Understanding American Worldview, J. LaVelle Ingram, Life in the USA, 2007
J. LaVelle Ingram created this article to explain to immigrants the peculiar worldview of the country they are adopting. It is contrasted with other worldviews and explains some important cultural differences between societies.
The American Narrative: Is There One & What Is It? William H. Chafe, Daedalus, 2012
William H. Chafe shows that America has two major moral premises from the early Puritans until today: serving the public good and individual freedom. These more or less balance each other and over the long run serve us well. The current drive to undo the programs that assist the needy, including Social Security and Medicare, if unchecked may destroy that balance and weaken the country.
The Myth of the "Culture of Poverty", Paul Gorski, Educational Leadership, 2008
The culture of poverty myth accuses the poor of having beliefs, values, and behaviors that prevent them from achieving. Thus their failure is their fault. This myth must be challenged. Most poor people do have the work ethic, value education, and possess other characteristics that contradict the culture of poverty myth. Opportunity structures play a big role in poverty.
The Future of the New "We": Muslims in the West to Western Muslims, Tariq Ramadan, Harvard International Review, 2013
Many Muslims have been in the United States for several generations. They are not recent immigrants and have a good record of being good citizens and contributing substantially to our society. But now American pluralism is being challenged and Islamophobia has become a big problem. The adjustments of Muslims to the complex changes in America are varied as Ramadan tries to explain.
Reestablishing the Commons for the Common Good, Howard Gardner, Daedalus, 2013
The success of any society depends on the way the society deals with the commons. In its simplest form the commons is neighborliness and helping each other. In advanced societies it deals with the many ways people deal with each other and involves exchanges, agreements, compromises, constraints, compliance, volunteerism, and institutions that arrange mutually beneficial interactions. Some cultures and societies are good at developing the commons and others are not so good at it. The result is good or bad progress.
What Do We Deserve? Namit Arora, The Humanist, 2011
A major key to political, economic, and cultural issues is the question "What is just or right?" Namit Arora uses Michael Sandel's book, Justice, to explore this question. People should be rewarded for their skill and effort, but since chance and innate advantages play such a large role in outcomes, some adjustments are required for outcomes to be considered fair. How these adjustments are made shapes political philosophies and differentiates societies.
UNIT: Socialization and Social Control
The New Sex Scorecard, Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today, 2003
As everyone knows, men and women are different. Recent research has greatly increased our understanding of these differences, and Hara Estroff Marano reviews these differences including mental, sexual, health, emotional, and psychological.
Fighting Crime: An Economist's View, John J. Donohue, Milken Institute Review, 2005
It is amazing what conclusions we would come to about crime and punishment if we used economic logic as John J. Donohue shows in this article. We would stop building prisons, abolish the death penalty, expand the police force, adopt sensible gun controls, and legalize drugs, among other things.
Wrongful Convictions, Radley Balko, Reason Magazine, 2011
How many people are convicted of crimes that they did not commit? Radley Balko scans the research on this difficult topic and estimates that 3 to 5 percent of convictions convict innocent people. DNA has exonerated 268 convicted murderers over two decades but only a small number of cases are reviewed via DNA testing. The painful story of the suffering endured by the wrongfully convicted is told through the case of Paul House.
Cruel and Unusual: The True Costs of Our Prison System, Robert DeFina and Lance Hannon, Commonweal, 2011
One of America's black eyes is its prison system and the laws that send so many people to jail for long terms. America leads the world by far in incarceration rates due largely to the politically popular tough on crime policy involving mandatory sentencing and the three-strikes-and-you're-out rule. Research indicates, however, that high incarceration rates contribute very little to lowering crime rates.
Estimates of Cost of Crime: History, Methodologies, and Implications, Jacek Czabański, 2008
Jacek Czabański has tried hard to calculate the total cost of crime, which includes the material and health costs to the victims, the costs to society for dealing with crime, and the costs for trying to prevent crime. The total costs are enormous and may exceed two trillion dollars a year. Crime is worse that we think.
UNIT: Groups and Roles in Transition
The New White Negro, Isabel V. Sawhill, Washington Monthly, 2013
Family integration and disintegration is occurring all the time but very differently in different social situations. Racial differences commanded the spotlight in the 1960s but class differences are more prominent now. Daniel Moynihan wrote about the breakdown of the black family in the 1960s, and now his analysis (high divorce rates, out of wedlock children, single parent families) applies to white families in the last decade. Now the key disparities are based more on class than race. The least educated have the lowest marriage rates and the highest unwed childbearing. These patterns have serious negative impacts on parents, children, and society.
The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss, Liza Mundy, The Atlantic, 2013
Research shows that same-sex marriages are doing better than heterosexual marriages in terms of more happiness, less conflict, more intimacy, and more equality in child-rearing and chores. Same-sex couples enjoy each other more than heterosexual couples do and that is the lesson Mundy wants heterosexual couples to learn.
Why Women Still Can't Have It All, Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic, 2012
Women cannot have it all (a good career and a good family life) because the system (mostly the work world) is not set up to allow women to have it all. The system must be changed and Anne-Marie Slaughter suggests the ways it should be modified.
Death by Gender, Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Dissent, 2010
One of the greatest inequalities in the world is gender inequality in patriarchal societies. Women and girls are often killed by their fathers, brothers, or male cousins for the "honor" of the family when they have been raped or molested or perceived as contaminated for behaviors that would be normal in other societies. Gender inequality has many other facets including the trafficking of women as sex slaves and their forced recruitment as suicide bombers.
The Boys at the Back, Christina Hoff Sommers, The New York Times, 2013
Christina Hoff Sommers points out that boys do as well as girls on tests but are not given as high grades by teachers because their comportment is less acceptable than girls' comportment. As a result, they do less well on other achievement measures which contribute to the greater success of women in higher education. Sommer regrets that nothing is being done to assist boys in dealing with school.
The Masculine Mystique, Stephen Marche, The Atlantic, 2013
The family issue of the day is the work family balance, but the focus is almost entirely on the conflicting pressures on women. Stephen Marche says that men should be brought into the discussion. They face equally troublesome pressures and men should get equal attention. Marche then discusses a wide set of gender equality/inequality issues.
Houston Rising: Why the Next Great American Cities Aren't What You Think, Joel Kotkin, The Daily Beast, 2013
Cities in the United States are dynamic but get little media attention. Joel Kotkin brings us up to date. His main message is that the cities with the best record of achievements are not the big and famous cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco but second-tier cities like Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Raleigh, Phoenix, and Charlotte. These have faster economic and job growth. They have small central cores and sprawling suburbs. Their advantage is much lower costs, especially in housing.
Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Stephen Marche, The Atlantic, 2012
The main question regarding community today is, What will the impact of new communication media be? Is it increasing or decreasing our social lives? Does it draw us off into virtual and artificial worlds or does it bring people together? In this article Stephen Marche sheds a lot of light on these issues with an emphasis on Facebook.
UNIT: Stratification and Social Inequalities
A World Enslaved, E. Benjamin Skinner, Foreign Policy, 2008
Did you know that there are more slaves living today than at any time in human history? E. Benjamin Skinner claims that you could buy a child slave for sex and work for $50 in Haiti and fly home with her in one day. He claims that there are 300,000 slaves in Haiti. This is how he begins his expose of worldwide slavery.
Rebuilding the Middle Class: A Blueprint for the Future, A. Barry Rand, Vital Speeches for the Day, 2013
Sociologists have long maintained that a thriving middle class is essential to democracy, societal integration, social mobility, growing prosperity, and many other aspects of American life. But as A. Barry Rand points out, the middle class is not thriving today, and its decline threatens America's ability to provide assistance in healthcare and retirement programs for everyone and to provide a safety net for the vulnerable. It makes upward mobility and investing in our future more difficult. Rand discusses many specific programs from the point of view of rebuilding the middle class.
The State of Poverty in America, Peter Edelman, The American Prospect, 2012
Peter Edelman says that poverty in America is a big problem because it rests on the shortage of work and the prevalence of low-wage work. These problems are likely to get worse not better. The poor number 103 million and most of them are trying to work as much as they can. The poor have been helped by many policies but changes in the labor market will continue and will keep the poor numerous for many years.
The End of Welfare as I Knew It: How Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Failed the Test of the Great Recession, Diana Spatz, The Nation, 2012
The new welfare law in 1996 was praised for lowering welfare rolls and pushing many into the job market. It also had its negative side, which Diana Spitz presents. In many places it was administered badly and unjustly. Some of the people who were dropped should not have been.
Roots of Racism, Elizabeth Culotta, Science Magazine, 2012
Elizabeth Culotta explains the roots of intergroup prejudice and conflict by reporting the findings of anthropologists and psychologists on ingroup–outgroup attitudes and interactions. Throughout human history prejudice based on group differences has played a major role in human violence and craziness.
Emmett and Trayvon: How Racial Prejudice in America Has Changed in the Last Sixty Years, Elijah Anderson, Washington Monthly, 2013
Elijah Anderson compares the stories of Emmit Till and Trayvon Martin to discuss the great progress that blacks have made in America and the changes that are still needed. Emmett's murder "was embedded in a virulent ideology of white racial superiority" and black inferiority justifying black subjugation. That ideology has been largely overcome and there has been large-scale racial incorporation leading to a large black middle class. Today's attitudinal subordination of blacks is largely focused on the black ghetto and contributed to Trayvon's death.
Female Power, The Economist, 2010
Do you agree with the Economist that "The economic empowerment of women across the rich world is one of the most remarkable revolutions of the past 50 years? It is remarkable because of the extent of the change . . .[and] because it has produced so little friction." This article documents and explains this revolution.
Free and Equal in Dignity and LGBT Rights, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vital Speeches of the Day, 2011
Hillary Clinton bases her strong endorsement of LGBT rights on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that 48 nations endorsed in 1948, which proclaimed that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." These rights are birthrights, regardless of whether supported by governments. She reviews the subsequent history of the successful removal of barriers to these rights for many groups in many countries, including the recent progress of LGBT peoples.
UNIT: Social Institutions: Issues, Crises, and Changes
The Rule of the Rich, Bill Moyers, The Progressive, 2011
It is common knowledge that the large corporations and the rich have massive influence over the American political system and its policies, but Bill Moyers sheds considerable light on the methods and processes whereby the rich rule this country. He uses stories and history to stir us to the point where we want to fight the corruption of the system.
The Broken Contract: Inequality and American Decline, George Packer, Foreign Affairs, 2011
George Packer analyzes the decline of the American institutional structure, which he attributes to the broken American contract. America functioned adequately when the social contract between labor, business, and government governed the political economy. That contract is broken and American effectiveness has dramatically declined.
The Withering of the Affluent Society, Robert J. Samuelson, The Wilson Quarterly, 2012
Robert J. Samuelson is pessimistic about the economic future of America. He believes that the country will recover from the recession but only to modest growth and no growth on average for the young. Massive transfers from the young to the elderly are their prospect for many decades. Many aspects of the economy are taken into account in his analysis.
Hard at Work in the Jobless Future, James H. Lee, The Futurist, 2012
James H. Lee is also pessimistic about America's economic future. Automation and new technologies will make many workers redundant, including white-collar and professional workers. The jobless future in his title is exaggerated but a severe shortage of jobs is to be expected. The ramifications are worrisome.
The Case for Less, Tim Wu, The New Republic, 2013
Tim Wu presents the case for less against the dominant ideology that ever-increasing abundance is the main national and personal objective. Obviously, poverty, hunger, and miserable conditions should be overcome by economic advancement and widespread abundance, but Wu argues against excessive abundance, which has contributed to widespread obesity, information overload, high indebtedness, growing inequality, and lessening of self-control.
MOOCs of Hazard, Andrew Delbanco, The New Republic, 2013
The big question for education today is what will be the impact on educational institutions and the society of online education? Andrew Delbanco addresses this issue by a knowledgeable discussion of MOOCs (massive open online courses). The "open" means free but for-profits and not-for-profits are looking for the best ways to make money out of them. On the other hand, much of the drive toward online courses is goal of substantially reducing the costs of college, which are getting out of hand. Delbanco ends up with more questions than answers but provides a good review of the problem.
The Robot Will See You Now, Jonathan Cohn, The Atlantic, 2013
According to Jonathan Cohn, it is time for advanced computers to play a major role in healthcare by providing information-based diagnoses. The diagnoses by physicians are excellent in the easy cases but poor in hard cases where the computer can do much better. This raises the question, How far should the automation of medicine go and what would its consequences be on the medical industry?
In Search of the Spiritual, Jerry Adler et al., Newsweek, 2005
Jerry Adler presents a full and rich report on spirituality and religion in America that covers both statistics and practices.
UNIT: Social Change and the Future
The New Population Bomb: The Four Megatrends That Will Change the World, Jack A. Goldstone, Foreign Affairs, 2010
The four world changing trends are (1) shift of population growth from developed countries to the developing countries, (2) the aging of the labor force in developed countries and increasing numbers of young people in developing countries, (3) rapid growth of Muslim countries, and (4) the urbanization of most of the world's population, with the largest cities being in the poorest countries, where critical services are scarce. These are very challenging trends that will collapse many governing structures unless major adaptive changes are made. "The strategic and economic policies of the twentieth century are obsolete, and it is time to find new ones."
Full Planet, Empty Plates, Lester R. Brown, Population Press, 2012
According to Lester R. Brown, the world is in a long-term worsening food crisis that will have troubling economic, social, and political impacts. Population growth, billions moving up the food chain, and the use of grains for fuel increase the demand for food while supply problems are increasing due to soil loss, increasing water scarcity, expansion of deserts, adverse weather changes, and the leveling off of acreage productivity in developed countries. Brown suggests what needs to be done.
The World Will Be More Crowded—With Old People, Phillip Longman, Foreign Policy, 2011
Phillip Longman's message to young readers is that one of your major problems is the burden of the elderly that you must bear. Once retired, they no longer contribute to society but only take from it and burden the young. In the developed nations there are too many old people and too few young people. This threatens world prosperity.
The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants, Robert Lynch and Patrick Oakford, Center for American Progress, 2013
The costs and benefits of immigrants are a hot topic today with many arguments on both sides. This article argues that the economic benefits of granting legal status and citizenship to undocumented immigrants (the group of greatest concern) clearly outweigh the economic costs. Lots of computations and statistics are provided. The total increase in jobs would be modest but the increase in GDP would be large.
Can a Collapse of Global Civilization Be Avoided? Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, The Royal Society, 2013
The Ehrlichs point out that every past civilization has collapsed, and overusing the environment has caused many of these collapses. Currently overpopulation, overconsumption of natural resources, and environmentally damaging technologies are leading us to global civilization collapse. The authors provide a long list of actions that are required to avoid this collapse.
A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis, Christian Parenti, Dissent, 2013
Christian Parenti accepts the scientific consensus of human caused global warming and proposes a radical approach to address the climate crisis. The resistance of the transnational ruling classes requires radical means and revolutionary demands. First, we must drastically reduce our production of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Second, we must adapt to the impacts of the warming. He provides many suggestions for these mitigations and adaptations.
A Thousand Years Young, Aubrey de Grey, Futurist, 2012
How would you like to live a thousand years? Aubrey de Gray says that advances in medical and biochemical treatments can overcome the aging process and keep us young for many centuries.
Engineering the Future of Food, Josh Schonwald, Futurist, 2012
Josh Schonwald points to fabulous possibilities for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Fears stand in the way of real progress in developing GMOs that would greatly improve and extend life. We already eat a lot of GMOs because GMO soybeans and canola dominate the market, so there is no reason to hold back GMOs if proper testing is done.
How Innovation Could Save the Planet, Ramez Naam, Futurist, 2013
Ramez Naam describes the many wonderful improvements in human life that progress brings about, but also the many serious problems we face that are endangering the planet. He believes that the planet needs to be saved and describes many technological innovations and new ideas that could do it.
The Year in Hate and Extremism, 2010, Mark Potok, Intelligence Report, 2011
According to Mark Potok, hate groups and extremist ideas have increased substantially recently. Many of these groups are antigovernment and paranoid about big government. Many also are racist and anti-immigration. The FBI is very concerned about this trend.
War in the Fifth Domain, The Economist, 2010
The possibilities of cyber warfare are frightening. Cyber terrorists could cause financial chaos costing trillions, screw up electrical grids, or widely infect military hardware. Worst-case scenarios include oil refineries and pipelines exploding; air-traffic-control systems collapsing; orbiting satellites spinning out of control, major corporations being hacked to death, and the Internet being crippled. Society could soon break down as food becomes scarce and money runs out. Protection from these attacks is extremely difficult.
A New End, a New Beginning: Prepare for Life as We Don't Know It, John L. Petersen, Futurist, 2009
John L. Petersen, a noted futurist, forecasts that major changes or a transformation lie ahead, because multiple trends are converging, problems are much larger than government, the problems are systemic, we are not taking appropriate steps now, the issues are too complex to adequately understand, and the issues are global. We must plan for the transition now.
A User's Guide to the Century, Jeffrey D. Sachs, The National Interest, 2008
Jeffrey Sachs attempts to identify, briefly describe, and assess the consequences of the major developments of the twenty-first century. The world is converging technologically and economically, economic and population growth is threatening the environment, and vast inequalities in income and power between and within nations are destabilizing nations and increasing conflicts.
Making Modernity Work: The Reconciliation of Capitalism and Democracy, Gideon Rose, Foreign Affairs, 2012
The premise of this article is that the combination of capitalism and democracy is one of the greatest human achievements and must be preserved. Rose reviews the one-and-a-half-century relationship between democracy and capitalism and its many trials. The relationship still stands but has seen better days. Many political and economic mistakes have been made as the recession and political impasse demonstrate. Renovation is needed and will be difficult, but he is confident that people will not give up on the modernity project.
The Future of the Liberal World Order: Internationalism after America, G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, 2011
G. John Ikenberry sees that the rise of China, India, Brazil, and other states means the relative decline of the United States and the Western states. This does not mean, however, the decline of the liberal international order. Although some of these rising states have authoritarian capitalism political economies, all of them have greatly benefited from and therefore support the liberal international order.