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The Most Important Social Issue in America Today

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1.)The media, politicians, and people we know continually discuss social issues: poverty, the quality of education, bullying, drug use, the changing family unit, immigration, racism, declining moral values, same-sex marriage, the separation of church and state, the limits of free speech, political polarization, gun violence, unequal pay for women in the workforce, internet-related crime, the death penalty, and so on. They often discuss these issues from a nonsociological point of view. It’s time to begin thinking like a sociologist!

First, in your opinion, what is the most important social issue in America today? (You can select an issue listed above, or select your own.) Why?

Second, how would each of the three major theoretical perspectives in sociology—Functionalism, Conflict Theory, and Interactionism—view this issue? Which perspective do you most agree with? Why?

2.) In this week’s first discussion question, you identified what you believe is the most important social issue in America today. If you were granted funding to conduct sociological research on this issue, what specifically would you investigate? Keeping in mind Ch. 2, “Doing Sociology: Research Methods,” how would you conduct your research, and what research method would you employ? What ethical concern(s) may be raised by researching this issue, and how would you address them?

3.) Bigamy—the practice marrying more than one person—is strongly condemned in the United States, but it is accepted in some cultures. Sending aging parents to retirement homes rather than taking care of them in one’s own home is accepted in the United States, but it is strongly condemned in many cultures.

Why do we judge social issues like these ethnocentrically? When studying cultures from the sociological perspective, how important is it to assume a culturally relativistic point of view? Defend your response.

4.) Why is socialization important? How did Oxana’s socialization contribute to her personality and behavior? Which theory of development—Cooley’s, Mead’s, Freud’s, or Erikson’s—do you believe is most useful for analyzing Oxana’s unusual situation? How would this theory describe her upbringing and behavior?

5.) Last week (in Ch. 4 of Tischler) we learned about agents of socialization. Today, many people argue that social media such as Facebook and Twitter are a new agent of socialization. Given the six necessary functions of social groups identified on p. 124, do you consider your social media friends to be a primary or secondary group? Explain your answer.

6.) Who determines what counts as deviant behavior? Within a family, within American society, within government, on the job? Do those who determine deviant behavior engage in deviant behavior? Explain your answer.

7.) Review the following charts and then answer the question below.

From Tischler, H. L. (2011). Introduction to sociology (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

From Tischler, H. L. (2011). Introduction to sociology (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

As the above charts indicate, Americans perceive the United States as “the land of opportunity,” a country that allows social mobility and rewards individuals for talent, hard work, and good decisions. However, it is also a country with significant income differences between upper and lower classes.

Consider this week’s readings and your own experiences. How much are individuals responsible for their own success? How much is attributable to causes beyond the individual’s control? Is social inequality a problem of the individual, or is it a problem of society? Why?

8.) How does our society perceive the ideal man and the ideal woman? How are these gender roles constructed? Do gender roles have a positive social function, or do they only oppress groups and individuals? Cite examples from this week’s readings, the media, or your own experiences.

9.) How do you define marriage, and what are its primary functions? Given your definition of marriage and your beliefs about its purpose, is romantic love really necessary? Do you believe arranged marriages are acceptable? Some might argue that we all live in an arranged marriage. What might that mean? Defend your response.

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