This is the week my Intro Sociology class begins talking about social stratification. It's always interesting to hear what the students have to say about the division of "haves" and "have nots" in our society. Even though I teach the course online and never see their faces, I can get a real sense of them beginning to squirm with some of the discussion posting I read.
These are the questions we're working on this week:
WELFARE - Poverty in America is a serious social problem. Various explanations have been given for why there are so many poor in a nation as rich as ours. One perception is that our government’s welfare system has robbed people of their sense of self-determination, creating a generation of able-bodied people who expect a hand-out rather than being willing to work. Others claim that a just and compassionate government must provide a safety net for its citizens, particularly in light of the shifting economy, which offers so few family-wage jobs. Do you believe our current welfare system is more functional or dysfunctional for our nation? Why?
SOCIAL MOBILITY - To what extent to you believe it is possible for someone from a lower class background to move up in society to become upper class if he or she is determined to do so and works very hard at it? What factors would you consider most important if a person wants to shift his/her position in society? What factors might serve as barriers to such a change?
ABSOLUTE POVERTY VS RELATIVE DEPRIVATION - Because there is such great wealth in the hands of some in the U.S., and a great deal of commercial exposure to the range of material goods available, those who live modestly may feel poor even if all their basic needs are met. Different people have different ideas about what standard of living is “good enough” for them. What has had the greatest impact on how you feel about your own material circumstances in relation to that of your community and/or other family members? What factors do you believe have the greatest impact on whether or not a person will feel satisfied with what they have?
I thought I'd toss out those same questions here and see if any of my blogger buddies might care to venture an opinion.