This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface



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10.5 End-of-Chapter Material

SUMMARY


  1. As a social institution, the family is a universal or near-universal phenomenon. Yet historical and cross-cultural records indicate that many types of families and family arrangements exist now and have existed in the past. Although the nuclear family has been the norm in many societies, in practice its use has been less common than many people think. Many societies have favored extended families, and in early times children could expect, because of the death of a parent or births out of wedlock, to live at least some part of their childhood with only one parent.

  2. Almost one-third of American children live in one-parent families; this percentage varies by race and ethnicity. Some research finds that parents experience more stress and lower psychological well-being than nonparents.

  3. Sociological perspectives on the family fall into the more general functional, conflict, and social interactionist approaches guiding sociological thought. Functional theory emphasizes the several functions that families serve for society, including the socialization of children and the economic and practical support of family members. Conflict theory emphasizes the ways in which nuclear families contribute to ongoing gender, class, and race inequality, while social interactionist approaches examine family communication and interaction to make sense of family life.

  4. Scholars continue to debate the consequences of divorce and single-parent households for women, men, and their children. Several studies find that divorce and single parenting in and of themselves do not have the dire consequences for children that many observers assume. The low income of single-parent households, and not the absence of a second parent, seems to account for many of the problems that children in such households do experience. Women and children seem to fare better when a highly contentious marriage ends.

  5. Despite ongoing concern over the effect on children of day care instead of full-time care by one parent, recent research finds that children in high-quality day care are not worse off than their stay-at-home counterparts. Some studies find that day-care children are more independent and self-confident than children who stay at home and that they perform better on various tests of cognitive ability.

  6. Racial and ethnic diversity marks American family life. Controversy also continues to exist over the high number of fatherless families in the African American community. Many observers blame many of the problems African Americans face on their comparative lack of two-parent households, but other observers say this blame is misplaced.

  7. Family violence affects millions of spouses and children yearly. Structural and cultural factors help account for the high amount of intimate violence and child abuse. Despite claims to the contrary, the best evidence indicates that women are much more at risk than men for violence by spouses and partners.



USING WHAT YOU KNOW


You’re working for a medium-sized corporation and have become friendly with one of your coworkers, Susan. One day she shows up at work with some bruises on the right side of her face. She looks upset, and when you ask her what happened, Susan replies that she slipped on the stairs at home and took a nasty fall. You suspect that her husband hit her and that she’s not telling the truth about how she got hurt. What, if anything, do you say or do?

WHAT YOU CAN DO


To help deal with the family problems discussed in this chapter, you may wish to do any of the following:

  1. Volunteer at a day-care center.

  2. Volunteer at a battered women’s shelter.

  3. Start or join a group on your campus that addresses dating violence.


Chapter 11


Schools and Education



Social Problems in the News


“Baltimore Students Lead Rally for Better School Facilities,” the headline said. On a crisp fall day, some 240 students, teachers, and parents held a rally at City Hall in Baltimore, Maryland, to call for massive improvements in the city’s deteriorating schools. According to the news article, students displayed photos of decaying conditions in their schools and “spoke of horrific learning conditions: roaches, rodents, decaying roofs, rotting walls, sewage overflows, and inadequate heating and cooling systems.” A high school senior said, “It’s not that the teachers aren’t the best, because they are, and it’s not that the students are misbehaving. That’s not it. We have buildings that you can’t do anything with.” The president of Baltimore’s City Council agreed. “We owe it to our students to have state-of-the-art schools,” he said. “Our school buildings are conducive to our kids’ learning. If they go into school buildings that don’t have running water, where bathrooms aren’t functioning properly, with outdated furniture and no books in the library, then what do we expect from our kids?”

Source: Burris, 2011 [1]
Charles Dickens’s majestic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, begins with this unforgettable passage: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

These words are timeless, and they certainly apply to the US education system today. In many ways it is the best of systems, but in many ways it is also the worst of systems. It teaches wisdom, but its many problems smack of foolishness. It fills many people with hope, but it also fills many people with despair. Some students have everything before them, but many also have nothing before them. In the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth, students in one of America’s largest cities, Baltimore, attend schools filled with roaches and rodents and reeking of sewage. They are hardly alone, as students in cities across the nation could easily speak of similar ills. If Dickens were alive today, he might well look at our schools and conclude that “we were all going direct the other way.”

Education is one of our most important social institutions. Youngsters and adolescents spend most of their weekday waking hours in school, doing homework, or participating in extracurricular activities, and many then go on to college. People everywhere care deeply about what happens in our nation’s schools, and issues about the schools ignite passions across the political spectrum. Yet, as the opening news story about Baltimore’s schools illustrates, many schools are poorly equipped to prepare their students for the complex needs of today’s world.

This chapter’s discussion of education begins with an overview of education in the United States and then turns to sociological perspectives on education. The remainder of the chapter discusses education in today’s society. This discussion highlights education as a source and consequence of various social inequalities and examines several key issues affecting the nation’s schools and the education of its children.


[1] Burris, J. (2011, November 3). Baltimore students lead rally for better school facilities.The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-11-03/news/bs-md-ci-rally-facilities-20111103_1_school-buildings-baltimore-students-city-schools.

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