Author Topic: Essays from Sociology 205  (Read 1089 times)

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Essays from Sociology 205
« on: May 25, 2012, 11:44:47 pm »
I've really enjoyed the hell out of this class and I thought that I'd go ahead and post my weekly essays from it here, since school has been sucking up so much of my energy that I haven't been participating here as much as I used to, and I thought some people might enjoy them. Commentary and discussion welcome! Some of them are not super-polished because of time constraints, please to be forgive.

Essay #1: The Role of the U.S. Government in Providing the People With Basic Necessities

   It is my belief that the fundamental purpose of society is to better the lives of its members, and that a society is only as strong as the weakest within it. Therefore, a government’s role should be in keeping with the ideal of building a healthy society. In order to do that, the government has a responsibility to provide, through taxation, an infrastructure such as roads and sewer systems, education, health care, unemployment, disability, retirement, and food and housing for the poor. The government should make provisions for our basic safety through protections and regulations that ensure that no person or business unfairly infringes on another person’s freedom and health, and through enforcement agencies such as the fire and police department. The government should protect its citizens through the means of an armed military, and should also, upon request, if circumstances warrant it, come to the assistance of its allies. The government should protect through careful guardianship the natural resources within its boundaries. The government has a responsibility to guarantee its citizens basic rights and freedoms that protect our privacy, dignity, and humanity. The government has an ultimate responsibility to represent the interests of its people.

   Here in the U.S. we have a strong ethic of meritocracy, which has a certain moralistic appeal for many. However, it is my opinion that the meritocracy fails us when it is not grounded in a socialistic system that provides a common minimum standard of living, health care, and education upon which each person may find their footing, and from which they may rise and do great things if they have the capacity to do so. Our capitalist system fails us doubly, because in a system where wealth is concentrated, inherited, and wielded as power to ensure the continuing concentration of wealth, then no matter how great the merit of the individual who is born without leverage to enter that system, they will never be rewarded.

   This is why the government’s role should be to help build a level playing field by ensuring every member of our society a decent, free education and access to a minumum level of food, shelter, and health care. All of society, and democracy itself, benefits from an educated and healthy populace. No person, however disadvantaged, should have to worry about homelessness or dying of treatable illnesses, nor should we as a society have to carry the burden of shame for allowing it to happen, let alone the much greater financial burden of imprisoning those who turn to crime as a result of poverty and lack of education.

   The government should not attempt to impose control over its citizens’ religious or moral beliefs, consumption of food, drink, or other substances, opinions, self-expression, physical whereabouts, sexuality, association with other people, or any other activities that do not compromise the property, health, or welfare of other people or of communal resources.
   


“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2012, 11:47:43 pm »
I'm skipping the ones that I think are really boring, so I'll go straight to

Essay #3: The significance of work, and my perfect job

Fundamentally, the significance of work is both survival and identity.

Work is a fact of human life under any circumstances; to live is to work, whether you are a subsistence farmer, a factory worker, a homemaker, or a hunter-gatherer. I think that people have an inborn drive to work, and that to be deprived of work is a contributor to stress, depression, and neurosis. Work is inextricably linked with survival; we have an inherent need to do some productive thing, even if it’s not immediately rewarded with monetary compensation or material goods. Boredom is a reflection of this drive to work, and in this context I include learning as a form of work; deprived of something to do, people become restless and unhappy, which helps explain the immense popularity of video games to alleviate boredom.

Work is a large contributor to self-identity and personal satisfaction, and I think that the more intimate a person is with their own work, in terms of seeing a product or process through from start to finish, the more closely they will identify with their work, and the more satisfaction they gain from it. A carpenter who builds beautiful tables, a chemist researching a malaria cure, or a massage therapist who soothes knotted muscles, for instance, all have a close relationship with their work and are more likely to identify themselves in terms of it. On the other hand, someone who works on an assembly line or in a call center has a much more abstract interaction with the product of their labor and is less likely to experience the same level of pride and identity in their work.

My perfect job is one in which I have an intimate relationship with my productivity. In the case of what I currently do for a living, which is making glass beads, I am the artist-manufacturer, the salesperson, shipping clerk, photographer, and supply manager. I literally touch every aspect of my work, from selecting the glass rods to packing the beads in a shipping box to send to my customers. I have a personal relationship with my customers, and I have the pleasure of receiving the overjoyed and complimentary emails when they are pleased with their purchase, and the disappointment of the emails that say the colors aren’t quite what they expected and they’d like to return them. I have ultimate control over every aspect of my work life, with the exception of income. If I could control that, it would truly be my perfect job!

My idea of a perfect job is also one that in some way enriches the world or provides a service of beauty or health to people. Another area which I think of as my perfect job is medical anthropology, doing research that helps us, as humans, understand our behavioral biology.  That, or a closely related field, is what I hope to go into after I finish my undergraduate work.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2012, 11:48:55 pm »
Essay #4: The Glass-Steagall Act
   
The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was enacted in response to the financial crisis and permanent closure of over 4000 banks. The crisis was caused by the collapse of the stock market, so the new law was enacted, in part, to prohibit commercial banks from underwriting investment securities; in other words, to keep the banks which ordinary people keep their savings and checking account balances in from using that money to engage in risky investment gambling.

The Gramm-Leach-Bilely Act of 1999 essentially rolled back Glass-Steagall Act, once again allowing banks to engage in risky securities underwriting.  This led directly to the boom in housing lending, and from there to the inevitable bursting of the housing bubble and the massive market crash of 2007, the foreclosure crisis, and the bank bailouts. I vehemently disagree with the repeal, and consider it one of the most ill-advised financial decisions in U.S. history.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2012, 11:49:54 pm »
Essay #5: The Role of the Family in Today’s Society
   
The role of the family today is not terribly dissimilar to what it has always been, in my opinion; it is for social and material support for members of society, particularly in relation to childrearing and caring for the elderly. Families in many cases take the form of two partnered adults who are one another’s primary support system, and children, adult siblings, older parents, and sometimes friends who fill in the traditional role of cousins in an extended family-support network. A family may consist of one head of household and children, of adult siblings and their children, or even of unrelated adults who live in a family group.

The immediate family usually makes up an economic unit by sharing resources. For example, one family I know consists of a married couple, their son, her son by an earlier marriage, and a longtime friend who has lived with them for several years. Rather than being merely a tenant who pays rent, he contributes to the household and shares meals. In times when he is unemployed, he contributes less, and the rest of the family fills in. In this way he is part of the economic unit that makes up the family.

To me, a good parent is a patient, affectionate, respectful person who raises their children to be healthy, reasonably happy, functional adults. A good parent should have a positive relationship with their child, rather than an authoritarian relationship. The parent should teach their child constructive and appropriate behavior for interacting with other people and the world around them. It should be a relationship of respect rather than fear, and it should model trust, affection, and boundaries. A good parent should be supportive of their child’s interests and independence, but should also be able to push their child and teach them discipline through the incentives of reward and praise, or scolding and consequences. I don’t think that spanking or striking children, other than a swat on the bottom to get their attention when a child is very young, out of control, and not able to listen to reason, is a tool of good parenting. Neither is allowing children to run out of control and be disruptive and disrespectful of other people.

A good long-term partner is someone you like a great deal and are comfortable spending a lot of time with, even after the first rush of infatuation has faded. It is someone who is compassionate of your foibles, with whom you, also, are compassionate. A good partner is supportive, yet may also be demanding or inspiring in ways that keep you motivated to be a better person. A good partner shares a very close worldview to your own, and has similar ideas about important aspects of daily life like finances, childrearing, and ethics. A good partner should have a fair number of similar interests and activities, and should like to spend about the same amount of time doing things with you as you do with them, and should be sexually compatible.

It seems to me that the best places to find a good partner are through friends, school, or the workplace. Activity groups such as hiking or other sports also seem to be good ways to meet someone. Online services are also popular.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

Don Coyote

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2012, 11:50:21 pm »
NOOOO DON'T MAKE SOCIOLOGY INTERESTIN!!!!!!!!
This spot for rent

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2012, 11:51:14 pm »
Essay #6: Economic Inequality in Education

Economic inequality has a profound influence on the success of students from a very early age. Although much has been made of the idea that the poor have lower IQ scores, the disadvantages faced by many poor children, often beginning before they are even born, have a negative impact on their ability to learn. Inadequate nutrition, stress, exposure to chemical contaminants from their environment, and insufficient nurturing due to overworked parents all may have a significant impact on both a child’s development and on their access to educational support. Lower scholastic aptitude doesn’t cause poverty; poverty causes lower scholastic aptitude.

Children who are impoverished are often categorized as “troubled” at school and fail to receive sufficient educational support. A poor black or brown-skinned child who acts out is likely to receive a much more severe punishment than a well-to-do white child who performs exactly the same actions, even to the extent of having a fairly innocuous act turn into a police record. Once so categorized, children may be punished harshly for minor behavioral infractions that would not even be considered a misdeed by a “good” child.

Parents who themselves did not receive a good education may feel that education is very important, even crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty, but lack the time, experience, or skills to support their child through the bureaucratic nightmare of the school system. A struggling child without a strong advocate in the schools is a victim waiting to happen, and in our society these child victims all too often become fodder for the machine of the correctional system.

The Advantage of the Internet

The internet is a tremendous advantage in the lives of students who are fortunate enough to have it at home. The ease of accessing information that once required a trip to the library and hours of combing through books or old newspapers is a revolution in researching for school projects. There are also disadvantages; a child may accept the first piece of information about a subject that he or she finds, and it may be erroneous or biased. Because of that, it’s important to teach children who are using internet sources to use critical thinking and fact-checking skills when determining the credibility and value of information found on the internet.

Due to the high number of projects my children are bringing home that require or are greatly simplified by access to the internet and a printer, I think that children who  don’t have access to the internet at home are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to completing their schoolwork. Not only does that lack place a greater burden on them in terms of completing their schoolwork, but if the reasons they don’t have internet at home are economic, their parents are also less likely to have the time and resources to assist and support them through completing projects and assignments, making it a real double-whammy in practical terms.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2012, 11:51:32 pm »
NOOOO DON'T MAKE SOCIOLOGY INTERESTIN!!!!!!!!

I LOL @ U!!!
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2012, 11:53:37 pm »
The rather disjointed and slapdash Essay #8, on the film: God’s Next Army

   Patrick Henry College is a school designed to groom young Christians to enter politics, with the goal of infusing American leadership with people who will incorporate their religion into the political system, and of ultimately dominating the government with Christian leaders who will impose their Christian values on the entire country. The growing base of fundamentalist Christians who homeschool their children in order to keep them apart from unwanted influences has created the student base for Patrick Henry that makes it viable.

   I can’t help but wonder how these isolated home-schooled kids are picking up the social skills and developing the charisma needed to be effective political leaders. A lot of people in the video, particularly the parents, seem insane, delusional, and deeply indoctrinated in a very strange, awkward subculture that is wholly unable to relate to people outside of that culture. It frightens me to think these people could gain influence over the country rather than just being a fringe minority. The idea of an accredited college teaching literal creationism seems absurd to me… I really had a difficult time with this. The section showing and explaining their moot court training was deeply disturbing; it seemed to basically be a course for creating skilled professional liars, and their basic philosophy seems to be that the end justifies the means. The bigoted, woman-subservient doctrines they teach are repellent to me, but they do help me to understand where the anti-woman female Republican politicians come from. My gut reaction after watching this documentary was horror… I am terrified of this school achieving its goals and producing future leaders of the US. 
 
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2012, 11:55:05 pm »
Midterm #1: Social Processes That Are Changing Family Structures

One of the processes that has significantly changed the structure of the family is industrialization. The concentration of factories in cities and the shift of labor from family farms to factory farms has changed family structure from one in which an extended family including grandparents, uncles and aunts all lived and worked in close proximity, even the same house, to one in which a nuclear family lives in a home often separated by some distance from extended family.  Another contributing factor is the ease of travel; young people not only leave home, but often leave their hometowns when they reach adulthood. Consider the example of young women in China, driven by drought and poverty to leave their families and work in factories in urban centers far from home.

Another major factor is the increasing equality of opportunity and independence for women. More women are working and supporting themselves and their families, which means that the fairytale ideal of Mom as June Cleaver, staying at home tending house while Pops is out being the breadwinner, is quickly going extinct. Along with this independence is the increasing acceptance of divorce, and of simply never marrying in the first place, which is leading to more households headed by a single woman.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2012, 11:56:10 pm »
Midterm #2: The Effects of the Internet on Social Relationships

 The internet as social media has effectively revolutionized interpersonal communication. Where once we had to use telephones and letters to maintain contact with old friends and distant family, the internet has lifted many time constraints that once forced us to stay out of contact for years, making it easy and extraordinarily fast to reach out to people and stay in touch. Children can email their grandparents, or message them on Facebook, and thereby maintain a closer and more casual dialogue with distant relatives than was practical in the days of paper letter-writing. It has also widened our possible social circles to include people from diverse regions, and allows us to make contact with like-minded people who share our interests, even those which are quite obscure. Friendships and romantic relationships that begin in an internet chatroom or dating website have become commonplace. There is also a downside; the way we socialize on the internet has made many areas of life which were once considered private, or for friends only, very public. Employers may scour social networking pages for employee behavior they deem inappropriate, and relationships may stumble or even end due to a poorly-worded online comment or changed profile relationship status.

Inequalities Associated With the Internet

The internet has also generated some inequalities, or exacerbated existing inequalities, in the area of resource constraints. Schools now heavily rely on their students having access to the internet in order to complete homework projects, and students too poor to have access at home are put at a disadvantage. Adults also suffer, lacking the access to quickly and easily search for jobs, research prospective employers, use an online resume guide, or buy and sell used goods. Information constraint is a serious problem, impacting almost every area of our daily lives as valuable information about social and political events, issues, and policy is increasingly becoming  more difficult to find, and often requires a fairly high level of expertise to seek out. Because the poor have both less money and less time to spend seeking out good-quality information, they are far more likely to be marginally aware or unaware of issues that directly affect them.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

Your Mom

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2012, 11:59:33 pm »
Oh shit, I'm missing one. FFFFFFF
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2012, 01:49:39 am »
Aweome perspective. NEED MORE NIGELS.  :)
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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2012, 02:06:38 am »
Excellent.

I'm glad you're enjoying this so much.
Don't tell me what to fucking do.  In exchange, I will not tell you what to fucking do.  Note that mocking each other's actions is still permissable under this system.

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2012, 06:27:49 am »
Thanks! They are pretty simplistic and brief, but I'm enjoying the course and it will get more involved eventually.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
― Assata Shaku

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Re: Essays from Sociology 205
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2012, 12:39:41 pm »
The rather disjointed and slapdash Essay #8, on the film: God’s Next Army

   Patrick Henry College is a school designed to groom young Christians to enter politics, with the goal of infusing American leadership with people who will incorporate their religion into the political system, and of ultimately dominating the government with Christian leaders who will impose their Christian values on the entire country. The growing base of fundamentalist Christians who homeschool their children in order to keep them apart from unwanted influences has created the student base for Patrick Henry that makes it viable.

   I can’t help but wonder how these isolated home-schooled kids are picking up the social skills and developing the charisma needed to be effective political leaders. A lot of people in the video, particularly the parents, seem insane, delusional, and deeply indoctrinated in a very strange, awkward subculture that is wholly unable to relate to people outside of that culture. It frightens me to think these people could gain influence over the country rather than just being a fringe minority. The idea of an accredited college teaching literal creationism seems absurd to me… I really had a difficult time with this. The section showing and explaining their moot court training was deeply disturbing; it seemed to basically be a course for creating skilled professional liars, and their basic philosophy seems to be that the end justifies the means. The bigoted, woman-subservient doctrines they teach are repellent to me, but they do help me to understand where the anti-woman female Republican politicians come from. My gut reaction after watching this documentary was horror… I am terrified of this school achieving its goals and producing future leaders of the US.

I believe how it works is that Patrick Henry alumni go on to do internships and act as advisors and reseachers for political leaders, that they rarely operate directly in a political context.

As John Ralston Saul would not doubt point out, that makes them a species of bureaucrat as opposed to politician, and there is nothing a bureaucrat is more adept at than manipulating the context from within an institution or office.  So, as things stand, their social inability is not a huge hinderance (lets recall some other famous bureaucrats, like Kissinger or Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu were also incompetent public speakers and low on charisma).
"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before