335 posts categorized "Social Problems, Politics, and Social Change"

April 25, 2016

Affordable Housing: An Oxymoron?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A few years ago, I had a student who was extremely anxious as the summer approached. While most of her classmates couldn't wait for graduation or summer break, she was scared. She had no family and had no place to live. Her worry about finding short-term housing was preventing her from sleeping at night and she began having difficulty in her coursework.

This is just one example of one of the challenges many people face—and not just students or low-income people. The cost of housing has priced many people out of the rental market, even people with steady incomes. The rental website Zumper lists the average rents in the 50 largest cities in the U.S. In nearly half (22) of these cities, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,000. That's about what a minimum wage earner makes in a month before taxes, assuming they earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and work 40 hours a week.

Continue reading "Affordable Housing: An Oxymoron?" »

April 19, 2016

Play and Public Space

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

As a sociologist, I often feel as though much of what I teach and research has a tinge of apocalyptic despair. As a result, I've started looking into topics that center on (or have an element of) joy, hope, happiness, laughter, or playfulness.

In searching for things that make me smile, I've come across a growing body of scholarship on the importance of play in social movements. The research suggests that play helps to build community, maintain interest in a social cause, invites people into the movement, fosters civic engagement, and diffuses power (e.g. clowns who confront police officers).

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April 04, 2016

Sociology for the Masses!

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

"ESCHEW OBFUSCATION"

This was a bumper sticker I remember seeing when I was in college. At the time, I only had a fuzzy idea of what these two words meant. After a little research, I realized that the phrase was a playfully pretentious way to encourage people to stop using big words that nobody understands. I'm sure many students wish they had a rubber stamp with these words so they could imprint them on some of the texts they must read. I felt that way when I was a student and sometimes I still feel that way. In fact, I often think that this slogan should be a rallying cry for sociologists everywhere.

Continue reading "Sociology for the Masses!" »

March 31, 2016

Policing, Solidarity, and Conflict

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Many news stories have noted that violent crime rates have risen in some cities, and some are blaming the so-called "Ferguson Effect." What does this mean?

The Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times discussing the relationship between communities and their police departments. He mentions the "Ferguson Effect" yet redefines it when looking at Los Angeles and its crime related statistics.

Continue reading "Policing, Solidarity, and Conflict" »

March 25, 2016

Spatial Inequity and Access to Abortion

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Abortion and women's access to abortion are often contested issues within the United States. A recent poll by Pew Research found that 51% of Americans think that abortions should be legal in all or most cases. Yet, 49% of Americans polled think having an abortion is morally wrong. How does this difference in legality and morality impact legal decisions?

Have you heard about the Texas abortion regulations case? In 2013, the Texas solicitor general passed an omnibus abortion bill (HB2) that places additional restrictions on abortion providers. Regulations include requiring doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles from the clinic where they perform abortions, and requiring abortion clinics to be retrofitted to comply with building regulations that would make them ambulatory surgical centers.

Continue reading "Spatial Inequity and Access to Abortion " »

March 21, 2016

Does College Alienate Low Income Students?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I teach at a pricey research university. Friends and family—some of whom are alumni— occasionally ask me how much it costs to attend these days. I usually tell them that I don't know; it's easy to forget about the price of tuition when you're not paying it.

So when the Los Angeles Times recently reported that a tuition increase will push the bill for students at my university to over $50,000 for the first time next fall, costing an estimated $70,000 including housing, food, books, and other expenses, I was surprised. A majority of the student body receives some form of financial aid, so not every student must come up with a whopping $280,000 to pay for their degree. When was an undergraduate (at a different expensive private university), I had a scholarship that covered half of my tuition. Coming up with half of the current tuition sounds like an impossible task for most families.

But what about students who do manage to attend a university through financial aid, work study, and scholarships?

Continue reading "Does College Alienate Low Income Students?" »

February 26, 2016

Popular Culture, Race, and Representation

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Zahira Kelly, who writes an advice column for The New Inquiry and for the blog Bad Dominicana, was recently on my campus to talk about the lack of Afro-Latin@/x representations within American and Latin American culture, history, and popular media. In her candid conversation, Zahira spoke honestly about her frustrations with systemic racism and heterosexism, and she mentioned the hate mail that she receives because she speaks openly about her experiences as a Black Latina.

While Kelly's talk highlighted the personal ways that racial erasure in popular media affects her on an individual level, it also showcased the lack of representations of a variety of people of color within our popular American consciousness. This negation of difference among and between communities of color both homogenizes these complex lived experiences and reinforces a simplistic understanding of race and culture that relies heavily on skin color and privileges whiteness.

Continue reading "Popular Culture, Race, and Representation" »

February 24, 2016

When Our Heroes are Also Villains

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

"We can be heroes, just for one day." This is the famous line from one of David Bowie's most popular songs, "Heroes." Bowie was indeed a hero to many people, and his passing at the beginning of the year was met with an outpouring of sadness from fans around the world. Bowie was known as a musical genius, a gender-bending norm breaker, and a crusader for racial justice in the music industry. But he was also known to have had sex with underage groupies and for some critics this dark side of his legacy is something we should not ignore.

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January 29, 2016

Why Some Students Refuse to Learn

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

As a college professor, I often try to figure out the best way to help students learn. I solicit feedback from students and colleagues, I read journals and books on the scholarship of teaching and learning, I try out new exercises and assignments, and I reflect regularly on what strategies seem to be succeeding and failing in the classroom. I do this to try to find that elusive and magical formula that will automatically result in good teaching and learning. Although I know that this formula does not exist, I still stubbornly search for it and this ongoing pursuit is what helps me grow as an educator.

Recently, as I was thinking about ways to improve student learning I was reminded of one of my favorite essays on teaching and learning that is actually about not-learning. I am referring to Herbert Kohl's classic essay, "I Won't Learn from You." In this piece, written over 20 years ago, Kohl considers what it means for students to purposely not learn. He points out that some students actively engage in not-learning as a way to maintain control in a seemingly hostile world.

Continue reading "Why Some Students Refuse to Learn" »

January 22, 2016

Water Wars and Reliable Data: From Bolivia to Flint, Michigan

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

As an undergraduate majoring in Latin American and Latina/o studies, I remember watching a documentary about the Cochabamba protests against the World Bank's push for water privatization in the South American country of Bolivia. During the late 1990s-early 2000s, the country was the poorest in Latin America with 70% of Bolivians living below the poverty line.

Government officials attempted to remedy the economy by following a shock therapy model. This included the implementation of neoliberal reforms, such as halting state subsidies and the privatization of publicly-owned assets. Within Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia, privatization meant transference of the publicly held water system to a private consortium led by the Bechtel Corporation.

Continue reading "Water Wars and Reliable Data: From Bolivia to Flint, Michigan" »

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