Thursday, February 01, 2007


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.

1 comment:

Marie said...

I think it's important to have a welfare system, both practically and morally, but I do think that it's unfortunate it can't run more the way that the LDS church's welfare system is run. My bro served his mission in poor suburban areas around Pittsburgh, among entire communities of able-bodied people who had been on welfare for multiple generations. It was all they had known, and they had no sense of the self-assurance to be gained by getting off the dole. I don't know what the solution is, though, because there are so many with legitimate needs, and weeding out the parasites is difficult to do on a large scale, especially when you worry that lazy parents might let their children go without if you don't hand them a check each month.

I also really liked the last point. I grew up in a shabbier neighborhood with the occasional drug bust, but my mother always reminded us that we were still among the very richest people on earth. For the most part, she convinced us, though we did occasionally get tired of the hand-me-downs from the older cousins. We always had doctors when we needed them, simple but healthy food, and a good education despite the rundown high school. There is a huge difference between true poverty and not being able to afford basic cable. Most Americans have plenty to spare for the poor (myself included), but there's always a new must-have gadget howling at the door.

Enrich Your Word Power!

Word of the Day
Quote of the Day

This Day in History