhry said. According to its Web site, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, received 22,754 applications for the freshman class entering in last fall and admitted 2,124 -- 11 applications per admission.

From the New York Daily News,
Consultants charge $10,000 a pop to share their secrets of success. A nose-picking habit is considered special needs.
As the mother of an 11-month-old already bemused by Manhattan's hypercompetitive baby-rearing culture, I watched the film with amusement and dread.
If, like Moon, I want my child to attend one of these nurseries - popularly perceived as "Ivy League feeder schools" - finding the annual $20,000 tuition would apparently be the least of my worries.

An interesting contrast might be comparing this to my post on the Harlem Children's Zone, also a rigorous program, but for parents of low-income, at-risk students.
Watch the trailer for a documentary called Nursery University which reveals the intensity around getting into the "right" preschool.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Social class and your possessions

In the movie People Like Us, they show many different things that people buy that represent their social class such as a Tuscan style kitchen, a 4 foot Mitsubishi TV, a Volvo. What possessions do you or your family own that represent your social class? Do you think that class is related to the things we own? Think about a possession that you own that could be much cheaper or much more expensive - why do you have the one that you have and not a cheaper/ more expensive one? You can go to the following website and take a quiz about how the things you prefer represent your class:
Chintz or shag

We also see a guy who goes into Williams & Sonoma and says that the store represents upper middle class because of the things it sells. Then we see Karen Hess (bread expert) who says the bread we eat reflects our class. We develop tastes that reflect our class. What stores do you shop at and what types of bread do you eat? How do your possessions reflect your own social class? You can visit the following website and take the quiz "Identify this" or "Name that class" and see if your values represent a class:
Identify this

Here's a quick example from W & S:
It is a set of wooden utensils - but not just any wooden utensils, "Canadian inventor and designer Tom Littledeer is known for his beautifully carved kitchen tools with fluid shapes inspired by canoe paddles. Each of the tools in this set is handcrafted from a single piece of North American maple..." $99.99 for a set of 5.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Barbie - one example of a toy that socializes girls into an unrealistic image of themselves.

Below is an image from a rehab center for eating disorders. Here is a link

Also, here is an image of how an average woman would have to be altered to fit the Barbie ideal: Here is a caption from the Huffington Post:
The woman in the photograph is model Katie Halchishick, co-founder of Healthy Is The New Skinny, an organization dedicated to "revolutionizing how we think about, talk about, live in and love our bodies." This is hardly the first time that someone has pointed out how unrealistic a Barbie doll's proportions are, but it's still interesting to see the proportions drawn out onto an actual body. Some initial observations: -- Oddly pointy chin. -- A chest about half the width of her chest. -- Giant eyes! -- A neck that seems unlikely to be able to support her head.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gender, Sexual Orientation and Socialization

We are learning about how we are influenced to act from a young age.  The influence from society is called socialization and in terms of gender, we are socialized to think very narrowly about what is acceptable: either heterosexual male who is tough or heterosexual female who is pretty and delicate.  But really these two boxes are very limiting and do not reflect the range of human diversity.  We had a panel that helped to show the range of sexual orientation and gender.  Although each student is unique and should be viewed as his/her own individual self, I think there are a few conclusions that we can draw.  One is that students have an awfully hard time accepting themselves because our culture socializes them to not accept who they are.   This is in the media, in their families, in schools.  This lack of acceptance puts students at risk for self harm and for bullying and abuse. If you are interested in resources or how you can help checkout and The rest of us can become more mindful of these students and their difficulties.  We can be strive to be understanding and accepting by being honest but not hurtful, and watching our language.  Furthermore, I think hearing their stories helps us to explore gender more thoroughly and that can help us to be more comfortable with our own gender - and even if you are heterosexual, hopefully you can feel less boxed in by the culture.

Here are some hopeful signs of change:

Germany recently passed a law allowing parents to choose gender undetermined for their children.

And from ABC news:
Already, Australia and Nepal allow adults to mark male, female or a "third gender" on their official documents. In June, a 52-year-old Australian, Norrie May-Welby, became the world's first recognized "genderless" person after winning a legal appeal to keep an "unspecified" gender status for life.
German passports will have a third designation other than M or F -- X, for intersex, according to the Interior Ministry.
Here is a website called Interface.
The Interface Project's mission is to gather and share personal stories of people living with an intersex condition or difference of sex development (DSD) to spread the message: No Body Is Shameful
And the American Sociological Association has recognized that gender is not a binary category has as well.  People who join or renew their membership in the ASA can select from the following categories:
Transgender – female
Transgender – male
Prefer not to answer

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween - holiday for Freaks and Geeks?

Episode 3 of Freaks and Geeks (click here to watch it on mediacast) highlights some different aspects of sociology and socialization. Look at how Lindsay and her brother are influenced by their mom to think about the holiday. We also see the peer pressure from their friends take them into two different directions: Sam influences his friends to dress up and embrace the holiday while Lindsay is influenced by her friends to go out with them and cause trouble instead of hanging out with her mom. With a careful analysis we also see the influence of religion, the media and school.

Another interesting dynamic in the episode is what sociologists call socialization through the lifecourse; that is, how people are influenced differently throughout their life. For example, when you are a kid you are influenced to dress up and trick or treat and then when you are an adult you are supposed to act differently. What we see in the episode is the difficulty in being a teen and not really being a kid who can embrace Halloween but not yet being considered a mature adult. This unknowing of what is expected of you is called role strain. We see this most obviously in the teen years. Are you supposed to be a kid or a mature adult?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Volunteer Op: Volunteer for a candidate

Another option for your service hours is political volunteering.  Stevenson will be hosting a campaign fair on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 5th from 7-9 pm.  We will feature the staffs of the governors' campaigns to recruit student workers for this winter and spring.  We'll also have campaign staffers from Rep. Brad Schneider, former-Rep. Bob Dold, 10th Cong Dems, Lake County Young Republicans and the Illinois Fair Map gerrymandering reform group.

Plus, we'll serve complimentary pizza.  Click here to rsvp. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Human Nurture

Besides starting surprisingly early, nurture also plays a surprisingly powerful role in our development.  One example is studying the differences in identical twins; they have the same DNA, genes and biology; the same nature but they are different.  It is amazing to me that so much of what we take for granted as being human (part of our nature) is actually learned from our environment (nurture). The video above is about a girl named Genie that was locked in a bedroom alone for 12 years of her life is one small piece of evidence of the power of social experiences on individuals. Here is what Susan Curtiss wrote about her in her book Genie; A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day Wild Child. 

Genie was pitiful. Hardly ever having worn clothing, she did not react to temperature, either heat or cold. Never having eaten solid food, Genie did not know how to chew and had great difficulty in swallowing.  Having been strapped down and left sitting on a potty chair she could not stand erect, could not straighten her arms or legs, could not run hop, jump or climb.  In fact she could only walk with difficulty shuffling her feet and swaying from side to side. Hardly ever having seen more than a space of ten feet in front of her she had become nearsighted to exactly that distance....Surprisingly, however, Genie was alert and curious. She maintained good eye contact and...She was intensely eager for human contact. 

You can also check out this website for examples of feral children. This website, though sad, provides further evidence for the importance of human nurturing in socializing individuals to their full human potential. How have you been shaped by the experiences of your life?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Norms cont'd

Today we continued our discussion of Norms by reviewing what a folkway, more, and taboo are.  Then we examined the videoes from the posts below to make the point that mores are really important but they are not necessarily laws.  However they shape how we think about who we are.  Norms (and culture) affect our feelings, actions, and thoughts (The social construction of reality).

Also, this is IMPORTANT we assigned two assignments that are in your packet:

A reading called Kohl's American values is due this friday.

An assigment/experiment is due next thursday.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Volunteer Op: Sep 21st 12-5pm Car Wash

Sign up to work a 2.5 hour shift at the BG Culver's.  All the funds will go to  Stand for the Silent, an organization that seeks to end bullying.  There is a meeting sept 18th at 7am in room 2121.  Get some volunteer hours, have fun and make a difference!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Volunteer Op for Senior Class: Feed My Starving Children with Senior Class Board Oct 4

Senior Class Board is planning a service event for just Seniors at Feed My Starving Children in Libertville on October 4th and have about 90 spots open from 3:30-8. We as a Class Board are inviting anyone in the Class of 2014 to come to this event. 

If Seniors want to go, they need to register at They will get their field trips forms in a few weeks. They will receive service hours for this opportunity. I think this would be a great opportunity for Seniors to come together for this event. We will be meeting in Room 2428 on October 4th the day of the field trip for pizza. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Volunteer Op: Paint-a-thon Sept 7.

To volunteer for the paintathon through Students Helping Soldiers click here.

From the Daily Herald:

The 26th annual Community Paint-A-Thon will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7. This popular event is a collaborative effort with Valspar Coatings, Catholic Charities and HandsOn Suburban Chicago in partnership with Habitat for Humanity's A Brush With Kindness.
Homeowners that are elderly, disabled or financially disadvantaged, who need their houses painted, come from 10 different Northwest suburban townships. Over the last 25 years this event has been held, more than 700 homes have been painted by community members, who volunteer their time.
Volunteer teams are recruited from businesses, churches, social service and civic groups. Volunteers, who work on teams of 10-25 people, receive the benefit of knowing they have helped others and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from it. As a result, a number of the volunteers have been participating for several years.
Nancy Nordvedt, who has been volunteering with Paint-A-Thon for four years, explains why she continues to participate in the program.
"We have to be there for the people who can't. There's nothing more gratifying than helping others," said Nordvedt.
Local businesses are very supportive of the event and recruit their employees to help. Nokia has been a longtime supporter of the Paint-A-Thon event. Nokia employee and volunteer leader Jeremy Bower said their company engaged about 25 employees last year during this event.
"It's a great experience," said Bower. "The feeling you get afterward is worth the sweat you get in the middle of it."
Annette Sommer, program director at HandsOn Suburban Chicago has been coordinating this event for over 18 years.
"It is extremely heartwarming to see the enthusiasm by all the volunteers while working on the project," said Sommer. "Homeowners are very grateful to the wonderful volunteers who have made such a difference in their lives by improving the beauty of their homes."
If you are interested in volunteering, or donating supplies or funds to support Paint-A-Thon, please contact Annette Sommer at
For over 40 years, HandsOn Suburban Chicago has been inspiring, equipping and mobilizing people to volunteer and take action that builds vibrant and prosperous communities. HOSC recruits and refers 10,000 volunteers annually to over 200 member agency nonprofits and schools, and provides other support to local charitable organizations, such as consultations and trainings. A nonprofit 501(c)(3) agency and part of the national HandsOn Network, HOSC service area includes 44 core communities in the Chicago area and a population of over 1.4 million residents.

Volunteer OP: Feed My Starving Children

Volunteer Op: Kickin' It for a Cause

The Special Olympics is having a kickball tournament in Vernon Hills on Sept 29th.  Registration is $30 per person.  You can signup as an individual or as a team.  Teams are co-ed.  This should be a fun event and a fun way to earn some hours.  The deadline to signup is Sept 16.  Here is the registration sheet.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Illinois tops the list for racial disparity in marijuana busts

From the Chicago Tribune:
The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday that Illinois has one of the worst racial disparities in the nation when it comes to marijuana possession arrests, with blacks nearly eight times more likely than whites to be arrested despite using pot at roughly the same rate. The report, titled "The War on Marijuana in Black and White," found that blacks nationwide are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. One of the report's authors said that discrepancy illustrates the unfairness of the nation's drug policy. "People who are targeted are disproportionately people of color," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU's criminal law reform project. "To give white people in certain places a free ticket while blacks are getting saddled with criminal records and thrown in jail seems patently unfair." The ACLU also found that Cook County piled up far more marijuana possession arrests in 2010 than any other county in America. Cook County tallied more than 33,000 pot arrests that year, with blacks, who account for 25 percent of the county's population, making up nearly 73 percent of those busted....Researchers have long shown that blacks and whites smoke pot at roughly equivalent rates. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 14 percent of blacks used marijuana in the past year .versus 12 percent of whites. Asked about the ACLU's report, the Chicago Police Department responded with this statement: "Chicago Police enforce our laws for the sole purpose of protecting public safety, regardless of anyone's race or creed." Edwards said his research indicated that racial disparities in pot arrests exist almost everywhere in the nation, regardless of demographics. In Illinois, 63 of 102 counties have a disparity rate higher than the national average, in which blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be busted for pot. Overall, Illinois had the country's fourth-largest disparity, with blacks 7.6 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana. Iowa was first, with blacks there 8.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested. Edwards said the discrepancies have grown worse over the past decade, even as some states adopt more liberal marijuana laws and public sentiment toward the drug softens. (A Pew Research Center poll taken in March found that for the first time, a majority of Americans support legalizing pot.) "Old habits die hard, and a lot of police departments are patrolling and operating the way they used to," Edwards said. "You're going to see disparities as long as we fight that war and fight it selectively." Though Edwards said most marijuana possession arrests do not result in prison time, Kathleen Kane-Willis of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy said they still can bring severe consequences. "You can be denied housing," she said. "You can be denied employment. And if you're in school, if it were a felony conviction, you would be denied financial aid."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Am...

The documentary I Am by producer Tom Shadyac is a marvelous summation of our class.   Below is my own summation of the movie and in parenthesis are all the ways that I see the movie related to sociology:  -->
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), a competitiveness and a materialism that pervade Western society, especially the United States.  (Culture)

“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.  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.” – Desmond Tutu

“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)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Rather than tracing a main character throughout the movie, Crash (watch it on mediacast here)
traces the construction of race throughout the film. Try not to watch the movie literally, because it is obviously implausible that these characters are so interrelated. Instead, watch the movie and think about race metaphorically. There are many ways in which race shows up in the movie. Race is really what is interrelated to all the characters. Race is much more complex than the black and white way it is often portrayed. Race can be related to language, social class, religion, skin color, power, and other social constructs. Sometimes race divides people we would normally put in the same racial category. Sometimes race leads to explicit racism and sometimes it is implicit. The movie allows for viewers to interpret based on their own racialized ideas:
For example: Assumptions about the locksmith and robbing the store, or assumptions about the 2 young car thieves, or what was in the car thief’s pocket in the off duty cop’s car. Other moments when this happens:
What did you think Ludacris will do with the van and the people? Sell Them?
What did you think the business was that the Asian man was doing early in the movie before we saw the people in the van?

The movie looks at both explicit and implicit racism. But the question the movie implores us to explore is which is worse? The young cop tries really hard to not be explicitly racist, but he doesn’t realize the implicitly racist ways that he has been shaped. He assumes that the young black kid was not ice skating and is laughing at him and that he is reaching for a weapon.

The movie highlights that because we live in a society obsessed with race, our difficulties in our lives can be manifested into racism even though the real problem is social class, money and job opportunities, health problems, etc…

Another theme highlighted in the movie is that individuals might not be racist (or might be trying to overcome it) but they live in a larger society with racist dynamics. For example, the detective has to deal with his mom feeling that he left the family behind because he became a detective and got an education and moved out of the neighborhood. Another example is the tv director who has his own ideas about the show but he is forced to succumb to the will of the white producer who has his own ideas.

Here are some sociological questions to consider after watching the movie:
If race is not scientifically based, what is it based on?
What are some of the characteristics that our society uses to define race? What scenes/characters highlight differences that are not biological, but refer to “race”? Are there any moments in your life when you learned that race is not related to biology or science?
What are some stereotypes that are not true?
What are some of the stereotypes in the movie that characters hold that are not true? Which characters hold stereotyped beliefs about others in the movie and what were they? How were these stereotypes not true? Have you ever held a stereotype that you later found to be untrue? Have you ever felt stereotyped by someone?
Implicit vs. Explicit racism;What are some examples of explicit and implicit racism in the movie? Do you think that the hidden nature of implicit racism might make it just as volatile as explicit racism? Is it valuable to become aware of implicit racism and how our society shapes these attitudes? Thinking about the IAT test we did in class, how might implicit racism be a part of you? How does society shape us?
What can we do about racism?
Using the movie as an example, what can be done to help reduce the racism in society? How should some of the racist incidents be handled so as to minimize the racism in America? What can you do in your own life?
Race is more than a black and white issue…
What are some examples from the movie that show the idea of race is not just a black or white issue and instead race is much more complicated? What scenes/characters show this idea? Do you think that simplifying race to a black-white issue continues to create confusion over race issues in America?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You could pay more, but why?

Please remember that we are learning about how individuals are affected by social class.  This is not meant to make students feel guilty or feel bad for those in lower classes, it is just meant to show that although Americans believe that everyone is created equal with equal opportunity, the reality is that we are not equal.  There are different benefits and obstacles and life chances depending on what class one is in.  Another glaring example of social class is our school district.  Many students here are from families who have lived "the American Dream."  That is, their parents have risen in social class and now are living in the top of the social class ladder.  And so this often becomes an example for those students that anyone can make it in America - look at what my family has done.  Here are two questions for you to consider:

1)  Why would a family choose to live in Stevenson's district?  The taxes here are far and above that of surrounding areas.  For example, a $649,000 house in Long Grove might have to pay $16,000 per year in real estate taxes plus $1200/year in home owner association fees such as this house:

whereas a house in Wheeling might cost $299,000 and only $7,000/year in taxes.
If all it takes to succeed in life is to try hard, why would anyone want to pay so much extra for a house that is the same size as the less expensive one?  The reason is often because the house comes with so much more than living space: a higher achieving school district, a lower crime neighborhood, neighbors who have similar values to you (such as do well in school), lower pollution, etc...  All of these provide an advantage to the children growing up in that area.  I am not not saying that the advantage is wrong or that anyone should feel guilty for having that advantage.  I simply want to acknowledge that the advantage does exist.

2)  Try to objectively look back at your family's rise in social class and see the dynamic that fueled it.  Did your parents value education?  Why?  Where did that value come from?  What if your parents were born into a house where they were told that school was never going to help them?  Did your parents have parents at home to help them?  What if one of their parents was incarcerated for most of their life?  What if their parent was addicted to drugs?  Were your parents raised in a neighborhood in which they were subjected to violence?  Did they ever know someone close to them who was murdered?  How might the daily threat of violence affect them growing up?  How would they be shaped if they were forced to belong to a gang simply because of where their neighborhood is located?

Choosing poverty?

Who would choose poverty if there was another option? There is often a myth in America that people choose poverty. Okay, the choice isn't that simple, but many believe that people simply do not make choices that will lead them out of poverty. I understand that as humans our power comes in the form of consciousness and the ability to make conscious choices, but there still must be a choice in front of us for us to be able to make it. For example, there are parents that want so badly for their kids to avoid the pitfalls of inner city poverty: gangs, drugs, violence, the criminal justice system, poor education. These parents can want to choose the best for their kids, but if there is no real choice in front of them, then little will come of it. A radical experiment in New York is helping to highlight this. It is a school called The Harlem Children's Zone. Parents line up to get their kids into this revolutionary school. The school begins helping parents BEFORE BIRTH! That's right. It provides training from the beginning in how to be a parent. After years of molding students and parents, the school has done what few parents could do without it; it has equalled and surpassed test scores for white middle class students. Watch the CBS video below and see how the school is doing it and the success it has had. Realize that all of these parents wanted the best for their kids, but only the school made it happen. What do you think happend to the kids who weren't fortunate enough to get into the school? What about all of the impoverished students across America who do not have access to a school like that?

Watch CBS News Videos Online
An excerpt from the report:
"You grow up in America and you're told from day one, 'This is the land of opportunity.' That everybody has an equal chance to make it in this country. And then you look at places like Harlem, and you say, 'That is absolutely a lie,'" Canada told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"So you're trying to level the playing field between kids here in Harlem and middle class kids in a suburb?" Cooper asked.

"That's exactly what we think we have to do," Canada said. "You know, if you grow up in a community where your schools are inferior, where the sounds of gunshots are a common thing, where you spend your time and energy not thinking about algebra or geometry, but about how not to get beat up, or not to get shot, or not to get raped, when you grow up like that, you don't have the same opportunity as other children growing up. And we're trying to change those odds."

Friday, April 19, 2013

A letter from Chile...

Hello Stevenson students! My name is Cala O'Connor, and I graduated from Stevenson in 2008. I attended DePaul University, studied Early Childhood and Bilingual Education, and graduated last June. I am currently living in Chile and teaching English to 8th-11th graders here through a program called English Opens Doors. I emailed Mr. Salituro last week and asked if he would be interested in doing a pen pal sorta deal with his students, and he said yes! It takes 3 weeks for a letter to get down here, so we figured email might be faster. I had all 80 kids in my sophomore classes (segundo medio = second grade upper = sophomore) contribute to a letter to you, telling you about their life here and asking questions about what it is like to be a teen in the USA. I know you all probably have a million other assignments and sports practices and clubs and what not, being Stevenson students, but if you could find the time to maybe answer a few of the questions, or share what it is like to be a teen in Chicago, I would really appreciate it, and so would the students! You can either respond here on the blog, or email me at For anyone who is really interested in teaching abroad or what it is like, feel free to email me or check out my blog at Thank you so much!!
Dear students,

Hello! How are you? We are fine. We are students of Colegio Gabriela Mistral, we live in Coquimbo, Chile. We are 14-16 years old. We would like to learn about your life. We are learning English. Learning English is so-so, sometimes easy and sometimes hard. Is it difficult for you to learn Spanish? Or other language? Do you like to skateboard? What is your schedule like? We go to school every day at 8:00am and leave at 5:00pm. We have 15 minute breaks between our classes. They are 90 minutes long. We also have 45 minutes for lunch. What is your schedule like? Do you have breaks? Do you have uniforms? We hate our uniforms. Do you buy your clothes at Forever 21? Here in Coquimbo it is fall. It is usually very sunny, sometimes cloudy. The average degree is 17 Celsius. It does not rain at all only in the winter, and it never snows. Is it cold in Chicago? What is snow like? Do you like snow? What is Chicago like? Are the streets dangerous at night? What cities of the United States do the black and the hispanic people live? Is it true in New York they kill doves? Do you like soccer? We love soccer. We love the teams Colo-Colo, Coquimbo, Arsenal, Tottenham, Barcelona, Católica and Real Madrid. Do you like bananas? We also like basketball and Lebron James. What sports do you like to play? We like to listen to music. What music do you listen to? We like dubstep, pop (we love One Direction and Justin Beiber) Reggaeton, Bachata, Taylor Swift, Skrillex, System of a Down, Slipknot, Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown, Usher, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dog, Maroon 5, Linkin Park, and more. Do you like My Chemical Romance? Do you watch WWF and John Cena? What do you like to do in your free time? We like to listen to music, play computer games, play xbox, play guitar, skateboard, play soccer, hang out with friends, chat on the internet, read, sleep, and watch TV. Do you like Starcraft? Do you like hip hop? Would you like to come to Coquimbo? What do you want to know about us? Here in Chile when we say goodbye, we say chao. Chao! Los alumnos de Segundo Medio (The students of the sophomore class)

White Privilege and the Boston Bombing

One sociological way to look at the Boston investigation into the bombing is with the idea of "white privilege" in mind. Here is an essay from Tim Wise, a sociologist who writes often about racism and white privilege:
When I heard about the bombing at the Boston marathon, I did not say to myself, "Oh please don't let the bomber be a white person or our community will suffer a backlash just like after the Oklahoma City bombing." Say what? If there was ever a glaring example of white privilege, this is it. Because we well know, ever since 9/11, millions of Americans of Muslim or Arab descent (or those who might "look" like them) are de facto suspected terrorists. Such racism has been lethal for a number of citizens whose skin color or clothing sparked knee-jerk violence. Other survived the violent attacks while some Muslim mosques and schools did not. The Right, hours after Monday's bombing, was already casting the blame on Muslims. As Steven Rosenfeld notes in AlterNet [2], "Almost immediately predictable hysterical right-wing voices jumped into the debate — and surprisingly were featured on liberal — including the anti-Muslim media hound Pam Geller, who immediately blamed a Jihadi for the bombing." The Langar Hall website reported on Monday [3], "Some right wing pundits have been even more blatantly racist this afternoon in response to the explosions. Fox News commentator Erik Rush went so far as to tweet this afternoon that Muslims are evil, and 'Let’s kill them all' after immediately blaming the explosions on Muslim terrorists without any evidence." For sure there have been calls from progressive as well as mainstream media to not jump to conclusions and make assumptions. But the problem goes deeper because if the bomber does in fact turn out to be a person of Muslim descent, a whole community will face the wrath of many in white America. In his latest commentary, Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness, [4] anti-racism writer and educator Tim Wise underscores how, even as we grieve the victims, the Boston Marathon bombing is a powerful lesson about race and white privilege. “As the nation weeps for the victims of the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, one searches for lessons amid the carnage, and finds few. That violence is unacceptable stands out as one, sure. That hatred — for humanity, for life, or whatever else might have animated the bomber or bombers — is never the source of constructive human action seems like a reasonably close second. But I dare say there is more; a much less obvious and far more uncomfortable lesson, which many are loathe to learn, but which an event such as this makes readily apparent, and which we must acknowledge, no matter how painful. It is a lesson about race, about whiteness, and specifically, about white privilege. I know you don’t want to hear it. But I don’t much care. So here goes. White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in persons like yourself being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI. White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for your group to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation. White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols [5] and Ted Kaczynski [6] and Eric Rudolph [7] and Joe Stack [8] and George Metesky [9] and Byron De La Beckwith [10] and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss [11] and James von Brunn [12] and Robert Mathews [13] and David_Lane [14] and Michael F. Griffin [15] and Paul Hill [16] and John Salvi [17] and James Kopp [18] and Luke Helder [19] and James David Adkisson [20] and Scott Roeder [21] and Shelley Shannon [22] and Wade Michael Page [23] and Byron Williams [24] and Kevin Harpham [25] and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus [26] and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy [27] and Michael Gorbey [28] and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman [29] and Frederick Thomas [30] and Paul Ross Evans [31] and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins [32] and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe [33] and David McMenemy [34] and Bobby Joe Rogers [35] and Francis Grady [36] and Demetrius Van Crocker [37] and Floyd Raymond Looker [38], among the pantheon of white people who engage in politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular. And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes. White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, you will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove your own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees you standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to you as a result. White privilege is knowing that if you are a student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon. And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Dublin. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican. In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved. It is the source of our unearned innocence and the cause of others’ unjustified oppression.” Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and educators in the United States. He has spoken in all 50 states, on over 800 college and high school campuses, and to community groups across the nation. Wise is the author of six books, including his latest, Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority (City Lights Books) and his highly acclaimed memoir, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son. Source URL: Links: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38]

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Here an example from

From Adweek, here is an example of gender discrimination worldwide:

Powerful Ads Use Real Google Searches to Show the Scope of Sexism Worldwide Simple visual for inequality

Here's a simple and powerful campaign idea from UN Women using real suggested search terms from Google's autocomplete feature. Campaign creator Christopher Hunt, head of art for Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, offers this summary: “This campaign uses the world's most popular search engine (Google) to show how gender inequality is a worldwide problem. The adverts show the results of genuine searches, highlighting popular opinions across the world wide web.” Each ad's fine print says "actual Google search on 09/03/13." While Google users in different countries are likely to get different results, a quick test shows that several of these suggested terms definitely come up in U.S. searches. Since its creation, autocomplete has become a popular device for social debate and even inspired a recent epic visual from xkcd, but these ads do a stellar job driving home the daunting fact that enough people around the world share these vile opinions that Google has come to expect them. Check out all the design versions after the jump. Via Design Taxi.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Some agents of socialization can teach unintended (latent) lessons.

Dweck's Mindset
Speaking of agents of socialization and family, we learned that sometimes we are influenced in unintended, hidden ways. That is called latent socialization. Another example of latent family messages is from a book by Carolyn Dweck called Mindset. Here is an excerpt. In the book, Dweck explains that unintentionally many of us sabotage our own learning because we have "fixed mindsets". That is we believe that either we know something or we don't and that's it. For example, either I am good at math or not. But Dweck explains that some people have a "growth mindset" meaning that they understand that whatever they learn, they have worked hard to learn and when something is difficult, they change how they learn it. These people are excited about the learning and are open to new ideas and they enjoy the challenge of learning. Often times, those with fixed mindsets learned to be that way because they were overly praised by parents and teachers. For example, "You are so smart," or "You are so good at math." Then when these students have difficulty, they think, "Well I guess I am not good at that," rather than "I have to try something different or try harder to learn that." Do you see how the fixed mindset can sabotage learning? Do you think that you have been socialized by parents or school to have one mindset or another? What are some other ways that you may have been latently socialized?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Valuing Vulnerability?

Vulnerability is not a value for those of us who live in the United States, but some social scientists say it should be.  Watch the video below by Brene Brown at a TED Talk.

Brown explains that to feel really fulfilled in life, we must live whole-heartedly.  But to live whole-heartedly, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others.  It is a very difficult proposition because this rides against the flow of our culture.  But in a follow-up TED Talk, Brown explains that vulnerability is not weakness.  Try to watch the video above a few times.  It takes time to really understand it, but it is so insightful.

$ = :-(

Because most of us buy into the values in the United States, we seek success and materialism through hard work and personal achievement sometimes even alone as individuals.  We assume that happiness will be a part of this equation but notice it is not.  Sadly, we often isolate ourselves from others in our quest for success and this makes us less happy.  So, today's lesson is to carefully select the values we want to hold dear to us.  Be mindful that your culture is always tugging at you to follow it, but that doesn't mean it will lead you where you want to go.  A growing field of research has been exploring happiness and why it is so elusive. What could be more important than real happiness - true happiness, contentment with our lives? This research reveals that although we are vastly wealthier than a few decades ago we are less happy as a nation. Sociology, psychology and economics all have been exploring happiness and I think it relates to our culture and how we live our lives.
A 2008 sociology study found that happiness is more difficult for parents :-( me! But our culture thinks that it is taboo to talk about how difficult raising children is. Other sociologists have written about how we as Americans try to consume happiness through our spending power. Sociologist Karen Sternheimer writes
You are no doubt familiar with the cliché that “money can’t buy happiness.” Yet so many of us presume that if we just had a little more money (according to Easterlin’s research, 20% more) we would be happier. Maybe we could buy more, pay off some bills, and feel less stressed about money.
But Easterlin found that this just isn’t the case. In fact, he says many of us buy into the “money illusion”, which guides how we spend our time as we focus on trying to get more money. Of course, this is a very American pursuit: our capitalist economy is based on the constant striving for more.

On the psychology of happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar teaches the most popular class at Harvard, The Psychology of Happiness. His book, Happier, is a psychological understanding of how to live a happier life. He also maintains this website with articles and tips on being happier. You can also see Shahar on John Stewart's Daily Show.
Economists have been discussing happiness at great lengths lately. The most interesting to me so far is Richard Layard who wrote Happiness. Here is an excerpt from Layard's book:

There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. We all want more money, but as societies become richer, they do not become happier. This is not speculation: It's the story told by countless pieces of scientific research. We now have sophisticated ways of measuring how happy people are, and all the evidence shows that on average people have grown no happier in the last fifty years, even as average incomes have more than doubled.

The central question the great economist Richard Layard asks in Happiness is this: If we really wanted to be happier, what would we do differently? First we'd have to see clearly what conditions generate happiness and then bend all our efforts toward producing them. That is what this book is about-the causes of happiness and the means we have to effect it.

Until recently there was too little evidence to give a good answer to this essential question, but, Layard shows us, thanks to the integrated insights of psychology, sociology, applied economics, and other fields, we can now reach some firm conclusions, conclusions that will surprise you. Happiness is an illuminating road map, grounded in hard research, to a better, happier life for us all.