Analyzing Controversial Issues Sociology 220

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Analyzing Controversial Issues

Sociology 220

Prof. Pamela Oliver

Library Lecture

  1. Next Tuesday September 21, 2004

  2. Meet in Room 126 Memorial Library

  3. On research sources in ethnic studies

  4. Will tell you how to do the research for your debate brief & second paper


  1. Is it appropriate to use race or ethnic profiling in policing and security enforcement?

  2. Should U.S. immigration law be changed to allow more workers from Mexico?

  3. Should English be the only language of instruction in U.S. public schools?

  4. Should race or ethnicity be taken into account in college admissions?

Major Dimensions

  1. Interests: who stands to gain/lose

  2. Factual claims: assertions about reality

  3. Value claims: assertions about justice or morality

  4. Discourse: how language is used to persuade, to position the issue with respect to other issues or principles


  1. We are looking for opinionated or “biased” sources, people who really advocate each side

  2. We want opinions from BOTH sides

  3. No “straw men”

  4. You are the judge or analyst weighing both sides fairly, NOT the lawyer advocating for one side

  5. You want to sort your sources into “sides” and notice what kinds of claims are being made on each side

  6. Library Lecture Sept 21 (Tuesday)

Academic honesty

  1. No plagiarism. For how to avoid see:

  1. References & citations must be honest, not “faked”

  2. The penalty for academic dishonesty will range from F on the paper to F in the class (depending on extent of the offense) PLUS a letter to the Dean’s office describing the offense

  3. You will submit papers electronically, they will be checked through, plagiarism detection software

  4. Apologies to those of you who would not cheat, plus assurance that honesty will not be punished


  1. Who stands to gain or lose?

  2. Money

  3. Jobs

  4. Political Power

  5. Prestige, sense of superiority

  6. People in common social locations have common or group interests

  7. People may disguise their interests under claims of general principles

  8. This may be entirely unconscious

Discuss interests

  1. Easy concept for some, hard for others

  2. Policies ALWAYS affect people differently, depending upon their social location

  3. Simple student issues

  4. Plagiarism policy

  5. Course registration policies

  6. Interests as college students

Interests: college admission policies

  1. Test scores vs. grades vs. class standing

  2. People who do well on tests (mostly highly educated English-speaking parents)

  3. More vs. less competitive high schools; weighted vs. unweighted GPA’s

  4. Non-academic factors

  5. Alumni preference, regional diversity, non-academic talents, service activities, ethnic-racial diversity

  6. Individual disadvantage vs. advantage

  7. People from advantaged backgrounds have an interest in ignoring the effect of background on achievement

  8. Do YOU expect to benefit/lose from each?

Mexican Immigration: Interest Groups

  1. Mexicans: work in US, make money to send back to Mexico. (Or immigrate & stay here.)

  2. US workers: concern that wages are undercut by larger supply of low-wage workers or that Mexicans take jobs that would go to US-born (especially African Americans)

  3. Employers exploiting undocumented workers, circumvent minimum wage & working condition laws, Social Security taxes etc.

  4. General population who benefit from inexpensive services, e.g. fast food, child care, cleaning services

  5. Cultural interests: Spanish vs. English speakers, value of having people around you speak your language

Racial profiling: interest groups

  1. You are a (law-abiding non-terrorist) member of the group being profiled

  2. Experience the humiliation, disruption, threat of frequent police stops

  3. You are in the majority group not being profiled

  4. Easier to get away with criminal activity

  5. Common interest in public safety transcends racial group, but factual dispute about whether profiling accomplishes this

Interests: Language in Schools

  1. Children & parents whose first language is not English

  2. MANY factual disputes about best way to educate children

  3. English-speakers who do not want to cede language dominance

  4. Taxpayers: accommodating language minorities is expensive

  5. Federal policies give more money for some approaches than othesr

  6. Education professionals have interests in particular educational programs

Factual Claims

  1. What people say “the facts” are

  2. Most times, the different sides disagree about facts

  3. People may make factual claims about which the evidence is non-existent, in dispute, or contrary

  4. Important to look for factual claims & the evidence supporting them

Value Claims

  1. Assertions about core principles of justice, fairness, equality, morality

  2. Some people believe as a value that only individual interests matter, but most people adhere to other more general values

  3. Both sides generally advocate positive values

  4. The sides may invoke different values or weigh them differently, or may agree on values but disagree on how to accomplish them


  1. The words that are used, how the issue is compared to others

  2. The two sides usually use different language, talk about the issue in different ways

  3. Non-ethnic example: pro-life vs pro-choice. Different ways of framing what abortion is “about”

  4. Those advocating points of view typically choose their language & framing purposefully to make a point

Mexican Immigration

Mexican Immigration: Sides

  1. Immigration should be low & more enforcement to keep Mexican workers out


  1. Mexican workers are part of economy, their immigration should be made legal.

  2. Many different specific proposals for how to do this!

NOTE: “Illegal immigration” as a problem is caused by immigration laws and can be fixed by making immigration legal.

Mexican Immigration: Interest Groups

  1. Mexicans: work in US, make money to send back to Mexico. (Or immigrate & stay here.)

  2. US workers: concern that wages are undercut by larger supply of low-wage workers or that Mexicans take jobs that would go to US-born (especially African Americans)

  3. Employers exploiting undocumented workers, circumvent minimum wage & working condition laws, Social Security taxes etc.

  4. General population who benefit from inexpensive services, e.g. fast food, child care, cleaning services

  5. Cultural interests: Spanish vs. English speakers

Mexican Immigration: Factual Claims

  1. Effect of Mexican workers on wages of US workers

  2. Effect of Mexicans on educational, social service budgets vs. taxes paid

  3. Effects of Mexicans on general health of the economy

  4. Effects of wage/economy differentials on migrant flows

  5. Whether Mexicans are involved in crime, drug trade

Mexican Immigration: Value Claims

  1. Illegal immigration is “breaking the law” vs. “we make the laws”

  2. Preserve what we have from outside competition vs. international justice

  3. Society is better off if culturally homogenous vs. culturally heterogeneous

  4. Workers are here, should be treated fairly

  5. US citizens should be considered first

Mexican Immigration: Discourse

  1. Illegal immigrant” stresses criminal vs. “Undocumented worker” stresses worker

  2. Immigrants as dangerous vs. nation of immigrants

  3. Whether hostility to Mexican (or Asian) immigration is racial

  4. Debates among Mexican Americans about this

  5. Stories, narratives: how Mexicans in the US are described

Language & Education

English: Sides

  1. English only”: teach in English

  2. Isolationist: it is the kid’s problem if s/he cannot speak English

  3. Integrationist: English immersion is educationally best


  1. Bilingual”: teach in two languages

  2. Separatist: OK if primary language is not English, but learn English as second language (nobody in the US advocates not knowing English)

  3. Integrationist: bilingual instruction is the best way to learn content + English and end up well-educated

English: Interests

  1. Educating children: what method works best

  2. For overall education (math, science, history, etc.)

  3. For English

  4. Language dominance: being able to conduct business in your first language without having to accommodate others

  5. Threat of hearing foreign language in “your” territory

  6. Taxes: paying for children’s education

  7. Professional: educators have career stakes in one or the other

  8. Political: desire support from one or another group

English Education: Factual Claims 1

Which educational methods work best

  1. For English

  2. When the school is majority English-speaking

  3. When the majority in school speak a single other language

  4. When the children speak many different languages

  5. How affected by age, prior literacy of children (and adults)

  6. For other content (math, science, history, etc.)

English Education: Factual Claims 2

  1. How educational assessment are affected by ongoing immigration

  2. How educational programs work in practice

  3. English immersion as cultural oppression

  4. Bilingual education as ghetto-ization; assumption that all Latinos speak Spanish

  5. Impact of funding programs

  6. Educational history of European immigrants (the myth that they all learned English fast and did well in school)

  7. Ethnic differences in bilingual education

English: Value Claims

  1. English language unifies the country

  2. People who do not speak English (or do not want to speak English) should stay out of the US

  3. Knowing multiple languages is good in a global world

  4. Language is important to a person’s sense of self, not easily changed

English: Discourse

  1. English First, English Only,

  2. US for English-speakers

  3. Cultural diversity, multiculturalism

  4. Educationally best”

  5. What is best for the children?

Racial-Ethnic Profiling in Policing

Pro-Profiling: Groups, Interests

  1. Usually not members of the “profiled” group, do not expect to be “targeted” (Interest: Won’t trouble them.)

  2. Often members of law enforcement defending their actions (Interest: protect their jobs)

  3. Concern about danger/difficulty of policing, need to use all tools

Pro-profiling: factual claims

  1. Factual claims about differential crime rates by ethnicity

  2. Arab/Muslim terrorists

  3. Black/Hispanic crime or drug dealing

  4. May dispute claims that there IS racial profiling: all economics, or behavior warranting suspicion, not profiling

Pro-Profiling: Values & Discourse

  1. Value: concern for public safety, security (Interest: Expect these policies to reduce your crime victimization)

  2. Tough on crime” or “drug war” or “axis of evil” rhetoric

  3. The criminals (terrorists) are “others” that need to be guarded against.

  4. Demonization of the criminal?

  5. The [White] majority is not a crime/terror risk.

Anti-Profiling: Claims, Values

  1. Claims that law-abiding people in targeted groups are hassled by police or improperly arrested

  2. Claims about police bias, e.g. “driving while black” & New Jersey turnpike data, imprisonment disparities

  3. Factual claims of no or small difference in crime risk

  4. Black or Hispanic involvement in crime, especially drugs

  5. White terrorists

  6. Values: Equality, fairness, presumption of innocence, justice

Anti-Profiling: Discourses

  1. Critique of political uses of “tough on crime” rhetoric

  2. Driving while Black”

  3. Discrimination, racism, prejudice

  4. Profiling” shifts from neutral descriptive term to synonym for discrimination (example of language evolution in process of struggle)

  5. Prison-industrial complex

  6. Maintain boundaries of segregation

  7. Comfort majority with image of criminals as “others”

  8. Political value in having an external enemy.

Using Race in College Admissions

Using Race: Two Kinds of Pro Arguments

  1. Disadvantage: Students from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds are disadvantaged, deserve compensation

  2. Diversity: The school needs to be more diverse for the benefit of everyone

  3. These two kinds of arguments are different from each other

Disadvantage arguments

  1. Legacy of unfair disadvantage to minorities due to past & continuing discrimination

  2. Need for more educated workers & professionals to help advance historically-disadvantaged communities; a general social good

  3. Weight of disadvantage keeps down students who would do well if given a chance

  4. Majority students are seen as having plenty of opportunities, are not hurt

  5. Debates about whether race per se is a disadvantage

Diversity arguments

  1. Inherent educational value in a culturally mixed environment

  2. The majority benefits from diversity as much or more as “minority” students

  3. Need for everyone to learn how to function in a multicultural society

  4. Envisions everyone having an opportunity, but distribution of groups across schools being more comparable (so all are equally diverse)

  5. Ignores issues of competition among students for slots in selective schools

College Admissions: Values

  1. Equality: procedural vs. substantive

  2. Justice: overcoming past wrongs vs. present treatment

  3. Cultural diversity in education as a value

  4. Meritocracy as a value

  5. Individual claims vs. group claims

  6. Whether society as a whole should have more racial/ethnic (or class) equality

College Admissions: Discourse

  1. Reverse discrimination” labels Whites as victims

  2. Quotas are illegal, but critics of “affirmative action” paint it as a quota program (blurs distinctions)

  3. The icon of the “highly qualified white” – there are no mediocre or marginally qualified whites?

  4. The icon of the “unqualified minority” – there are no qualified minorities?

  5. Drawing comparison to alumni preferences

  6. Diversity language: types of diversity (I.e. opinions, geographic, language vs. race/ethnicity)

  7. Disadvantage language: is race/ethnicity per se a disadvantage?

Factual disputes about disadvantage

  1. Whether there is still a legacy of disadvantage and ongoing discrimination

  2. Studies of job market & housing discrimination: affect options for children

  3. Effects of background on achievement

  4. Whether prejudice and stereotypes hurts the performance of even “advantaged” minority students

  5. Whether disadvantaged Whites are comparable to disadvantaged minorities

Factual disputes about admissions

  1. How admission procedures actually work: admitted “on the basis of race” vs. “one factor among many.” Claims about other admission factors (e.g. alumni preferences)

  2. What the racial/ethnic composition of college classes actually is

  3. College enrollment rates vs. high school graduation rates

Factual Disputes About Qualifications

  1. Pro- advocates claim students given admission preference are well-qualified, anti-advocates say they are not

  2. Sub-debate about whether standardized test scores (which favor Whites) are a valid “qualification”

  3. Sub-debate about overcoming disadvantage as evidence of qualification

  4. Sub-debate about qualifications and deservingness of disadvantaged Whites

Factual Disputes About Outcomes

  1. Graduation rates and reasons for non-completion (ability vs. financial strain, campus climate)

  2. Impacts on “racial harmony” and White attitudes

  3. Impacts on students of color

  4. Impacts on Asian students (who are often not “targeted” but ARE often discriminated against in favor of Whites, relative to qualifications)

Factual dispute about ability

  1. Whether disadvantaged students have ability and can do well if given a chance (Bok & Bowen vs Bell Curve

  2. The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions results from a lengthy collaboration of two former college presidents: William Bowen, president of Princeton University from 1972 to 1988 and now president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and Derek Bok ’54, president of Harvard University from 1971 to 1991.

  3. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (A Free Press Paperbacks Book)
    by Richard J. Herrnstein, Charles Murray

See slides on UW & education trends

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