Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Social Classes in America

Many people believe that the poor are where they are in life because of laziness or lack of skill, and that if they tried hard enough they could escape their situation. However, many sociologists disagree with such an assessment.
The poor are, according to the first article, a societal necessity. As morbid as it may sound, the poor benefit the American society as a whole and are necessary for maintaining social structure. For example, it is necessary that someone (the lower class) does the unskilled "dirty work" that others do not desire to do. Additionally the poor provide jobs for those looking to assist the poor, as well as a convenient societal scapegoat. Such conditions may beg the question "why don't the poor just leave and find a new job?". The answer is a complex one. Although there is nothing directly prohibiting the poor from moving up in society, many situational factors nearly doom the poor to stay poor. For example, the people in Appalachia are not forced to live there, yet they stay, because they have poor education, addiction problems, familial obligations and a lack of means to move away and start over.
The social affects that force the poor to stay poor are reminiscent in all social classes, and contribute to there being little movement between social classes. According to the article, as youths grow their mindset about how to live is largely shaped by their parent's social class (and therefore their social mindset) as well as the quality of education they  receive.
The third article focuses on the upper class. It somewhat puts to rest the idea that all of the people in the upper class fairly earned they position. The article talked about how people in the upper class are born into an advantage. Not only do they grow up around wealth, but they receive superior education and opportunities.
Obviously, everything I have stated above is a generalization and not necessarily true for each individual case.
I myself am in the upper portion of the middle class, and find the article's assessment to be very true. I have benefited from living in a comfortable area where I have received a quality education and every opportunity to prepare to go to a good college. I am not guaranteed any social class in adult life, but I have a head start.

Here is a funny cartoon that displays America's uneven wealth distribution.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gender Roles

Contrary to popular belief, the two articles on gender suggest that gender is not simply defined by a person's sex. Instead, people's genders are largely shaped by the social sterotypes and pressures that people are subjected to.
Boys: Boy's are strong, brave, rugged, and most importantly not emotianal, right? The article on male gender traces the expectancies back to youth when kids are "nudged in the right direction by their parents", in an effort to shape their child into a socially acceptable young man. This is furthered once boys reach school where they quickly learn what type of feminine qualities they are not allowed to exhibit. Teasing and bullying can ensue as a result of failing to comply with male stereotypes. Boys are taught not to show much emotion or cry, because that would be gay, of course.
Girls: Girls are to be beautiful, thin, polite, emotional, and vulnerable. Girls should not exhibit any of the rough masculine qualities listed above. Instead, they are frequently judged by their attempt achieve and maintain an impossible appearance. This judging is done by men, of course, and also women through gossip (mostly to cope with the stress and anxiety due to the stereotypes they must try to meet).
What it all means: Not all men and women have the same gender identities, yet all people are expected to fit a cookie-cutter gender identity that most likely does not reflect who they truly are. Instead of achieving the balance and hapiness the stereotypes seem to promise, many people become self concious,depressed, or even develop disorders. Gender roles are unavoidable, because, let's face it, men and women are different. But, expecting each gender to follow strict guidelines and act the same way is ridiculous, and leaves little room for individuality.
I can personally vouche for the idea that gender roles are very prominant thing, especially in high school. Guys are expected to be tough, aloof, and manly. And girls, as much if not more than any point in the rest of their lives, feel the need to reach for the impossible appearance the media has declared is the correct way to look. Many people don't like these guidelines, yet pounce on anyone who doesn't follow through ridicule and bullying. When spoken aloud the idea of gender roles seems somewhat ridiculous, but they definately exist and often do more harm than good.
An interesing poster that illustrates the effects of gender stereotypes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growing Up Online: are the benefits worth the risks?

It has been said that the internet has created the largest generational gap since the advent of rock n' roll. When you think about it, this is true. Think back to the seventies. Nobody owns a personal computer, an ipod, or a cell phone, and the internet does not even exist. Now, flash forward to today. Nearly everyone has some sort of mp3 player, a cell phone, and a computer that runs the internet. Technology, nowadays, is less of an item than it is a lifestyle. Our society, the youth being at the forefront, is connected to other people through technology nearly 24/7. Is this a bad thing? Here are two cents.
Let's face it, anything as colossol as the internet is going to result in its fair share of negatives. People begin to be obsessed with the internet, nearly living at their computer on a social network or their favorite website. Not only does time spent on technology subtract from time that could be spent doing physical activities, but it also opens the door for every type of negative website imaginable, as well as bullying and low self esteem caused by social networking. In the video, the boy learns to physically cope with bullying, but is unable to avoid the persistant cyber bullying that followed him onto his myspace page. He eventually becomes so emotianally damaged that he takes his own life. Bullies on the internet can be more harsh, as they have the benefit of being safe and secure in a different location. Most feared among parents is the issue of internet predators.
Not everything about the internet is awful, it does have benefits to youth that are also very relevant. For instance, in todays world it is crucial that youths stay current in technology so that they stay current when they enter the job field. Additionally, the internet is a very useful resource as well as a way to stay connected with good friends and express yourself. In the video the girl that goes by the modeling alias of Autumn Edows uses the internet to feel understood and express herself.
The internet is neither good nor bad. It just is. It's influence on youth can have negative effects, but it will not be going away any time soon, and it is also very beneficial. I use the internet frequently, whether it be facebook, yahoomail, google, etc. I am always connected. I take it as my responsibility to filter out the negatives and utilize the internet in ways that benefit me. I avoid sketchy people and websites, as well as keeping my facebook presentable. These days kids will grow up online. There is no point fighting it; our time would be better spent teaching our youth to use it safely.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Extreme Isolation

Communication is what allows culture to exist, but just how important is it in shaping people? This question brings forth the issue of nature vs. nurture. One could argue that socialization is not all that important, as (due to nature) people would develop regardless. However, such an assumption would be false. As it turns out, social stimulation is crucial to a child's development. It would seem that such a conclusion would be near impossible to make, however the discovery and analysis of extremely isolated children shed light on the situation.
It makes sense to assume that children gain social skills innately. For that to be true, however, the children who had been extremely isolated should have had some basic level of. That was not the case for Anna in the article, who had been neglected and only interacted with when being fed milk. In fact, Anna did not know how to function at all. She did not even know how to walk or feed herself. She was helpless. She was never taught how to act, so she just never learned. 
Anna's case is similar to Genie's, whom we learned about in class. Much like Anna, Genie was raised in horrific conditions of solitude. However, Genie's case was more extreme. In fact, Genie was isolated for so long that her brain deteriorated and she lost all capacity to learn language. 
Both examples clarify that nurture is a humongous force in child development, because nature is nowhere near sufficient at bringing up a child.
When applied to our own lives, it is very clear that we are very much shaped by our social surroundings. I am often more concerned about what others think about me than what I think. I have been in some way taught all the morals and beliefs that have been instilled in me. Interestingly enough, what the extremely isolated children taught us is that much of what we are is formed by what others make us into.

This brain scan shows the dramatic negative effects extreme neglect has on the brain.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sociology IS a Science

Sociology is a deceptive topic. To many, sociology is written off as a science, due to its abstract concepts about societal habits. However, sociology is more fact and research based then one might think.
The main aspect about sociology that makes it a science is the scientific method. As the article states, the scientific method takes eight steps. The steps are as follows: selecting a topic, defining a problem, reviewing the literature, forming a hypothesis, choosing a research method, collecting data, analyzing the results, and distributing the findings.
Along with having steps, sociology is often based on concrete data that is record through polls, surveys, and direct observation. These processes make for very accurate conclusions in the sociological field.
I, personally, would have been in the majority that didn't think sociology is a science, but when I read about the use of the scientific method, which I have become very familiar with in my SCIENCE classes, I realized the error in my opinion.
Heres a kinda funny scientific cartoon I found.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eating Your Friends is the Hardest to Do

If you were hungry enough, would you eat your deceased friend? It seems unimaginable, yet that is the situation facing the survivors of the plane that crashed in the Andes in the article.
At first, the survivors really do not like the idea of eating their fallen comrades (who would?). It is a very obvious norm in most all societies that we do not eat one another. It is a pretty simple rule to follow, unless the situation demands it. In the situation of the survivors, they are facing death, as they are starving and well aware that rescue is unlikely. Norms are powerful but will be circumnavigated when it is absolutely necessary. And in doing so, structure and new norms are created (they develop rationing for the eating). And eventually, their old norms are irrelevant and new norms govern their lifestyles.
Basically, norms are all relative. Things in our lives have meaning because we give them meaning. In a subtle way, the article is showing that we should not judge the norms of other cultures, because we often do not know the circumstances that cause such norms.
I, for example, have a different set of norms acting upon me than say, a man in China. What I gesture for "OK" means something much more derogatory to the Chinese man. Both of us, being unaware of each other's norms, would be confused by one another.

To test your knowledge of norms, here it is... the one, the only, the URINAL QUIZ GAME!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nope. Dialect Differences Will Never Disapper

Picture this, a small town where everyone sounds the same. They have the same accent, the same phrases, the same style of vocabulary. That's hard to imagine, right? However, one might question why such a situation does not occur if the townspeople are all living together in a condensed area. To some degree the people may talk the same but there will always be subcultural differences, and the reason is individuality.
The article addresses such a question on a much larger scale, the whole country. People often wonder if, because of the television and social networking boom, dialects will be lost and a uniform style of speech will be formed for all Americans. However, the author of the article argues that such an occurrence will never happen because people are constantly adapting their speech "to stay one step ahead of the game". What the author means is that, even though language is spread from all  over the country due to television and other mediums, we still maintain our own unique styles of speaking to form our identity and associate ourselves with the groups we are a part of.
All of what the author had to say strongly ties in to the video series "Do You Speak American?". In the videos, they venture all over the country and sample different dialects. Not one is the same as the last. They are all fit to the individual. Such dialogues have many determining factors such as race, age, location, and social class. In essence, what you say projects who you are, or want to be.
The theories of the article remain true for me. I speak in a fashion that is fairly common to a middle class, white guy from the Chicagoland area. I have many phrases and words unique to my friends and school. I talk the way I do because of who I am, and TV won't change that.

Here is a website that has a very interesting way at broadly summarizing American speech by region.