Current Social Problems Sociology 112 Summer 2011

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Current Social Problems

Sociology 112

Summer 2011
Dr. Kimberlee B. Holland

2047 JFSB


Office Hours: 10:30-11:00 am T/TH, or by appointment
A thought on Social Science

“Students are often converted to a particular view of the world before they know that different world views exist…It is vital, then, that students be sure they understand a new idea before they pass judgment on it…Sometimes ideas that are familiar or better known are automatically given higher status than ideas that are unfamiliar or less well known. This higher status may be bestowed on familiar ideas in spite of clear evidence to the contrary.”

(Slife, Brent D. and Richard N. Williams. 1995. What’s Behind the Research?: Discovering Hidden Assumptions in the Behavioral Sciences. London: Sage.)
Academic Honesty

In keeping with the principles of the BYU Honor Code, students are expected to be honest in all of their academic work.  Academic honesty means, most fundamentally, that any work you present as your own must in fact be your own work and not that of another.  Violations of this principle will result in a failing grade in the course and additional disciplinary action by the university. 

Students are also expected to adhere to the Dress and Grooming Standards.  Adherence demonstrates respect for yourself and others and ensures an effective learning and working environment.  It is the university’s expectation, and my own expectation in class, that each student will abide by all Honor Code standards.  Please call the Honor Code Office at 422-2847 if you have questions about those standards.

Required Texts:
Macionis, John J. 2010. Social Problems. Fourth edition. Prentice Hall: New Jersey.
Gladwell, Malcolm. 2008. Outliers: The Story of Success. Little, Brown and Company.
Griffin, John Howard. 1996. Black Like Me. Signet. – or, you may choose the alternative (Wilson, William Julius. 1987. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.)
Articles specified in the class schedule are available on Blackboard.
Course Description:

This course examines problems in contemporary American society associated with: (1) poverty and wealth; (2) race and ethnicity; (3) gender; (4) aging; (5) crime and criminal justice; (6) violence; (7) sexuality; (8) alcohol and other drugs; (9) physical and mental health; (10) economy and politics; (11) family life; (12) education; (13) urban life; (14) war and terrorism; (15) population and global inequality.

This course should enable students to:

  1. examine the construction of social problems and the conditions under which they arise, are perpetuated, are ameliorated, or are disregarded.

  1. use major sociological theoretical perspectives to understand and analyze contemporary social problems.

  1. evaluate research on social problems in reference to the principles of the scientific method (distinguish between anecdotal evidence, myths and empirical evidence).

  1. manifest an understanding of the scope (who, what, where, how) of contemporary social problems.

  1. assess the relationship between social policy (conservative-liberal) and social problem solutions.

Grading will be based on 1 assignment, 2 short papers, 5 reading quizzes, 3 midterm exams, and a final exam.
Short Papers:

Specific guidelines for each paper will be posted on Blackboard. To receive full credit papers must be typed in 12 pt, double-spaced and stapled. DUE TO THE SIZE OF THE CLASS, PAPERS CANNOT BE E-MAILED. YOUR PAPER WILL BE CONSIDERED TURNED IN WHEN A HARD COPY IS RECEIVED. Papers can be turned in late but you will be penalized 5 points a day.

Reading Quizzes:

Five quizzes will be given throughout the semester as a way to encourage you to do the class readings. The quizzes are not of the “pop” nature. Specific dates and required reading material are listed in the course schedule. Quizzes cannot be made-up unless your absence is university approved.


Four exams (3 midterms, 1 final) will be given based on the chapters, readings, and class discussions covered to that point. Text readings and class discussions (class attendance is critical as the tests will include material that is presented only in class) will help you prepare for each exam. The PowerPoint slides that accompany the lectures may serve as a good starting point for your test preparation but they do not contain everything you need to know for the exams. Exams will not be given EARLY or LATE unless your absence is university approved.

NOTE: University policy dictates (see the BYU website) that final exams CANNOT be taken early. No exceptions will be made to this policy so please plan accordingly.
Student Engagement Exercises:

For all of you excellent class attendees, there will be 6-8 opportunities throughout the term for a little extra credit (30 pts total)- just for engaging in a couple of classroom activities. Ahh, to think it actually does pay to come and hang out with us all!

Class Points:
Norms Assignment 25 points 25

Paper #1 75 points 75

Paper #2 100 points 100

Reading Quizzes #1, #4 & #5 3 @ 10 points 30

Reading Quiz #2 (“Outliers”) 40 points 40

Reading Quiz #3 (“Black Like Me” or Alt.) 30 points 30

Exams 3 @ 100 points 300

Total 600

Grades will be assigned based on total points accumulated as follows:

A 564 – 600

B- 480 – 497

D+ 402 – 419

A- 540 – 563

C+ 462 – 479

D 378 – 401

B+ 522 – 539

C 438 – 461

D- 360 – 377

B 498 – 521

C- 420 – 437

E 000 – 359


The following course schedule is a guideline NOT a contract. Exam, quiz, and discussion dates may change throughout the semester. Schedule changes may or may not be announced on Blackboard; however, all schedule changes WILL be announced in class.





Readings for Today





Overview of the Syllabus

(The Penny Game)

The Sociological Imagination

(Breakfast, Bread, and Diamonds)

Ruane, Janet M. and Karen A. Cerulo. 2008. “Conventional Wisdom Tells Us...”



Social Problems

(Personal vs. Social)

Macionis, Chapter 1

Reading Quiz #1

Sociology: Studying Social Problems (Theoretical Perspectives)



Sociology: Studying Social Problems (The Scientific Method)

Begin reading Outliers.
Slife, Brent D. and Richard N. Williams. 1995. What’s Behind the Research?

Cougareat/Cannon Center Norms Assignment Due @ the beginning of class

Poverty and Wealth

(Stratification Bowl)

Macionis, Chapter 2
McNamee, Stephen J. and Robert K. Miller Jr. 2004. “The Meritocracy Myth”.
Kiyosaki, Robert T. and Sharon L. Lechter. 2000. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”.



Poverty and Wealth


Gladwell, Malcolm. 2008. Outliers.

pgs. 1-115.

Reading Quiz #2a on Outliers

Continues on next


Poverty and Wealth


Ehrenreich, Barbara. 1999. “ Nickel-and-Dimed.”
Barlett, Donald L. and James B. Steele. 1998. Time. “Corporate Welfare.”
Gans, Herbert J. 1971. “The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All.”




Poverty and Wealth


Gladwell, Malcom.

2008. Outliers.

Pgs 116-299.
Torre, Pablo S. 2009. “How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke.”

Reading Quiz #2b on Outliers

Racial and Ethnic Inequality

(Racial Identification)

Begin reading Black Like Me or alternative.

Midterm #1 (Available in the Testing Center)



Racial and Ethnic Inequality

Macionis, Chapter 3

Racial and Ethnic Inequality

(Black Like Me)

Reading Quiz #3 on Black Like Me



Gender Inequality

(Gender Games)

Macionis, Chapter 4
Kimura, Doreen. 199l. “Sex Differences in the Brain.”

Paper #1 Due @ the beginning of class

Gender Inequality

Welty, Ellen. 2007. “Are Your Words Holding You Back?”
Ruane, Janet M. and Karen A. Cerulo. 2008. “Conventional Wisdom Tells Us...Beauty is Only Skin Deep.”



Gender Inequality

Family Life

Macionis, Chapter 12
Gibbs, Nancy. 2002. Time. “Making Time for a Baby.”



Family Life

Marano, Hara. 2010. “The Expectations Trap.”
Svoboda, Elizabeth. 2008. Psychology Today. “Scents and Sensibility.”
Blum, Deborah. 2002. Love at GOON Park.

Reading Quiz #4


Macionis, Chapter 13
Kozol, Jonathan. 1991. “American Education: Savage Inequalities.”




Physical and Mental Health

(Case Study: Obesity)

Macionis, Chapter 9
Nestle, Marion. 2003. “Food Politics .”



Midterm #2




Physical and Mental Health

(Case Study: Obesity)

Parker, Hilary. 2010. “A Sweet Problem.”
Moss, Michael. 2010. “While Warning About Fat…”
Kessler, David and Bonnie Liebman. 2009. “Why We Overeat.”

Reading Quiz #5

Physical and Mental Health

Bittman, Mark. 2010. “Soda: A Sin We Sip Instead of Smoke.”.




Crime, Violence, and Criminal Justice

Macionis, Chapter 6


Macionis, Chapter 7
Dahir, Mubarak. 2001. The Advocate. “Why Are We Gay?”



Population and Global Inequality

Macionis, Chapter 15
Levine, Ruth. 2006. “Educating Girls, Unlocking Development.”

Paper #2 Due @ the beginning of class








FINAL (3:00 pm)

FINAL (In Class)

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