Thursday, April 30, 2009


So this article highlights an interesting piece of popular culture- cussing. As is discussed in the article, cussing is a social habit that is seemingly hard to get rid of or avoid hearing in public places. But should we even try to eradicate such words from our language? As is discussed in this article, swearing is common on social networking sites like Twitter and MySpace. But what about the trend discussed in this article- that the habit of swearing goes up in times of extreme social stress? The current economy is cited as one cause of this. Another interesting part of this article is the "no-cussing" zones; do you think these could work? What are "the wrong places" and "wrong times" for swearing and does everyone know universally what they are?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Abstinence vs. Information

Teen sexual behavior has become the subject of a great deal of public debate in America. Over one million teenage girls get pregnant each year. These pregnancies result in about 400,000 abortions, 134,000 miscarriages, and 490,000 births. Over two million teenagers a year are treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The two sides in the Culture War have entirely different solutions to the problem of teen sexuality. (Abstinence vs. More information and education about sex)

Abstinence only education only talks about how to say no, but does not offer ANY sort of practical information should the occasion ever arise, as it naturally will. Since you have tons of kids who aren't educated about protection having sex despite the "education" they received, they are left completely open to infection, and pregnancy because some people think that admitting that it exists will some how encourage teens to have sex.

The Washington Post reported in Feb 2008, a high school girl was caught giving head to this guy in school. When the principle asked, she replied "It's not like we were having sex."

The federal investment in abstinence-only education spiked 74 percent under President G. Bush to total $176 million annually. Congress cut $14 million from abstinence education programs last month.

I was watching television and on a law program a teenager was suing her school for teaching abstinence only. She had sex and contracted HIV. She felt that the school failed her in teaching her about protecting herself and therefore left her at a disadvantage by which she contracted HIV.

Do you believe that this institution is solely responsible for providing sex education? What role does the institution of family and religion have in this matter? What are your thoughts of $176 million annually going towards abstinence-only education when teachers are underpaid and many schools don’t have books and adequate supplies?,0,1940597.story

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Twitterpated over Twitter

Okay, so I had to post this because it is simply WILD. Apparently, people are airing their frustration over bad drivers by posting them on Twitter. In the last few months, Twitter has become the new "blog", with people posting their opinions and stresses online in 160 characters or less. So, of course, someone decides to use this as a way of complaining about the bad drivers in Alaska - makes sense, except it also brings up the question of how many of them are texting in their grievances on their cell phones whilst driving? I know it says the people who started it don't, but that's two out of many hundred.
It just made me think about our cell phone thing and how this is yet another feature that has come about from cell phones and society's influence on where technology goes next. What do you think will be the next big revolution?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Women's Panel

In March, President Obama signed an executive order creating a panel to advise him on the issues women face in society today. The council is designed to collaborate with Cabinet agencies and departments to ensure that women receive the same opportunities as men. This announcement was made during Women's History Month. Some of the reasoning Obama cited for the necessity of the panel included his own personal experiences of being raised by a struggling single mother, along with the obstacles his grandmother faced trying to obtain promotions during her years as a bank executive. Also cited were the below average wages women earn compared to men; 78 cents on the dollar. According to the White House, “The mission of the council will be to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls and to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families”. The panel is to be chaired by Valerie Jarrett, who is also a single mother.

The planning for this women's panel was set into motion in December 2008 when more than 50 women's groups sent a letter to the President-elect and Vice President-elect requesting the creation of such a panel. “We urge you to create a Cabinet-level Office on Women that will deal not only with the status of women, but with the many inequities women face in our society, our nation, and our world,” the groups said. “It would be another historic ‘first’ for the United States”. However, the panel isn't Cabinet-level. It is not even a permanent office with a full-time staff. A similar office was created by former President Clinton during his years as president, but was quickly disbanded when Bush took office. Along with his dismantling of the women's office, Bush also closed an office that dealt with racial issues while opting to keep open the office that dealt with the AIDS policies. This trend of opening and closing offices seem to coincide with the changing political tides.

Without permanent status, what can this office truly accomplish on women's issues? If the office isn't permanent, can the effects of the policy changes still be? Some of the bloggers imply that the panel is simply to pacify women and secure their future votes, while others assume the presence of the panel promotes women as more important than men. How does the assumed necessity for a panel focused on women's issues relate to the changing dynamics of our capitalist society as our economy has taken a downfall? Are there any other thoughts on this matter that have been overlooked?

Saturday, April 25, 2009


There have been quite a few stories in the news lately about pirates. What is interesting is how these groups of pirates came to exist as they do today. Somalia has the longest coastline in African and very rich fishing grounds. The Somalian government collapsed in 1991 due to a civil war. Without a government in place to protect the fishing grounds, fishing fleets from far away countries started to come and fish as much as they pleased. The citizens of somalia are very dependent on the fishing not only as a major food source for themselves but as the income for many people. The fishermen who lacked the large boats and technologies of the foreign fishing fleets got bullied and pushed off of their fishing grounds. It was during this time that pirate gangs began to form to protect the fishing grounds and the coastline of Somalia. It was quite easy for pirate gangs to seize ships and hold people for ransom. Many companies did not want the media attention for violating maritime laws and were willing to pay quietly. Because of this their networks were able to grow. However, the pirates today are not fishermen protecting their resource. It has become what some people say is a criminal network of people trying to make fortunes through pirating.,8599,1892376,00.html,9171,1891763,00.html
photo of Somali pirate from

Saturday, April 18, 2009

G-20 Protests

Earlier this month, the G-20 summit convened in London. The G-20 was a gathering of world leaders to discuss and essentially figure out how they are going to fix the financial crisis of our world. While this summit was very important, it also created an opportunity to see several social movements in action. During the summit, protests were staged in the London community by several groups. Thousands of anti-capitalists, enviromentalists and anarchists converged in Londons financial district and vandalized two banks, set fire to maniquens dressed as bankers, threw fruit at police while chanting "abolish money" and "storm the banks". At times the protest became violent. These groups feel that the banks are to blame for the worlds financial crisis with greedy bankers at their helms. It There were several other protests in london during this summit including an anti-war protest at the U.S. embassy and an enviromental protest at the European Climate Exchange.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cuba, Vacation Hot Spot?

U.S. Tourists may have a new travel destination within the coming years. Since the Late 1950's the U.S government has not allowed U.S citizens to travel to Cuba. Not that it is illegal for citizens to be in Cuba, but the spending of U.S. money there is considered illegal by the U.S. This may soon change because congress is trying to have this ban lifted.

Since the end of the Cold War, Cuba has been encouraging international travelers to visit. It has been effective and Cuba has become a vacation destination for many Europeans. If Americans are openly allowed to visit, this may become a problem for the small Cuban tourism industry.

There are many concerns about allowing a flood of Americans into this country. Prices which are already high may become higher. Lodging in Cuba is not plentiful and with an influx of new tourists, it will become even more scarce. Many ameneties that Americans consider standard fare such as bottled beer, fruit, french fries, in room coffee makers, internet etc are scarce at even at the best Cuban resorts. Even getting an extra roll of toilet paper can be a hard to do at times. Restaurants are small, taxis and rental cars are hard to find as well. The airports would not be able to handle the amount of flights coming and going from the U.S.. Cuban tourism may not be able to meet the demands of the American Tourist.

Many tourism industry experts feel that by opening Cuba to American tourism, a huge strain would be put on this small country. Cuba at this time is not massively overhauling its hotels and other hotspots at the prospect of millions of new visitors. Instead as tourism increases, the tourism infrastructure is following along behind.

If the ban is lifted, it will be very interesting to see the changes in Cuba. If millions of Americans flock to Cuba for vacations, there will be a definate impact on the people and resources of the country. If Americans are allowed to go to Cuba, American influence will follow as well. Which can be both good and bad.;_ylt=AtJXlI8X1lh8zcnjwphL7stvaA8F

photo of Havana

Friday, April 10, 2009

Soc blogs

Hey Unruly Ones, there are many other sociology blogs. I thought you would find some of them interesting. You can visit the ASA's Contexts page to find a list of blogs by professional sociologists linked with Contexts, one of ASA's best new publications: Some of my favorites are Sociological Images, Graphic Sociology, Contexts Podcasts. One of my photos is on Soc Images... can you find it? :) While you're cruising online, spend a few moments on the ASA website and read about sociology careers, grad schools, late-breaking issues, sociologists in the news, and other soc stuff.
ASCII pix above from

Sociological imagination

Unruly Ones, here is an article that I know you will find interesting. It is published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, April 10. I urge you to consider how YOU would use YOUR sociological imagination to analyze the anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, anti-Native beliefs that are prevalent in our community. In addition, consider how the sociological imagination is more important now than ever before, with otherwise right-thinking people looking for scapegoats upon which to heap the blame for failures of all sorts, especially economic and educational failures.


Private Troubles and Public Issues in the Classroom

I teach sociology at a small college in Suffolk County, on Long Island. Most of my students were born and raised here, and many of them are the first in their families to attend college. They live at home and commute to the campus each day by car. Products of the standardized test-taking ushered in by the No Child Left Behind mandate, they have learned to compartmentalize the knowledge they learn in class, memorizing definitions long enough to pass exams and discarding information not directly related to their intended careers. In other words, they are a tough crowd for a social-science professor.

To introduce them to the field of sociology and the concept of collective human interests, I always begin the course with a reading of C. Wright Mills's essay "The Promise," the introductory chapter of his 1959 book, The Sociological Imagination. He addresses a discipline he feels has become dominated by an "abstracted empiricism" that fetishizes facts and calculations and preaches value-neutrality and political disengagement in its attempt to secure scientific legitimacy. He urges readers to develop "the sociological imagination," which, he explains, allows them to recognize the relationship between private troubles and public issues — between biography and history — and to understand that the problems of individuals cannot be accounted for solely on the level of the personal. Without the sociological imagination, Mills says, people became trapped in their familiar worlds, incapable of understanding the social and structural dimensions of their own predicaments.

Recently I had the opportunity to bring the sociological imagination to life for my students in a way that I hope will bear fruit for them in the real world. Last November seven Suffolk County high-school students attacked and killed 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, in Patchogue, N.Y., about a mile from my college. Jeffrey Conroy, leader of the pack and the teenager who inflicted the fatal knife wound, was a popular student and star athlete at the local high school.

According to newspaper articles, Conroy and his friends had planned to go out drinking and find a Mexican to beat up that evening. Apparently that is not an unusual form of recreation for male high-school students in this county, where anti-immigrant sentiments run deep. By the late 1990s, about 1,500 Mexican workers had moved to the mostly white, middle-class town of Farmingville, pulled there by employment opportunities in the landscaping, restaurant, and construction industries that served the wealthier Long Island communities to the east.

A particularly vocal group of residents had organized Sachem Quality of Life — part vigilante group, part neighborhood association. SQL took a hard line on illegal immigrants and blamed the state and federal governments for failing to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into their community. They picketed and harassed laborers who gathered outside a local 7-Eleven waiting for potential employers. Group members complained of immigrants' living in crowded quarters, noise, stalled traffic, and feelings of discomfort when walking past large groups of Mexican men outside the 7-Eleven. They also feared that undocumented workers might commit crimes and then flee the community. The group rejected accusations of racism, but in 2001 it organized a Day of Truth, to which several speakers with strong ties to white-supremacist organizations were invited.

It is not surprising that Conroy and his friends, born and raised in this atmosphere of tension, developed anti-immigrant sentiments. But despite the community's history of hostility toward Latinos, and despite Conroy's status at his high school, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy explained that the attack on Mr. Lucero "wasn't a question of any county policy or legislation; it was a question of bad people doing horrific things" (emphasis mine).

As this horrible story unfolded, I invited my students, many of whom had personal ties to the perpetrators and their families, to practice the sociological imagination. Was this crime, I asked them, a public issue or a personal problem of the perpetrators? Could it be explained by the twisted psyche of a sociopath, or were history, community, and social structure at play?

To be sure, the students condemned the crime and agreed that Conroy's hostility toward immigrants must have been learned at home. But the sociological imagination required that we probe further, and so I pushed them. School authorities and families knew that high-school students occasionally harassed immigrants for entertainment, didn't they? Didn't the fact that those behaviors and attitudes were tolerated, if not condoned, by local adults undermine Levy's contention that the boys responsible for the murder were just bad seeds?

Teaching the sociological imagination is difficult. Many students have trouble understanding the connection between things like social mobility, crime, divorce, and unemployment and the larger social structure. That conceptual block is not surprising. The myth that individual motivation, talent, hard work, and a little bit of luck conquer all odds is central to American values and culture. Virtually all of what sociologists call the "agencies of socialization" tell us that wealth, fame, and power are within one's grasp if only one plays the game right (cheating is allowed). Part of playing the game right is to renounce the social impulse in favor of individual interests. Indeed, to many of my students, descended from Irish and Italian immigrants who achieved the American dream through the sweat of their brows, the myth looks real. The circumstances that gave white, working-class people upward mobility through low-cost suburban housing and jobs in manufacturing are occluded by the narrative of heroic individualism that frames their success as a personal rather than historical achievement.

The students were eager to talk. The sociological imagination seemed to function for them as a kind of social therapy. One woman said she felt uncomfortable walking past groups of Mexican men. Another student challenged her, asking if she would feel nervous if the men were white. Upon reflection, she admitted that she would not. Others insisted that they objected to the immigrant workers on the grounds that they were "illegal." When I pointed out that many of these "illegal" workers had fled north because of dismal conditions in their own countries resulting from trade policies that benefited U.S. businesses at the expense of workers in Mexico, we discussed the difference between "legal" and "ethical."

We also explored immigration from the perspective of culture and loss. What must it be like, some students wondered, to leave your country, family, language, and culture for a community in which you are treated as less than human? "Things must have been pretty bad at home to do that," one student observed.

From our class discussion of Lucero's death, I moved on to a more conventional lecture on issues such as institutional racism, theories of prejudice and scapegoating, and the centrality of immigrant labor in the global economy. The students seemed more attentive, probably because they could now see how abstract sociological concepts related to their everyday world. As a class, we were able to bring private trouble into the light of public analysis.

C. Wright Mills believed that the promise of sociology could not be fulfilled through academic exercise. The sense of anger and powerlessness that our failing economy will continue to bring to large swaths of our population may result in a rise in hate crimes, scapegoating, and other forms of social chaos. Teaching the next generation how to practice the sociological imagination is more crucial now than ever.

Julia Rothenberg is an assistant professor of sociology at St. Joseph's College, in Patchogue, N.Y.
Chronicle of Higher Education, April 10, 2009
photo of C. Wright Mills from
photo of Marcelo Lucero's funeral procession from
photo of Sachem Quality of Life demonstration from
photo of Jose Lucero, the victim's brother, and friend

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Not A Racist Anymore

Elwin Wilson a 72 year old man from South Carolina is seeking forgiveness for his racist actions over the long course of his life. He has harassed and insulted black people for many years of his life. During the civil rights movement, he was a part of groups trying to break up lunch counter sit ins and other nonviolent protests. He burned crosses, hung nooses and has thrown things at black people. In 1961, during the freedom rides, Mr. Wilson brutally beat a black man at a bus stop. However in the late 70’s and eighties, Mr. Wilson worked with black people and even attended a former all black college. His anger had died down somewhat but that hate was always lurking underneath he says. It was not uncommon for Mr. Wilson to insult and harass black people as late as 1999. When asked about where his racist views came from in the first place; he says that it must have been the people he hung around with; it was like a sport Mr Wilson said. According to Mr. Wilson, it wasn’t his parents doing; they treated everyone equal he says.

Now at age 72 and rather sick, Mr. Wilson says that his hate has all gone away, and he feels remorse about actions over the years. Mr. Wilson cites religion as a major factor in his change of thinking. It was after the presidential inauguration that Mr. Wilson decided to start apologizing to those he has insulted or hurt. So Since January Mr. Wilson has been spending much time publicly and personally apologizing to all those people. Included in this group is the man that he beat in 1961. The man that Mr. Wilson beat is civil right leader John Lewis who is currently a congressman from Georgia. Many have met with and accepted his apologies including Mr. Lewis. There are some that preferred not to and question his motives for apologizing.

Mr. Wilson became a racist during the 1960’s and events of the civil rights movement. He lived in an area of the country that was clearly divided along two lines at that time. He got so caught up with racism and hate of that time period; it became a part of his belief system. Today society has changed a great deal and so has Mr. Wilson. Racism is embedded in the structure of our society and we have a long way to go before it is gone. While Mr. Wilson cites religion has a reason for changing his views. But, if the society and culture of where Mr Wilson lived helped to create his racist attitudes, then it may have played an important role in changing his mind about it as well.
photo of Wilson apologizing to Rep. Lewis from

Friday, April 3, 2009

QWERTY Cell Phones Dominate

In my quick check of technology updates (which included a WiiMote-operated lawn mower...) I came across something that was very interesting not just from the sociological perspective, but also very pertinent to our research! Apparently, the biggest cellphone trade show happened this week in Las Vegas and there were some interesting developments. Apparently, the QWERTY (keyboard-style) cellphone has overtaken the numeric keypad that mimicks normal telephones. Why? The demand for cellphones that are more text-message friendly has gone up much higher in North America, where there were three times the amount of text-messages sent in 2008 than 2007. At this same trade show was the first economy priced QWERTY-based cell phone, all in hopes of making text message friendly phones more affordable.
The other big move in cellphone technology was towards cellphones with touch screens, with the majority of cellphones coming out having either touch screen or QWERTY pads or both.

Here's the article:

Hope you find it as fascinating as I did. And don't go craving those new models too much!
photo from

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

AKD and Sociology Club Meeting

Yodles everyone!

There will be a meeting on Thursday April 2 to discuss AKD activities and potential summer research opportunities at 2PM in our Capstone classroom. If you're interested, Dr. Arthur will be there to mediate and we were going to throw around some ideas about what we could do with the club. We don't want it to just sit there unused. Besides, being involved and actually producing something, like a paper, will make you feel good, make the community feel good, and will look good on your resume, too! (I know, it's cheesy)

Some things we were thinking about:

- Start a statewide/nationwide (depending on how computer literate we are) petition to the Japanese government urging them to aplogize and/or compensate the 50-80,000 Japanese comfort women who were raped, beaten, and killed during Japan's invasion of China.

- A summer research paper that we could possibly present at Pacific Sociology Association meeting with our cell phone paper next spring! We need something managable and possibly local.

- We want ideas! If all you can do is respond to this post and chime in some ideas, that would be extremely helpful as well because ANY help is always appreciated.

Thanks everyone,
Have a good Thursday!

Tanabata and Sociologigi