Thursday, March 23, 2017

Poverty in the United States

Please take out your packet and open to the Nickel and Dimed reading.
Please answer: 
1. How is she treated by customers and management?

2.  Is she successful at living at minimum wage?

3.  If this was her real life, what limits her ability to move up in class?

Try the playspent website which guides readers through the difficult  choices that those in poverty must make.

-----------------Pause here-------------

Consider this statement:
A lower class person has a higher chance of dying at any age than a wealthy person.
 Brainstorm in your group all of the reasons why this may be true.  Use your reading and the movie to cite examples.

Barbara Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed is an experiment with what life is like for someone living at minimun wage (or at least low-wage). Here is an excerpt.

Morgan Spurlock's video 30 days at Minimum Wage is also an experiment at living at minimum wage.

The Line is a documentary about people living at the poverty line.  It highlights the difficulties of different people who share a common struggle: life in poverty.  Here is a link to The Line on Mediacast.  Here it is embeded:

What I want you to see are the effects of poverty on individuals:

Physical Health (Here is a comprehensive list of research on health effects of poverty):
- a lower class person has a higher chance of dying at any age than a wealthy person!  Some other health outcomes for those in poverty:

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

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

 hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes, heart disease,  

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

Lifestyle = less access to healthy food (i.e. fruits and vegetables); see this link for a TED talk about one man who is arrested for planting a vegetable garden in a poor neighborhood, smoking, Drug use and abuse, exercise less,
One reason may be that violence tracks with poverty, thereby preventing people from being active out-of-doors. Similarly, parks and sports facilities are less available to people living in poor counties (5), and people who live in poverty-dense regions may be less able to afford gym membership, sports clothing, and/or exercise equipment. There are multiple individual and environmental reasons to explain why poverty-dense counties may be more sedentary and bear greater obesity burdens.
 unsafe sex. obesity, cancer, HIV

Medical Care = less access and poorer hospitals, lack of health insurance.

Mental Health = higher stress, children feel effects of stress for life, mental disorders, suicide,

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

And it is important to note that 20% of the children in the US are growing up in poverty! That's 1 out of every 5 kids in the United States is living at the poverty level! Yes you read that correctly - 1 out of every 5 children in the United States is living in poverty right now!  That's a higher rate than 34 out of 35 Western countries. This is another good reason why the cycle of poverty exists. These children grow up in these conditions and so it makes it easier to see how they become the adults who continue to be stuck in the cycle of poverty.

Growing up in poverty can have serious and long-lasting effects on children’s health, development, and overall well-being. The effects of poverty have a well-documented impact on young children’s developing brains. And children who grow up in poverty are more likely to experience harmful levels of stress, more likely to struggle in school, and more likely to have behavioral, social, and emotional problems than their peers.

Watch Poor Kids on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Here is a link to the National Poverty Center which is full of resources and research on poverty. 

Unnatural causes is a website about the early mortality for those in poverty.

From the CDC, here is an explanation of the social determinants of health.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Line: The Dynamics of Poverty

Today we watched a video called The Line about different people living in poverty.  There are a number of important concepts that this movie highlights.

Concepts that the movie exemplifies:

Chapter 1: The New Poverty, Dupage County, IL
Suburban poverty is growing faster than urban or rural poverty and is at a higher rate than urban poverty.
Often, these people will go unnoticed.  For example, there are at least 2% of SHS that qualifies for federal financial aid.  That's about 80 students, but often they go unnoticed.  Sometimes this anonimity is purposeful - there is a stigma that comes with poverty and so some impoverished people feel inferior.
The man in the video experienced downward structural mobility.
Divorce played a role.

Chapter 2: The Violence of Poverty, Chicago, IL
Inner city poverty often accompanies violence.
Those in poverty are often living one trauma away from homelessness.
J Kwest
The threat of violence and trauma leave many urban poor not thinking about the future because they do not plan to live long enough to worry about their future.
One medical disaster can result in a downward spiral for the poor.  Divorce exacerbated her situation.  Sheila moves in with her mom and siblings to create a "community home".  Her children feel stigmatized at her school.

Chapter 4: The Labor of Poverty, Charlotte, North Carolina
Left by his father, he had no money and his mother relied on welfare.  He had to pass up college and find a job instead.   Worked as a horse walker for 20 years, but then moved to North Carolina.  He worked hard, never used drugs, but refused to sleep in the street.  Having no skills, he had trouble finding a job.  He had to move into a homeless shelter.  He found work because a minister runs a nonprofit restaurant called the King's Kitchen.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Yesterday we played monopoly with rules that more closely affect the real rules of the US class system. Players started with different amounts of income and different amounts of property; the upper-upper class started with the most, and the working class the least. They rolled the dice to see what class they were. I told them them not worry about who "wins" the game, instead just try moving up to the next level of class. Playing monopoly according to the rules of the U.S.'s class structure should have some revealing insight about the state of mobility within the U.S.'s class structure.
From the Brookings Institute:

Recent studies suggest that there is less economic mobility in the United States than has long been presumed. The last thirty years has seen a considerable drop-off in median household income growth compared to earlier generations. And, by some measurements, we are actually a less mobile society than many other nations, including Canada, France, Germany and most Scandinavian countries. This challenges the notion of America as the land of opportunity.

And from the New Yorker,
“Social mobility is low and has been for at least thirty or forty years.” This is most obvious when you look at the prospects of the poor. Seventy per cent of people born into the bottom quintile of income distribution never make it into the middle class, and fewer than ten per cent get into the top quintile. Forty per cent are still poor as adults....The middle class isn’t all that mobile, either: only twenty per cent of people born into the middle quintile ever make it into the top one.

Mobility in America tends to be within the middle classes (from working class to uppermiddle class). The wealthy class tends to stay wealthy and the impoverished class tends to stay in poverty, especially in comparison to other most developed nations.

When someone changes social class within their lifetime, this is called intragenerational mobility.

1. Was anyone from your group able to change classes?  If so, who?  What class?  If not, then who was the closest to moving up or down?

2.  Does your groups' mobility reflect the findings above from the Brookings Institute?

Social class mobility might also be  intergenerational mobility or structural mobility.   Intergenerational mobility means that the children of one group will have a different class than their parents.  This is much more common than intragenerational mobility.  My own family's history reflect this as well.  How has your family's mobility been? Are you growing up in the same social class as your parents? How about from your grandparents? Where do you see your future in terms of social class?
 Structural mobility is when the structure of society changes in such a way that a group is moved up or down.  For example, many people in the 1950s and 60s were able to finish high school and go right to work in a factory.  When those jobs moved overseas, many of those people were thrust downward.

3.  Tell the group about your family's intergenerational mobility.  Did they go up or down or stay the same?

4.  Using the monopoly game yesterday, what are some ways that we could exemplify intergenerational mobility and structural mobility as part of the game?

A second way that we can look at this simulation is in how players react.  Below is a TED talk about how people react to playing the game.  Think about how that reaction might show up in everyday life.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Components of Social Class in the USA

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

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

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

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

Note the actual median household income: _______.

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

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

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

Also, This graph displays the inequality by occupation.

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

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

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

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

How much do you think each quintile should have?

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

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

What is the reality?

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

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

This post and video from sociological images shows wealth inequality in the US. 

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

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

And this link shows the higher one's educational level, the more he or she earns.

Here is a post from sociological images that has a lot of info showing the connection between your degree and your income. This graph shows that the less education that parents have, the less education their children obtain.

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

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

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

This report from NPR's Planet Money details how where you grow up can affect your income later in life.  And here is a video and stats from CNN Money that show how where you grow up limits or benefits you.

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

Power, according to Max Weber, is the ability to impose one's will on others.  Here is an example of powerful leaders coming together to focus their power.

The powerful people are able to keep themselves out of jail, influence politicians and enact laws that are favorable to themselves.  Here is one example from The Daily Show comparing teachers and Wall Street Investors.  Can you guess who has the power?

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

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

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

Creating a Social Class Ladder in the U.S.
All of these combine to form a rough picture of social class. Here is one representation of how all of those components might work together:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Coin Flip Metaphor for Social Class

Today we wagered on flipping pennies in class. The exercise was a metaphor for social class.

The exercise resembles real life in a number of ways:

1. Like life in the U.S., the  exercise had the appearance of being fair and equal - everyone had a 50% chance of winning.  The U.S. is an open system - not a caste system or closed system of slavery.

2. However, our system is called a social class which is made up of unwritten rules.  The way the rules are written, the money will flow to the top with just a few having most coins and most people having very little.  (See the graph at the right from here)

3. The more money you have the more opportunities you have.  Donald Trump's corporation filed for bankruptcy at least 4 times, but he had enough wealth and power and prestige to recover from the bankruptcies.

4.  The difficulty of the middle class.  Most Americans claim to be in the middle class.  People making $30K per year to people making $200K per year claim to be in the middle class.  However, defining the middle is difficult because there is so much money skewed to the top and there are so many people at the bottom.

To summarize, most U.S. citizens do not like the idea of social class. They will not acknowledge the rules that create the distribution of wealth that we see in the exercise. But the reality is that our wealth and even our income in the U.S. resembles that of the coin flip metaphor; a few individuals at the top with enormous wealth and income and most people at the bottom making very little (comparatively).

And the "rules" of our society help to create that dynamic. By "rules" I mean the opportunities and obstacles that we face based on our social class.

GLASA volunteer opportunity

You may recall that former SHS student who visited in January to talk about adaptive sports.  She sent this request for volunteers:

GLASA has a volunteer opportunity coming up Saturday, April 1 that will be a great opportunity for your students!  We have a limited number of spots available so please tell them to sign up quickly.

On Saturday, April 1, we have a Power Soccer League day where we need volunteers to assist with various tasks throughout the tournament at Libertyville Sports Complex.  Volunteers will be needed to assist with setting-up, fielding balls, keeping score, selling raffle baskets, selling 50-50 tickets and cleaning up.  Any time slot signed up for will have direct contact with athletes.  The time slots are as follows:  7:00am - 11:00am9:00am - 11:00am11:00am - 3:00pm3:00pm - 6:00pm.  Volunteers can sign up for one slot or the entire day! 

Please visit to sign up.  Contact Micaela Fedyniak, Volunteer Coordinator, at or 847-283-0908 with any questions.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Post 6: Deviance

For this post, explain the concept of deviance and how it is relative.  You may also explain how deviance labels people and creates a stigma as well as how it is connected to social class. Some sources we looked at include Saints and Roughnecks, Courtroom 302, 21 Chump Street (podcast about undercover drug sting), and 30 days in Jail.  Remember to create a unique example from your own life.  One option is for you to experience being deviant by doing an act of positive deviance. 

Courtroom 302 Inhuman until proven guilty

As you enter, please answer the following questions about Courtroom 302 on the last page of the reading:

1.  Describe the prisoners and their offenses.

2.  What is something that seems injust/unfair in the story?
3.  What do you think the author’s thesis is?  Why did he write this?
4.  In what ways does money play into the problem?
5.  How does this article relate to the Saints and Roughnecks and the drug exercise we did in class?  OR How are these prisoners affected by stigma?

Courtroom 302 is a book about a year-in-the-life of the Cook County Courthouse which is the largest single site county courthouse or jail in the United States.
After reading the excerpt from Courtroom 302 by Steve Bogira, think about how the reading ties together the Saints and Roughnecks and the relativity of deviant drugs and the 30 Days in Prison video. All of the prisoners in the Courtrom 302 reading were still defendants - they were not convicted of any crime! Yet, their treatment would seem to indicate that not only were they guilty, they were deserving of inhumane treatment. The prisoners are an example of the roughnecks in today's society. They are mostly poor and minorities who have been labelled by the system as no-good troublemakers. Secondly, think about how many of the prisoners were there for drug-related offenses. The reading said that 37 of the 43 felonies were drug-related. The labelling of drugs as a deviant criminal problem instead of a medical problem has severely impacted our criminal justice system. And in a system that favors those with money every step of the way, we see a disproportionate number of poor drug users filling up the system. In the end, I think Bogira would not blame the guards or the lawyers or the judges, but I think he would say that the system is broken. Only responsible citizens can change this structure by voting and activism to make the system fair again. In fairness to the system, over the last few years, there has been some developments that both highlight the structural failures but also provide hope that things can change. A Chicago cop was convicted of torturing defendants who were being questioned by police. Also, a class-action lawsuit was settled in favor of thousands of defendants who went through the Cook County Courthouse and faced the awful conditions that Bogira wrote about.

Friday, March 10, 2017


The United States has one percent of its adult population locked up behind bars. One out of four prisoners IN THE WORLD is behind bars in the US. Over 50 percent of those incarcerated in a federal prison is convicted of a crime related to drugs. Here is a visual representation of the prison population. Approximately 16 percent of those incarcerated in America suffer from a mental illness. Here is an article from the International Herald detailing the shocking size of the US penal population. We have not always been this incarcerated. This link shows what offenses Americans are being incarcerated for; note how few are actually violent offenders.   Are these statistics surprising? How does this affect our society? How should we begin working to change this dynamic, or is the system fine the way it is?  Do you see how the relativity of deviance affects this? As attitudes change, laws change, and that affects who is incarcerated and how society deals with it.
There was a drastic surge in imprisonment that began during the 1980s when drugs went from being a medical problem to a criminal problem. 

See this story from the NYTimes by Audra Burch about Rob Sullivan.  It that highlights how agents of socialization play a role in the life of many who are imprisoned as well as the effects of drugs and addiction on the prison system and how the private troubles of those who are incarcerated are also public issues.

Here is a link to the prison in the episode of 30 Days in Prison. Why aren't more prisons providing the assistance to inmates to turn their life around? Wouldn't it benefit all of society and all of us if inmates received help to adjust to life on the outside of prison?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Deviance: Saints, Roughnecks and Patriots?

Please answer the following:

1. Describe the Saints.
2. Describe the Roughnecks.
3. How does money play a role with the Saints and Roughnecks?
4.  How are they affected in life after high school?
5. Are there Saints and Roughnecks at SHS?  Who (no names, please) and why?

Besides time and place, deviance is also relative to perception. Deviance must be perceived to be real. And in a capitalist society that values money, perceived deviance is related to social class. This is one revelation in William Chambliss's study called "The Saints and the Roughnecks" Chambliss argues that money was a key factor. If you have enough money it helps you cover up the deviance. Do you think this applies to kids at our school (no names please). Who is deviant? How do they hide it? Does money play a role? Is everyone at school a "saint"? Another important revelation in Chambliss's research is that the kids who accept the label of "deviant" then act upon that label. In other words, if I think that everyone expects me to be deviant, I may accept that as the truth and then I act deviant. Once you are labeled as "deviant", that becomes a stigma or a badge of disgrace that you carry with you. Sociologists who study this perspective call it the labeling theory.

Many students were upset about an investigation a while ago  that lead to the suspension of many students. But it might surprise students to learn that this was actually a relatively tame investigation. Here is a podcast from This American Life about a real drug investigation in a high school in Florida. Click on the link below and click on Act Two and play.

Act Two. 21 Chump Street.
Last year at three high schools in Palm Beach County, Florida, several young police officers were sent undercover to pose as students, tasked with making drug arrests. And this, this is the setting for a love story, reported by Robbie Brown. Robbie works for The New York Times in Atlanta. (13 minutes)

After listening can you see how our school handled the investigation the way the Saints were treated in the Chambliss reading instead of how the Florida school handled it (like the roughnecks)? You can read along on the transcript here.

This American Life turned the story into a short broadway act written by Lin Manuel (star and creator of Hamilton).

A second way that we see this relativity in drugs depends on who is getting caught using them. In a landmark study, The Vicious Circle, the Chicago Urban League wrote about how a Chicago Police drug sting operation was handing out felonies to impoverished minorities busted near the projects, but upper middleclass white kids from Naperville who were being caught there (instead of being given a felony) were having their parents called by the cops, or in some cases having their license suspended, but then they were released with no felony on their record. Dr. Paul Street of the Chicago Urban League writes,
Perhaps nothing reveals more dramatically Illinois authorities’ penchant for waging the War on Drugs in…disparate ways than the state’s enforcement of two 1989 bills mandating that a 15 or 16 year-old youth automatically would be prosecuted as an adult if he or she was charged with selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or a public housing project. Under the state’s Automatic Transfer laws…youth who have been convicted as adults can be transferred to adult prisons upon their 17th birthday and are automatically transferred on their 18th birthday….Of the 393 young people automatically transferred to adult facilities in Cook County from October 1999 to October 2000, 99.2 percent of them were minorities….
These findings are disturbing in light of evidence that white youth use illicit drugs at the same or higher rates as youth of color. They are doubly troublesome in light of recent reports on how local and state criminal justice authorities have chosen to deal with the rising number of ‘young [white] suburbanites’ purchasing heroin and other illegal narcotics on the city’s predominantly black West Side. In August 2001, The Chicago Tribune reported that city police and DuPage…drug cops… had selected a rather mild sanction for the suburban offenders. ‘Officers,’ the Tribune noted, ‘have seen teens make drug buys, traced the license plates of their cars and notified the registered owner, often a parent, where the vehicle has been.’
Last June…Cook County prosecuters and police had increased the level of punishment for the young suburbanites, threatening to impound their automobiles and suspend their driver’s licenses. William O’Brien, Chief of Narcotics for the State’s Attorney’s Office gave the following rationale for this ‘new crackdown,’ which contrasted sharply with the prison sentences faced by 15-year-old inner city youth caught selling narcotics next to a public housing project; when it comes to young and automobile centered suburban kids, O’Brien explained, ‘driving privileges may resonate more…than the threat of jail.’
The Vicious Circle by Dr. Paul Street, The Chicago Urban League, 2002. (pp.13-14)

Some other examples of how this applies to life beyond high school are the ways in which our society focuses on street crime as opposed to white collar crime.  Most of the news each night is spent on street crime: murders, burglary, robbery and rape.  The popular media likes reporting on these because they are action-oriented, personalized and fearful.  Each crime is presented like a mini-drama story.  However, white collar crime is far more costly and perhaps more dangerous.  White collar crime includes tax evasion, bribery, embezzling, negligence.  For example, a department store defrauded poor customers of over 100 million dollars;  tire company executives allowed faulty tires to remain on vehicles despite recalling the tires in other countries - 200 people were killed before the tires were removed; an oil company skirted safeguards which resulted in an explosion and environmental disaster killing 12 people and costing billions of dollars.  In each of these cases, there may have been fines imposed on the companies involved, but no one went to prison.  No one received a felony record.  I bet you cannot name an individual person involved in the incident because no one person was labeled as deviant. 

Another example of this is Freaks and Geeks episode 13 is an example of Chambliss's thesis. Lindsay is experimenting with pot but she does not get caught, but her freak friends get caught. They are expected to be deviant. They may have even accepted the label of being deviant and they now see themselves as deviant and that influences their actions.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

the relativity of deviance and drugs

As an example of the relativity of deviance, one can examine drugs as deviance in a few different ways:
First, it is really interesting to see how students classify alcohol and tobacco when they only see the pharmacological description of the drugs.  Based on the effects of the drug, students usually classify both alcohol and tobacco as illegal controlled substances, but the reality in our country is that both are totally legal!  As an adult you can buy and consume as much of these as you'd like.  Why would our country allow such dangerous substances to be consumed by so many people? Because deviance is relative.
 For a more reliable understanding of drugs and their effects, checkout the book Buzzed by Kuhn et al.

Another connection to the relativity of deviance is that for many years, drug use was considered a medical problem. If you are using drugs and harming your body or those around you, you need help. If you are psychologically addicted to drugs, you need help. As detailed in the book Reefer Madness, Eric Schlosser shows how Marijuana went from being a medical/social problem to being a criminal one. This change in the law shows how relative the law can be about marijuana. Furthermore, the laws criminalizing Marijuana are in many cases relative to where you are. Sometimes it depends on how the state handles the crime, sometimes it depends on how the local law enforcement handles the crime. An excerpt from Schlosser's writing:
Some states classify marijuana with drugs like mescaline and heroin, while others give it a separate legal category. In New York state possessing slightly less than an ounce of marijuana brings a $100 fine, rarely collected. In Nevada possessing any amount of marijuana is a felony. In Montana selling a pound of marijuana, first offense, could lead to a life sentence, whereas in New Mexico selling 10,000 pounds of marijuana, first offense, could be punished with a prison term of no more than three years. In some states it is against the law to be in a room where marijuana is being smoked, even if you don't smoke any. In some states you may be subject to criminal charges if someone else uses, distributes, or cultivates marijuana on your property. In Idaho selling water pipes could lead to a prison sentence of nine years. In Kentucky products made of hemp fibers, such as paper and clothing, not only are illegal but carry the same penalties associated with an equivalent weight of marijuana. In Arizona, where marijuana use is forbidden, the crime can be established by the failure of a urine test: a person could theoretically be prosecuted in Phoenix for a joint smoked in Philadelphia more than a week before.
So, what this is showing is that Marijuana laws (and drug laws in general) have changed over time and are still different from place to place; the relativity of deviance.

Another example of the relativity of deviance is how drug crimes are punished.  In another post, I showed how kids from the suburbs were being given a lighter punishment than poor kids from Chicago Housing Projects and in this post, I show how drug arrests are disproportionately given to minorities than to whites.  The sentencing project highlights this as does the ACLU. And another way the relativity of deviance favored those of higher social class was through sentencing laws that unfairly targeted poor drug users much harsher than wealthier ones.  Until 2010, crack cocaine (cheaper and used by poor minorities) was punished 100 times more harshly than pure powder cocaine (more expensive and used by wealthier people).  Here is a quote from the ACLU:
The scientifically unjustifiable 100:1 ratio meant that people faced longer sentences for offenses involving crack cocaine than for offenses involving the same amount of powder cocaine – two forms of the same drug. Most disturbingly, because the majority of people arrested for crack offenses are African American, the 100:1 ratio resulted in vast racial disparities in the average length of sentences for comparable offenses. 

Lastly, another relation of drugs and deviance is the stigma associated with drugs. Chicago Magazine published a story about the rapidly growing heroine problem in St. Charles claiming the lives of dozens of teens but the community was afraid to acknowledge this because of the stigma of drug use. This stigma lead to three teens dumping the body of their friend who had overdosed back into the poor Chicago neighborhood where they had bought the drugs.

Monday, March 6, 2017


Deviance is either repeatedly or seriously violating the norms of a society. Deviance is relative to both time and place. In other words, depending on when you are some place or where you are, you might be considered deviant or might not. When I was in the Caribbean on this remote island, I was stunned to see a guy carrying a sack of mangoes on his head. I took his picture because to me, this was deviant. However, what I didn't realize was that taking a stranger's picture was deviant to them. We looked at many other examples of deviance from class:
continuously talking to oneself in public
having a tattoo
doing your homework
holding the hand of a significant other in public
listening to your radio loud enough for everyone around you hear.
dropping out of high school
using illegal drugs
growing your hair really long
cutting your hair really short
a man wearing a dress
a business person wearing jeans
balancing your groceries on your head in public
leaving your parent's home after getting married
driving 100 m.p.h. down Port Clinton Rd.
attacking another person with a weapon
two men kissing
women working in a factory or in construction
woman with shaved armpits
shopping on Sunday
getting divorced
All of these have instances when or where they would or wouldn't be considered deviant. It depends on where you are and when you are there.

Deviance also needs to be perceived. In the following video, think about who is considered deviant and why:
It doesn't matter that Jerry didn't actually picked his nose. If he is perceived as deviant (which he is) then he is considered deviant and he will be treated as such.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Resocialization and total institutions: "You must unlearn what you have learned..."

In Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda tells Luke that he must "unlearn what he has learned," he is talking about resocializing him. This means un-learning the old ways he was taught and instead learning a new way of thinking and acting. Alcoholics Anonymous or weight watchers are good examples of groups that help resocialize individuals. Another way individuals are transformed by resocializing is through total institutions, such as a monastery, a prison or bootcamp.

Bootcamp must be especially powerful because, on a basic level, individuals are learning to not run or hide when being shot at and they are learning to shoot at others. Here is a video showing bootcamp and how recruits are re-socialized into Marines.

Another example of this from my own life is training in aikido. The image at the right is my dojo from Japan (I am in the back left...with hair :-) Aikido is a martial art that means the way of harmony of energy. It is a different concept of martial arts. It is not fighting, it is not even competitive. It is not, however, like Tai Chi. Aikido is practical and applicable to the world. But it requires training and a new way of thinking about the world, a resocialization.
Here is a link to a story about aikido in action (non-physically).
Here Steven Seagal talks about how he got started in aikido.  What really strikes me is that Seagal seems so tough but he says that he had to learn discipline, respect, gentleness and kindness.  And he says, "The martial arts taught me to be more understanding and the ability to harmonize with others...we don't want to hurt them."  That seems so opposite of what Americans think masculinity is.

Here is a video of physical aikido:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Post 5: Socialization into Gender

For this post, we have explored how socialization affects males and females and how something like gender can be so taken-for-granted.  In our culture there is a polarization of what it means to be female and male and heterosexual and lesbian or gay.  Our culture pushes individuals to opposite ends of a spectrum.  For this post, use examples from your own experience to show how our society socializes men and women into narrow boxes.  Explain how masculinity and femininity are a social construction.  How do the agents of socialization play a role in your experiences?  To demonstrate literacy, feel free to comment on the myriad sources we looked at for femininity (the research and videoes on my blog)  and the movies Killing Us Softly4, Tough Guise2, the Adolescent Homophobia...reading from Kimmel and Mahler about masculinity or the myriad other sources on my blog posts over the last 2 weeks.

Are you man enough to challenge masculinity?

Challenging Masculinity

First, as a group, look at these statistics:

Boys are 30% more likely to flunk.
Boys are 2.5 times more likely to be suspended.
Boys are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with learning and emotional disabilities

Answer as a group:

1.  Is this surprising? How many people in the group thought it was surprising?  Why did those students say it was a surprise?

2.  Why do you think these statistics are true?  What is your hypothesis about why?

Next, please read the article from the NY Times posted on my blog.  Here is the link:
After you have read that, please answer the following questions:

3.  How is boys’ performance in school related to masculinity?

4.  What research does social psychology provide about males at a young age (1-5yrs) and at older ages (teen years)?

5.  How does the growing number of women on college campuses affect men?

6.  What are some ways that colleges specifically, and society in general, can help males have a healthier self-identity?
Thirdly, examine the attached statistics. 

7.  Look at statistics 1-8.  Which statistics are you most surprised/disturbed by?  Please write each statistic down from your group members:  What statistic most surprised or disturbed them?  Were they disturbed or surprised and why?

8.  Look at statistics 9-16.  Which statistics are you most surprised/disturbed by?  Please write each statistic down from your group members:  What statistic most surprised or disturbed them?  Were they disturbed or surprised and why?


Gender and Violence Statistics

1.     Males are most often both the victims and the perpetrators in 90% of homicides. Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Trends in the U.S.: Gender.

2.   Over 85% of the people who commit murder are men, and the majority of women who commit murder usually do so as a defense against men who have been battering them for years. Ninety percent of the women in jail for murder are incarcerated for killing male batterers. Source: Bass, A. (Feb 24, 1992). “Women far less likely to kill than men; no one sure why.” The Boston Globe: p. 27.

3.     Women commit approximately 15% of all homicides. Source: Stark, E. (1990). Rethinking homicide: Violence, race, and the politics of gender. International Journal of Health and Services. 20 (1): 18.

4.     More than 90 women were murdered every week in 1991; 9 out of 10 were murdered by men. Source: Violence Against Women: A Majority Staff Report. Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 102nd Congress. October 1992, p. 2.

5.   Ninety percent of people who commit violent physical assault are men. Males perpetrate 95% of all serious domestic violence. Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online.

6.      The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of reported assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women. Source: Douglas, H. (1991). Assessing violent couples. Families in Society, 72 (9): 525-535.

7.     It is estimated that 1 in 4 men will use violence against his partner in his lifetime. Source: Paymar, M. (2000). Violent no more: Helping men end domestic abuse. Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publications.

8.     Close to all – 99.8% – of the people in prison convicted of rape are men. Source: National Crime Statistics.

9.     Some 81% of men who beat their wives watched their fathers beat their mothers or were abused themselves. Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

10.   Studies have found that men are responsible for 80% to 95% of child sexual abuse cases whether the child is male or female. Source: Thoringer, D.; Krivackska, J.; Laye-McDonough, M.; Jarrison, L.; Vincent, O.; & Hedlund, A. (1988). Prevention of child sexual abuse: An analysis of issues, educational programs and research findings. School Psychology Review. 17(4): 614-

11.   The majority of victims of men’s violence are other men (76% M, 24% F). Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

12.   Out of 10,000 cases of road rage, over 95% of them were committed by men. Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Aggressive Driving.” 34 STATISTICAL SOURCES

13.   Approximately three-quarters (76%) of binge drinkers are young males. Source: 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. of Contents.htm

14.   Males cause 86% of all drinking and driving incidents. Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

15.   One in 12, or 8.2 million women, will be stalked at some point in their lifetime. Eighty percent of the women stalked by intimates had also been physically assaulted by them. Source: Justice Department, November 1997

16.   Every day, 15 children are killed by guns. Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1993.

Comparing Boy Scout Patches and Girl Scout Patches

Look at the patches for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  Look at the girl scout patches - Which patches do you think might benefit boy scouts that girl scouts do?  Choose three and state why.  Then, Read this article from the NY Times.  What do you think about the suggestions from the article?