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Syllabus for Sociology 150

University of Southern California
Sociology 150: Social Problems
Spring 2000


Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30-10:50 am


Instructor
Amy Binder, KAP 348G. Office: 213.740.3600. email: abinder@usc.edu
Office Hours: Wednesdays 10-12 pm, 2-3 pm.


Discussion Sections
Tuesdays, 11 am: WPH 202
Thursdays, 11 am: WPH 202


Course description
This course will analyze social problems in the United States using various sociological perspectives. We will use the tools of sociology-its analytical insights, its theoretical frameworks, and its methods-to ask questions about what constitutes a social problem, when a condition becomes "problematic," and who is advocating certain strategies for solutions, for social change, etc.

In Sociology 150, we will focus on a limited range of the most contentious social problems facing the nation (such as education, race relations, and wealth inequality), and the sites of debate where these problems are initiated and discussed (in the media and in politics).


Teaching Methods
Lecture and discussion, Service-Learning.


Evaluation
Students will be graded on the basis of attendance and class participation in lecture and section (50 points), two midterms (100 points each, for a total of 200 points), a final exam (150 points), JEP participation, including Reflective Questions (100 points), and weekly Précis (50 points) for a total of 550 points. Your grade for the course will be in the A range if 90% and above, in the B range if 80-89%, in the C range if 70-79%, in the D range if 60-69%, and a fail if below 60%.

Midterm and Final Exams

  • The two midterms and the final exam will contain true/false, multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions. You will be responsible for all materials discussed in the readings and in lecture. The first midterm will cover weeks 1-6; the second midterm will cover weeks 7-10, and will partially draw on your JEP experiences. The final exam will cover all concepts in the course.

JEP assignment

  • For more than 25 years, USC has sponsored the Joint Educational Project (JEP) as a "service-learning" experience for students to explore the community surrounding our university campus. As a participant in JEP, you will serve as a mentor or tutor for children in local schools or after-school programs. Over the years, participants have found it both personally and intellectually rewarding-and the source of new insights about urban social problems. JEP participation requires just two hours of involvement per week, for eight weeks of the semester. JEP is a requirement of the course. If you are unable or unwilling to participate in JEP, you should drop the course now, since it counts for a significant portion of your final grade.
  • You will register for JEP during the first two weeks of class; you will go through training during the third and fourth weeks, and you will be assigned to a placement during the fifth week. In week 6, you will begin work at your placement site, and in week 13 of the semester, you will finish your participation.
  • In addition to your service hours, you will be answering weekly "Reflective Questions," for each of the eight weeks of your JEP participation. These Reflective Questions are designed to help you make the connection between your JEP experiences and this Social Problems course, and they will ask you to draw on the materials you are reading in class and the observations you are making at your JEP site. You will be handing in your 8 weeks' of JEP Reflective Questions to the JEP liaison assigned to this class; not to your TA.
  • Furthermore, as noted above, the second midterm will draw on your experiences in your JEP site.

Précis (definition: concise summaries of essential points, statements, or facts)

  • Because your JEP placement lasts only eight weeks (weeks 6-13 of the semester), there are several weeks early in the semester when JEP Reflective Questions will not be due. During these weeks (and these weeks only), you will be writing "précis" and handing them in to your TA. These should be about 1-2 pages, double-spaced.
  • These précis are designed to help you locate the main arguments in each of the readings you are doing, and they are due at the beginning of lecture Thursdays. They should cover the readings for both Tuesday and Thursday of that week. Remember: the précis will be handed in to your TA.
  • You will notice that for each day's assigned reading on the syllabus, I have listed questions that you can use to guide your reading and your précis writing. You may answer some or all of these questions in your summaries, and I encourage you to write about other issues in your précis, as well, if you think of them. Once the précis are no longer due (from the sixth week of the semester on), you should use these guiding questions to think about the readings and to prepare for exams. Some of these guiding questions are also built into your JEP Reflective Questions.

To recap, there are a couple of differences between JEP Reflective Questions and Précis:

  • Weeks 1-5 you will be writing your Précis and handing them in to your TA at the beginning of class on Thursdays.
  • Weeks 6-13 you will be writing Reflective Questions and handing them in to your JEP liaison on their due date.
  • Reflective Questions ask you to consider both your site and your readings; the précis asks you to write only about the readings and films in the class.

There will also be two media assignments that you will write in the later part of the semester. These will also be graded and returned to you, and will count toward the total 50 points for your Précis.

Extra Credit Opportunities
There will be three means of getting extra credit for the course. You may do ONE, and ONLY ONE, of the projects below.

Museum of Tolerance Visit and Description. Located at 9786 W. Pico Blvd. (just a 20-minute bus or car ride from campus), the Museum of Tolerance is a monumental exhibition to the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and tolerance that have shaped much of 20th Century history. For up to 10 points of extra credit, you can write a brief (4-5 pages, double-spaced typed) essay about the following:

  1. Description of how you felt going through the Museum of Tolerance, from start to finish. What did you feel in the opening section? The final section?
  2. Analyze your experience in terms of four or more of the concepts discussed in our course: discrimination, racism, the structural causes of inequality, the cultural causes of inequality, ethnocentrism, separatism, pluralism, scapegoating, media role in social problem construction, social problem construction in politics.
  3. Discuss the similarities and differences you see between the social problems that we have discussed and theorized in this class, and the events that led up to the holocaust created by Nazi Germany during 1933-45.
    This paper will be due any time in the semester up to the last week of classes.

Film analysis. You may write a 4-5 page analysis of any one of the films we are viewing in class, describing how the film relates to the themes of the class

  1. Analyze the film in terms of the concepts and perspectives presented in the assigned readings for that section. Use at least two other course readings to contextualize the film empirically, and use one of the six perspectives on social problems that we discussed during the first two weeks of the semester (social pathology, social disorganization, value conflict, deviant behavior, labeling theory, or conflict perspective).
  2. You will receive 10 points of extra credit, based on how well you discuss the social problem(s) depicted in the film, using the sociological theories and research perspectives we have discussed about this topic. (See either Professor Binder or your TA for more details on this assignment).

The paper will be due two weeks after the film has been shown in class.

Participation in student research projects (if available).

  1. You will be interviewed, surveyed, or asked to participate in a focus group to discuss an issue central to sociological research. This participation is worth up to 10 points of extra credit. Professor Binder will announce any opportunities for participation, and you should talk with her if you are interested.

 

Academic Honesty

Cases of suspected plagiarism or cheating on tests will be reported to the Dean.


Required Readings
The following book is required and available at the USC bookstore:

Alex Kotlowitz. 1991. There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America. New York: Doubleday.

There is a coursepack reader as well, which also can be purchased at the USC bookstore. In the past, I have printed all required materials (apart from the book) in the coursepack, including all articles from The New York Times. This semester, I have deleted from the coursepack all printed material from The New York Times. I have done this because The Times has begun to charge outrageous fees for reprinting their materials, such that the bookstore estimates that the coursepack is about $50 less expensive without the Times' articles than it would have been if I had included them. But there's a catch! I still am requiring that you read the Times materials, so you will have to look them up on the web on your own. That's the trade-off for saving money, it appears.

Since all of these materials are from The New York Times you can use approximately the same procedure for finding each one of them. This is what I would do:

  • first, you have to be using your usc.edu address in order to access these materials from a modem. Otherwise you can access them from a terminal in the library. (but you cannot use a different ISP like aol or mindspring or earthlink)
  • go to USC home page
  • click on Research, Libraries, Computing
  • click on Library Catalogues, Databases, and Journals (in the right column)
  • click on Researchers' Resources
  • click on Lexis-Nexis (in the small print in the left column)
  • click on Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe on the first page you get
  • click on News
  • click on General News
  • in the "keyword" box, type in the headline, or part of the headline, that I have written on the syllabus
  • in the "Narrow Search with Additional Terms" box, type in the following, exactly as I have it written here: publication (New York Times)
  • in the last box, highlight "all available dates"
  • if you do this for each of the articles, Lexis-Nexis should retrieve the correct story.
  • Be sure to note the date of the article, as written in the syllabus, in case Lexis comes up with more than one story.

If you can find a more efficient way of retrieving these articles, please feel free to use it. But this set of guidelines should get you to each of the required readings. Be sure to read these articles just as you would all other required articles: for the day they are required.

As the course progresses, it may be necessary to make some adjustments in the syllabus.

 

 

SCHEDULE OF TOPICS AND READINGS

Introduction to the Course
Tues, Jan 11

Sociological Approaches to Social Problems
Thurs, Jan 13    Joel Best, "Typification and Social Problems Construction," from Images of Issues (coursepack)
Guiding questions for Précis:

  • What is the difference between the "objectivist" and the "constructionist" approaches to thinking about social problems?
  • Which of these two perspectives does Best advocate?

Six Approaches Used To Study Social Problems Construction    
Tues, Jan 18    From Rubington and Weinberg, The Study of Social Problems (coursepack)
:

  • Social Pathology: Cesare Lombroso and William Ferrero
  • Social Disorganization: Robert Park; George Homans
  • Value Conflict: Richard Fuller and Richard Myers


Guiding questions for Précis:

  • Who or what seems to be the cause of social problems, according to Lombroso and Ferrero? How about according to Park and Homans?
  • In each one of the readings above, is it the individual who is said to be responsible for social problems, or is societal change to blame?
  • How do you think the value conflict approach to social problems (in Fuller and Myers) resemble the "constructionist" perspective introduced last week in Best's article and in lecture? Are the two the same thing? Where are social problems said to come from according to this perspective?

Thurs, Jan 20    From Rubington and Weinberg, The Study of Social Problems (coursepack)
:

  • Deviant Behavior: Marshall Clinard
  • Labeling: Howard Becker
  • Critical Perspective: Richard Quinney


Guiding questions for Précis:

  • Who or what is responsible for social problems according to Clinard? How is this different, do you think, from the approach found in Park's Social Disorganization theory?
  • Labeling theory (as exemplified in Becker's work) approaches social problems from a different angle. Why are some people labeled as "deviant" while others are not? Who is and who isn't? How do you think this perspective differs from the others we have seen?
  • Can you think of any examples of labeling that occurred in your high school?
  • Quinney's critical perspective owes a lot to Marxist theory, and the principle that there is always conflict between those who have power and those who do not. Can you see any hints of this in the short article you have read?

Case Study: Robert Bork on the Decadence of Your Generation
Tues, Jan 25    Robert Bork, Slouching towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, Introduction and chapter 7, "The Collapse of Popular Culture" (coursepack)

Guiding questions for Précis:

  • Robert Bork is one of America's most conservative political writers. Which of the six approaches to social problems construction best describes Bork's piece on popular culture?
  • How might someone else talk about popular culture as a social problem using a different perspective?

Wealth Inequality and Poverty as a Social Problem
Thurs, Jan 27    Dirk Johnson, "When Money Is Everything, Except Hers," New York Times, October 14, 1998 (Lexis-Nexis search-see instructions for how to find this on the web at beginning of syllabus)

Debate between George Gilder and William Ryan, "Is Economic Inequality Beneficial to Society?" (coursepack)
"Rising Rents Squeeze Area's Working Poor," Los Angeles Times (coursepack)
Guiding questions for Précis:

  • Clearly, Gilder and Ryan have much different ideas about why some people are poor and others are not. Why does Gilder say that economic inequality is not a social problem? Why does Ryan say it is?
  • Which of the six perspectives on social problems do you think Gilder uses? which of the six does Ryan use?
  • Who or what is the cause of economic inequality, according to each of these writers?
  • Analyze Wendy William's situation using Gilder and Ryan. Which of these theories seems to fit her case better?

Tues, Feb 1    William Domhoff, Who Rules America: Power and Politics in the Year 2000, section of chapter 3, pp. 71-99 (coursepack)
Guiding questions for Précis:

  • Which of the two theories of economic inequality (Gilder's or Ryan's) does Domhoff seem to align with?
  • What kind of theory does Domhoff add to Ryan's analysis of the problem of wealth inequality? Who are the "power elite"?

Life in America's Inner Cities
Thurs, Feb 3    Alex Kotlowitz, There Are No Children Here, Preface and Chapters 1-6 (book)
In-class film: "Living on the Edge" by Bill Moyers
Guiding questions for Short Notes:

  • How do Gilder's and Ryan's arguments hold up, given the stories you saw presented in the film "Living on the Edge"?
  • Contrasting Pharoah's and Lafayette's circumstances with those of the upper class (seen in Domhoff), does economic inequality seem like more of a "social problem" to you than it did before you read this book?
  • Which of the six perspectives (social pathology, labeling, etc...) do you think best fits the data presented in There Are No Children Here? Explain your response.

Tues, Feb 8    Guest lecture.

Thurs, Feb 10    Alex Kotlowitz, There Are No Children Here, Chapters 7-10. Recommended reading: Chapters 20-23 (book)
Guiding questions for Précis:

  • See questions above and apply them to chapters 7-10.

Education: The Problem with Schools    
Tues, Feb 15    Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities, Introduction and Chapter 2 (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • What is the "social problem" Kozol is describing, do you think?
  • Are there multiple social problems?
  • What is the root cause of school failure in poor districts, according to Kozol? Is it structural, cultural, or individual?

Thurs, Feb 17    William Bennett, The Devaluing of America, Chapter 1: "Crisis in American Education" (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • Be sure to notice the differences between Kozol's and Bennett's approaches to educational failure.
  • Kozol takes the "liberal" or "structural" view of educational inequality. How does Bennett construct the problem?
  • Which of the six social problems perspectives best aligns with Bennett's argument?

Reflective Question #1 - First Impressions :
Describe your initial experience at your JEP site, including a detailed description of the responsibilities and activities involved in your particular assignment. What are your most vivid first impressions of the site? How do these impressions compare with one or more of the urban schools described in Jonathan Kozol's book, Savage Inequalities?

Tues, Feb 22    First Midterm Exam. Remember to bring blue books to the exam (you may need more than one).

Race, Class, Education, Sport, and Aspirations

Thurs, Feb 24    Eitzen, "The Path to Success: Myth and Reality," from Fair and Foul: Beyond the Myths and Paradoxes of Sport (coursepack)
In-class film: "Hoop Dreams" by Steve James

Reflective Question #2 - Social and Physical Contexts:
Describe the social context of your JEP site. Try to be as specific as possible about the size of the group (i.e., number of people), as well as the age, sex, race, and ethnicity of all those involved in your assign¬ment. Describe the physical layout of your site, providing detail about the classroom, building(s), school grounds, etc. How does the school compare with the USC campus (e.g., the people and the place)? (Information about the USC student population is available on line at

Tues, Feb 29    George Sage, selection from "Power and Ideology in Intercollegiate Sport," from Power and Ideology in American Sport (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • You have seen "Hoop Dreams" and you have read both Eitzen's and Sage's chapters on collegiate sports. Do you see a social problem described in these two materials? What is it?
  • Do you think that college sports (and high school sports) programs exploit young athletes? particularly disadvantaged young athletes? If you think this is a problem, what do you think the solutions are?
  • Go online and see if you can find updated statistics for some of the data Sage presents. Sage's book was published in 1990, so the numbers and amounts he lists are outdated. How much do colleges and universities make these days from appearing in bowl games, or in the Final Four?

Race Relations and the Legacy of Discrimination    
Thurs, Mar 2    In-class film: "Black, White, and Angry"
Ellis Cose, The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why Are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care? Introduction, chapter 1, chapter 3 (coursepack)
McIntosh, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (coursepack)

Reflective question #3 - Privilege:
What does Peggy McIntosh argue about "privilege"? Has your experience in the community provided support for any of the examples of privilege on McIntosh's list - your own or someone else's? Are there any experiences of privilege you've had that you could add to her list (based on race, class, gender, age, educational opportunity or another form of "privilege")? Have you had any experiences that challenge or contradict any of the item's on McIntosh's list?

Tues, Mar 7    Ellis Cose, The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why Are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care? chapters 5 and 6 (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • What is the social problem Cose discusses? What are its many expressions? (eg, in the workplace, catching a cab, in media images...)
  • Is the bias faced by middle-class African Americans a real social problem, compared to the situation poor African Americans find themselves in? What do you think Cose would argue?
  • How is this "structural" inequality? How is it "cultural"? How is it "individual"?
  • What are Cose's arguments about Affirmative Action?
  • What does Peggy McIntosh argue about "privilege"?

Thurs, Mar 9    Dinesh D'Souza, The End of Racism, section of chapter 7, pp.245-271 (coursepack)
Jodi Wilgoren, "Police Profiling Debate Hinges on Issues of Experience vs. Bias," New York Times, April 9, 1999 (Lexis-Nexis search)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • Having read Cose and D'Souza, you once again have an example of a liberal and a conservative perspective on race relations. Which is which?
  • How do Cose and D'Souza describe the problem of race differently?
  • Does D'Souza think "rational discrimination" is a social problem?
  • What do you think is the relationship between "rational discrimination" and "racial profiling"?

Reflective Question #4 -Affirmative Action:
What are Ellis Cose's arguments about Affirmative Action? Is his perspective "liberal" or "conservative," and what makes it so? Drawing upon your readings, make an argument for or against Affirmative Action based on how you think it might affect - now or in the future - the children with whom you are working.

Week of Mar 13-18    Spring Break

Identity Movements: Ensuring the Future of the U.S., or Tearing the Country Apart?
Multiculturalism, Afrocentrism, Ebonics, Gay/Lesbian Movements, etc.

Tues, Mar 21    Diane Ravitch, "Multiculturalism: E Pluribus Plures," in The American Scholar (coursepack)
Molefi Kete Asante and Diane Ravitch, "Multiculturalism: An Exchange," in The American Scholar (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • How does Ravitch define "multiculturalism"?
  • Why does she have TWO definitions: "pluralistic" and "particularistic"?
  • What does she mean by each one?
  • What is the problem with "particularistic" multiculturalism?
  • Why is Afrocentrism "particularistic," according to Ravitch?
  • What is Asante's response to Ravitch's binary definition?
  • What does Asante mean by Eurocentrism? What is the solution to Eurocentrism?
  • What would Ravitch and Asante do differently to solve the problem of biased textbooks?
  • Think of your own high school and also of your experience here at USC. Do you think it is multicultural enough? separatist?

Reflective Question # 5 - The Politics of Multiculturalism:
Ravitch (1990, 1991) and Asante (1991) express particular points of view about the current trend toward "multiculturalism" in education and business. How does Ravitch define "pluralistic" and "particularistic" multiculturalism? What is Asante's response to Ravitch's binary definition? Consider this debate over multiculturalism in terms of your experience at your JEP site. Keeping in mind the demographics of your site, how does the staff at your site appear to handle multicultural issues? For example, are there any signs of a "celebration" of Latin American or African cultural heritage in the school or classroom, such as posters or art? Do text books or supplementary materials cover a range of cultural issues? Do teachers make any efforts to integrate Latino- and/or Afrocentric perspectives into the curriculum? How might Ravitch and Asante evaluate the efforts to address "multiculturalism" at your JEP site? What is your assessment of these efforts?

Thurs, Mar 23    In-class film: "School Colors," by Center for Investigative Reporting

Reflective Question #6 - School Colors: School Colors is a video about students' struggles for racial and ethnic identity at a high school in California (viewed in class on March 23). Sketch a brief outline of the main points made in the movie, and describe your personal reactions to the film. Did the film alter your perceptions about racial and ethnic identity in any way? If so, how? Consider how the video relates to, or informs, your work in the community. Do you see any evidence of separatism and/or efforts toward integration at your site?

Tues, Mar 28    Richard Bernstein, Dictatorship of Virtue, Prologue and chapter 1 (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • What does Bernstein mean when he says that multiculturalism has become like "dérapage"?
  • What do you think about Bernstein's construction of the problem of multiculturalism (eg, comparing it to The Terror following the French Revolution)? What does the author try to accomplish by using this comparison? What about the other images he uses (eg, "sensitivity gestapo," "thought police," etc.)?
  • How does Bernstein differ from Ravitch? from Asante? How does each construct the problem of racial/ethnic identity differently?
  • Is he as interested in the educational field and multiculturalism, or does he concentrate on other areas (like the workplace)?

Thurs, Mar 30    Second Midterm Exam. Remember to bring blue books.

Media as Site of Social Problems Construction: Entertainment Media
Race and Gender    
Tues, Apr 4    John Ryan and William Wentworth, "Mass Media Effects I: Individual Effects" (coursepack)
John Downing and Michael Eric Dyson debate about "The Cosby Show" (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • Re: Ryan and Wentworth-what are the historical roots of concern over mass culture?
  • Outline the theories for and against media effects.
  • Re: Dyson/Downing debate and "Color Adjustment" (clips from which will be shown in class)
  • How have African Americans been depicted on television over time? give some examples from "Color Adjustment"
  • Think of some shows on TV today: what are the representations of African Americans these days?
  • What about other races and ethnicities? What are the representations of those groups on television today?
  • What are Downing and Dyson arguing about in this piece? Why does Dyson argue that "The Cosby Show" did not give enough attention to issues of racism? Why does Downing argue otherwise?
  • What do you think are producers' responsibilities for showing positive images?
  • What do you think the effects of these images are on their audiences? Should we be concerned?

Thurs, Apr 6    Julia Wood, "Gendered Media: The Influence of Media on Views of Gender" (coursepack)
Media assignment #1 due.
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • What are the predominant representations of men and women in the media, according to Wood?
  • According to Wood, why are the depictions of gender like this?
  • As above, should we be concerned about these images?
  • What are some of the specific details you notice about the "Geeks and Gals" photo essay, vis à vis Wood's arguments?


Media as Site of Social Problems Construction: News Media    
Tues, Apr 11    Schudson, "The Sociology of News Production" (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • Schudson describes three perspectives on how the news is constructed. What are the three, and how do they differ?
  • What is the main argument of the political economy perspective? (be sure to note that this perspective-the political economy of news-includes Chomsky). In whose interest is news constructed, according to this perspective?
  • How does the social organization perspective differ from the political economy perspective? What are some of the most pressing influences in constructing the news, according to the social organization approach? (hint: it is not corporate and government financial and political interests, as it is in the political economy approach)
  • The culturological perspective is the most difficult to understand of these three approaches...What do you think is being argued here that is distinctive from the above two perspectives? If media practices are not just about serving the interests of corporations/government, and not just about responding to organizational pressures like deadlines, then where do they come from? Why do these media practices have the characteristics that they have?

Thurs, Apr 13    In-class film: "Manufacturing Consent," by Noam Chomsky
Media Assignment #2 due.
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • In whose interests do the media construct the news, according to Chomsky?
  • How do they do that? (eg, filtering, framing...) Why do you think this is called gatekeeping?
  • What does the case study toward the end of the video tell us? (genocide in Cambodia vs. genocide in East Timor, and how these two were represented in the American media)
  • What is "agenda-setting," according to Chomsky?
  • How does the Chomsky film fit with Schudson's analysis?

Reflective Question # 8 - Social Problems in the Community:
Drawing on your experiences over the last eight weeks, describe a social problem you believe to be evident in your JEP assignment. Choose one of the theoretical perspectives discussed in class (i.e., Social Pathology, Social Disorganization, Value Conflict, Deviant Behavior, Labeling, or Critical Perspective) and describe how this perspec¬tive would explain the situation. Alternatively, select one of the authors you've read this semester and describe how s/he would define and/or explain the problem. How does the theoretical perspective or argument help you to understand the situation? What aspects of the situation do you think are not addressed or adequately addressed?

Tues, Apr 18    Craig Reinarmen and Harry Levine: "The Crack Attack" from Images of Issues (coursepack)
Barry Glassner, selections from The Culture of Fear, pp.xi-xxviii, 3-19, and 205-210 (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • When did the use of crack cocaine become a big story in the media and for politicians?
  • What were the media's and politicians' interests in representing crack as a huge social problem?
  • What were the actual numbers of crack users in the U.S. at the time of the crack scare?
  • What does this tell us about the relationship between "social problems" and objective reality? (think back to the six perspectives from the beginning of class)
  • Are Glassner's arguments about Americans' fears similar to Reinarmen's and Levine's? How? What are some of his specific findings? Why are Americans fearful of the "wrong things," according to Glassner?

Political Arena as Forum for Social Problems Construction
Thurs, Apr 20    Dan Quayle speech on "Murphy Brown" (coursepack)
Andrew Sullivan, "Going Down Screaming," New York Times, October 11, 1998 (Lexis-Nexis search)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • How does Quayle make a link between Murphy Brown and the LA riots?
  • What do you think of this "framing" of the issue?
  • What factors does Quayle leave out of the analysis of the riots when he calls them the result of a breakdown in family values?
  • Re: Sullivan's article-who are the "new conservatives"? How do they differ from the old conservatives?
  • Why do the new conservatives think Clinton is so heinous? What do the 1960s have to do with it?

Tues, Apr 25    James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America, Prologue and chapter 7 (coursepack)
Guiding questions for thinking about the readings and the film:

  • What is the sense you get from reading the "dispatches" Hunter gives? Does it seem like the U.S. is in the midst of a culture war?
  • How would you describe the differences between the two sides that Hunter describes?
  • If a person opposes homosexuality and abortion, why might they also support prayer in schools? Can you see a connection between these issues?
  • Do you think there is a culture war in the U.S.? Why or why not? What kinds of evidence do you see to support your argument? If there is a culture war, is this a problem for society?

Thurs, Apr 27    Class evaluations.
Wrap-up and quick review for final.

Tues, May 2    Final exam administered, 11-1 pm. Bring blue books to the exam.