Modern Social Problems (SOC 204 01) Fall Term, 2008
Tuesday - Thursday 1:30- 2:45 PM SJ 211
Dr. Patrick Donnelly email@example.com
Office: Saint Joseph's Hall 423 229‑2439
Office Hours: T-TH 8:30- 10:00 AM; W 9:00 - 11:00AM and by appointment
This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of major social problems by using the sociological perspective. The course uses the sociological imagination to examine: the relationship between society and individuals; how social problems come into being; how social problems affect individuals and groups; how individuals and groups can address social problems in ways that can improve the situation.
The course has five goals: a. to encourage students to consider how their own lives are connected to broader structures and institutions in society; b. to ask students to step outside of their own worlds to better understand the lives of people who are different than they are because of where they live, who their parents are, or what early life experiences they have had; c. to challenge students to think critically about the institutions that shape people's lives here in the United States and around the world; d. to encourage students to consider how individuals and groups can work to change the conditions that cause harm to themselves, to others, and to the environment, and; e. finally, to develop skills in evaluating and critiquing ideas and beliefs about our 21st century social, political and economic institutions.
SOC 204 is an approved social science course in the University General Education Program. It is also an approved introductory course in the social sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences B.A. Liberal Studies Curriculum.
2. Course Description
The course examines the nature of the sociological imagination, a concept coined by C. Wright Mills. The sociological imagination is a way of looking at the world that allows us to understand the connections between broad social changes and individual lives. It allows us to consider how our own lives are affected by the broader society and how we affect the communities and societies in which we live. The sociological imagination allows us to see how our own life chances and life choices are affected by changes that have taken place, and are taking place, in society over time. The sociological imagination requires that we examine contemporary social problems in a broad, comprehensive and, comparative way. This means that we must examine how current social have developed over time and how a problem in one place compares with the same problem in another area.
We will examine the nature of social problems. What is a "problem"? What criteria do we use to determine whether something is a problem, or how serious a problem it is? What is meant by "social"? What makes a condition a “social” problem? Are there "non‑social" problems?
Human action is required to address social problems. Individuals must identify a condition as a problem, understand the factors that contribute to those conditions, mobilize others to call for change, and pressure the people and groups who operate and benefit from maintaining things are they are. Our readings will help us understand the individuals and groups who initiate the call for change. Sometimes, they are the people who directly suffer from the social problems, but frequently there are others who initiate or join the effort to bring about change. We will examine the role of religious, moral, and political values as well as the broader social context in shaping efforts to address social problems.
3. Course Objectives
By the end of the semester, students will be able to:
a. describe the sociological imagination;
b. describe and evaluate the major sociological approaches to the study of social problems;
c. identify and discuss the relationship between social institutions, culture, groups and individuals and specific social problems;
d. examine a social problem in the local community using the sociological imagination;
e. explain how they themselves are negatively and positively affected by social problems;
f. explain how they can bring about changes that reduce the harms associated with social problems.
4. Course Format
This class will include both lecture and discussion. Lectures will not repeat material covered in readings but rather will provide additional information and analysis. Class discussion should be based on our reading and analysis as well as our personal experiences and exposure to particular social problems.
5. Course Expectations
a. All students will carefully read the material prior to the class for which it is assigned. Class participation in the form of comments, criticisms, debate, and questions is expected.
b. There will be several quizzes based on assigned readings and short papers about issues and concepts discussed in class. Quizzes will generally be announced in the preceding class. There are no makeups on quizzes. The lowest quiz grade –or a missed quiz—will be dropped. Assignments for the brief papers (500 words) will be distributed a few days before they are due. Quiz and short paper grades account for 150 of the maximum 500 points in the course.
c. There will be three exams—two during the semester and a final exam. Each exam accounts for 100 points for the course. The short answer questions on each exam will be related to material covered since the last exam. The essays questions on each exam require understanding of key concepts from throughout the course and, in essence, are cumulative. (300 total points).
d. Each student will write a paper on a social problem in the Dayton community. There are two types of papers that are permitted. Whichever type you choose, you are to relate your findings to concepts or ideas covered in class or in assigned readings. It is important to start on this project early in order to do a good job. It will take time to find an appropriate project and the information that is required. A topic proposal is due on September 30. The final paper is due by December 4. It should be a minimum of 1,500 words. It must be double‑spaced, use 12 point font, one inch margins, and be stapled. The paper is worth 50 points.
1. Students who are involved in a community service project during this semester or who participate in an Urban Plunge program this semester may base their paper on this experience. This paper would provide a brief description of what you did on the service project. Based on your experiences, observations, discussions, and any data you collect, you should examine the particular problem or need that was being addressed and the underlying conditions that create the problem. You might describe the group or agency that was sponsoring the project and provide some history of the people and groups involved.
2. Choose one group or individual that is actively engaged in trying to address a social problem in the community. Conduct research on the individual or group to determine why they are involved, how they got involved, and the specific types of efforts or programs they use to address the problem. Information for the paper can come from the Dayton Daily News (free registration for the web version at http://www.daytondailynews.com), organization web sites, and personal contacts, interviews and observations.
6. Grading scale
468-500 = A 433 ‑ 447 = B+ 383 ‑ 397 = C+ 298 ‑ 347 = D Below 298 = F
448-467 = A‑ 418 ‑ 432 = B 368 ‑ 382 = C
398 ‑ 417 = B‑ 348 ‑ 367 = C‑
7. Course Policies
a. Class attendance is mandatory. Occasionally, students will have a serious commitment that requires them to miss class. That is acceptable. However, students are responsible for everything addressed in class including adjustments in schedule. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of class. Students who miss more than four classes during the semester will lose five points off their final grade for each additional class missed.
b. Academic honesty is assumed. All students are expected to be familiar with the Student Handbook's section on academic honesty and plagiarism. Cases of academic dishonesty, including cheating on quizzes or tests and plagiarism will result in a zero on that assignment and may result in failure in the course.
c. Important dates:
August 26 ‑‑ Last date for changing grading options
September 10 ‑‑ Last date to withdraw without record
November 10 ‑‑ Last date for dropping a course with a W
d. Students with disabilities, including certified learning disabilities, must speak with me at the beginning of the term so that we can determine the necessary accommodations for students' learning needs.
e. Students are responsible for reading messages from me about the course at their email address that is listed in the University Address Book. If the address in the Address Book is not your preferred address, you must go into the Address Book and follow the directions to change it.
f. Some things should not need to be stated, but must be. Please turn off your cell phones before coming to class. Do not bring food into class; drinks are permitted. Please do not come into class late or leave the room during class unless absolutely necessary.
In addition to the books listed below, a number of articles will be placed on electronic reserve. Additional articles will be added during the term to supplement those listed here. Passwords for electronic reserve will be provided in class.
Eitzen, D. Stanley, Maxine Baca Zinn and Kelly Eitzen Smith. Social Problems. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon, 2009 (11th ed.). (EZ)
Eitzen, D. Stanley and George H. Sage. Solutions to Social Problems: From the Top Down: The Role of Government. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon, 2007. (Sage)
Eitzen, D. Stanley and Kenneth Stewart. Solutions to Social Problems: From the Bottom UP: Successful Social Movements. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon, 2007. (Stewart)
During the semester, some readings will be assigned from the New York Times. You are required to register for the free access to the New York Times web site, www.nytimes.com.
This is a tentative schedule. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I will let you know at the end of each period what you are responsible for the next class. You are responsible for being in class and knowing where we are.
Aug 21 Course introduction
Aug 26 The Sociological Imagination Mills (ER)
Aug 28 Nature of social problems EZ: Ch 1; Stewart 1-15, 73-77;
Sep 2-4 Problems in the economy EZ: Pp 23-36; Stewart: 120-122, 113-116.
Sep 9-16 Economic inequality and poverty EZ: 36-41, Chap 7; Stewart 52-54;
Sage: 51-57, 68-88.
Sep 18- 23 Politics and social problems EZ: Pp 41-55; Stewart: 85-96, 105-108;
Sage: 32-34 (optional - Sage: 12-19).
Sep 25 Exam 1 All material to date
Sep 30-Oct 2 Environmental problems EZ: Ch 4; Stewart: 117-119;
Oct 7- 14 Race and ethnicity EZ: Ch 8; Stewart: 27-32, 67-71
Oct 16-21 Crime and Justice EZ: Chap 12. http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/penaltyofdeath.pdf
Oct 23-28 Drug Use EZ: Chap 13.
Oct 30 Exam 2
N 4- 6 Work EZ: Chap 14; Stewart: 101-104.
Nov 11-13 Education EZ: Chap 16; Sage 111-139.
Nov 18-20 Health and Health Care EZ: Chap 17; Sage: 58-63.
Nov 25-D2 Security EZ: Chap 18.
Dec 4-9 Working toward solutions EZ: Chap 19; Stewart 78-83, 141-153
Sage: 217-226, 237-239.
Dec 19 Final Exam 12:20- 2:10