I recently purchased a home in Los Angeles, something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to afford. When prices started skyrocketing in the mid-2000s, like many other people I chose not to buy and saved my money instead. I was glad I did, despite some acquaintances insisting that prices would only get higher. In 2005, the median price of a single family home in Los Angeles was about $529,000; by 2008 the median price fell to $340,000. (The median is the point at which half of all homes cost less, and half cost more).
After watching prices and interest rates fall, I began looking in earnest. I got very excited to see I could actually afford to buy in a neighborhood where I would like to live. I began by looking online, and found many places that fit my criteria: in my price range, a reasonable commute to work, nearby places to walk or hike, and safe enough for me to take a walk alone. In fact, there were so many places that I got picky, at first only wanting to see places that had been decorated to my taste. If I didn’t like the flooring or the kitchen countertops, I passed. Most of the listings were short sales, meaning the homeowner owed more on their mortgage than they could expect to sell for. Banks will often agree to accept less money in order to avoid the more expensive and time consuming foreclosure process.
“It’s always one damn thing after another.” This was a favorite phrase of my advisor in graduate school. He was referring both to the relatively minor irritations of grad school—getting papers rejected, having data troubles, worrying about qualifying exams—as well as the daily annoyances of life—finding a parking ticket on your car, getting into an argument with a friend, having a long wait at the doctor’s office.
I’ve thought of this phrase quite a bit lately as I followed the tragic events in Boston. It wasn’t so much the bombing at the Boston Marathon that brought these words back to me as much as it was the cumulative effect of recent events: Boston, Sandy Hook, Hurricane Sandy, Aurora, Penn State, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and the list could go on.
Ask just about anyone about how to improve public education and they’ll likely give you an answer: Hire better teachers. Fire bad teachers. Instill more discipline. Include more art and music in the curriculum. Go back to the basics. Involve multicultural lesson plans. Allow students to use vouchers to attend private schools. Create more public charter schools.
All of these ideas have been implemented somewhere, each with fans and critics. None has been proven to be a cure-all, but for supporters, they seem like simple solutions that should be put in place as soon as possible.
Education is a great example of the multifaceted nature of social issues. And while single solutions are easy for us to understand and form an opinion about, they are not necessarily helpful in the long run. Applying core concepts can help us understand why and move us towards a more complete understanding of education as a social institution.
and Tara Tober, University of Virgina
Drug-sniffing dogs are becoming more and more ubiquitous. Dogs are often one line of defense against possessing drugs in public. They help law enforcement identify people with drugs in airports, schools, and other public spaces. The use of dogs relies on a collective understanding that carrying drugs in public, even if you are discrete about it, should not be allowed. Various drugs are illegal to use, distribute, and even possess. Yet, we also know that many people do use, distribute, and carry drugs. So, the question becomes, when can people reasonably expect privacy from law enforcement? Or perhaps more appropriately, where?
From day one in my statistics course, I tell my students that data are everywhere. Even though the word makes it sound like data is everywhere, the word data is plural thus they are everywhere.
Facebook helped me make the point recently when they posted a note and shared information gleaned from posting patterns (empirical data!) during the week that the Supreme Court heard arguments on marriage equality.
Recently, gay marriage and gay rights have been at the forefront of the nation’s attention. As the Supreme Court heard two historic arguments on same-sex marriage, the top story in print, on the airwaves, and over the Internet has revolved around these issues.
My interest in such matters started much earlier, specifically in January 1991. At the time, my brother and I were driving back to New York from Washington, D.C. after attending a rally protesting the Gulf War. We spent the whole weekend together talking about things both serious and frivolous. It wasn’t until we were about two exits away from our hometown when my brother woke me up from a nap saying that he had something to tell me. I thought he was going to say that he got pulled over for a speeding ticket. Instead, he told me he was gay.
Did you know that turning in a class assignment copied directly from your textbook without quotes is a form of plagiarism? A student who did this in one of my classes claimed not to.
Each year I encounter some form of academic dishonesty, the most common being copying from another source, directly or paraphrased, without quotes or attribution. The most egregious example: a student copied directly from a book I wrote. (In this case, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery).
Why do people cheat? And how can sociology illuminate—and potentially reduce—this behavior, particularly in academia?
What makes you a sociologist? Is it a degree? A title? A job? Are there certain books you need to read? Is there a test you need to pass? Must you freely use jargon and esoteric language? Do you need access to a password or a secret handshake? Despite what you may think or what you may have learned, I believe that being a sociologist requires none of these things.
Tomas Jimenez of Stanford Universtiy discusses immigration.
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