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Posts Tagged ‘inequality’

Using Analogies: How Inequalities Create Inequality

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

This Lesson Outline is designed (yes, really) as a kind of skeleton structure you can flesh-out with ideas and information as and how you see fit. In other words, while it provides a basic structure for a lesson it doesn’t necessarily tell you what to teach, which means it’s not something you can just take off-the-shelf and use “as is”. Having said that, it does make for something that’s adaptable to a range of different lessons.

Most, admittedly, centred around notions of poverty and social inequality, but, hey, you can’t have everything.

Preamble…

I’ve previously drawn attention to the usefulness of analogies in sociology teaching (Using Analogies in Sociology, Teaching Perspectives: Society is Like, Different types of Society), most-latterly in relation to how we can think about social mobility, moving away from a conventional “ladder analogy” towards one – climbing a mountain – that I think better reflects both the daily reality of social mobility and how it can be conceptualised for students in terms of both:

  • social action: the idea that mobility can have an individual dimension, one that reflects, for example, both the ability to rise above different types and degrees of disadvantage through a single-minded determination to succeed (upward mobility) or the inability to exploit the advantages of a privileged family and background (downward mobility).
  • This dimension, while important to keep in mind because it reflects the idea of individuals struggling to come-to-terms with – and sometimes overcoming – the problems created by societal forces largely beyond their individual ability to control, leads into the concept of:

  • social structures: the idea there are social forces surrounding the individual that place barriers in the path of their mobility, or indeed open-up gateways to such mobility. These forces – economic, political and cultural – can be brought to life for students through the mountain-climbing analogy.
  • This dimension is important because concepts like social mobility, poverty and social inequality are frequently conceptualised in our culture in terms of “individuals” standing-apart in glorious isolation from the economic, political and cultural backgrounds against which their lives are framed. These concepts, in other words, are frequently individualised – lack of mobility or poverty, for example, is framed in terms of individual failings – and the role of social structures systematically downplayed.

    We can see this most clearly in relation to the “ladder analogy” of social mobility, where “the ladder” is simply conceived as a neutral mechanism for climbing up-or-down the social scale – and since it neither hinders nor facilitates mobility, the ability to climb up or down is reduced to something like individual determination or motivation.

    If we replace this with a more realistic “mountain analogy” the reverse is true: movement up-or-down the social scale is hindered, blocked or facilitated by a wide range of structural factors – and this is where we can develop the analogy slightly to take-in concepts of poverty and social inequality.

    And to understand how this occurs we can use the analogy to construct a couple of thought experiments that can be carried-out either face-to-face in a classroom or, particularly useful in these Covid times, online.

    Setting the Scene…

    Sociological Insights: A Curated Collection of ASA Videos

    Thursday, February 18th, 2021

    The American Sociological Association seems to take a genuine interest in the study of sociology at all levels – from the humble High School classroom to the rarefied strata of postgraduate specialisms – and their latest initiative is the creation of what they’ve called Sociological Insights:

    A curated collection of short videos, featuring sociologists sharing their expertise on some of the most pressing topics today”.

    Sociological Insights…

    And while these sociologists are, as you might expect, uniformly drawn from the ranks of American Academia and the “pressing topics” are resolutely focused on those most-pertinent to Americans and American Society – from privatised Health Care, through Evangelical Christianity, to gun crime and Black experiences of discrimination – this doesn’t mean the films don’t have value for Non-North American’s (as the rest of the world is known. Probably. I haven’t actually checked).

    On the contrary, there’s enough sociological content within each film to enable those outside the American purview to look past the specific-specifics in order to embrace and apply the more general principles involved across 6 broad categories of film:

    1. Criminal Justice encompasses illegal drug markets, the police and racism, racialised police misconduct and mass incarceration.

    2. Poverty touches on areas like food insecurity and the working poor.

    3. Environment covers areas like poverty and environmental harm and the politics of climate change.

    4. Gender – probably the most-accessible for non-American audiences – looks at gender inequality in the home, the complexity of gender identity and how “women are challenging traditional gender norms in the craft beer scene”.

    5. Technology and Aging involves online dating amongst the elderly and social networks for seniors.

    6. Miscellaneous includes the gun control debate, religiosity in America, Hate Crime, Health Care and immigration.

    The format is pretty standardised across all of the films: American sociologist talking to camera about their research interspersed with film to illustrate their ideas and arguments.

    And all in under 3 minutes.

    Sociology Texts: Another Big Bundle of Free

    Sunday, February 14th, 2021

    One of the things we like to do on this blog is discover and post orphaned sociology textbooks – as in texts published sometime this century that have either gone out of print or been superseded by later, bigger, more-colourful, All-Singing-All-Dancing versions – for the benefit of teachers and students in these straitened economic times.

    I like to think we’re giving these texts something of a new lease of life because even though they’ve been replaced by a newer version, much of the information they contain doesn’t suddenly become irrelevant or worthless – you just need to be aware that using slightly older texts can have a few potential downsides:

    1. Specifications change, both in terms of the Modules they cover and their content. Twenty years ago, for example, AQA included a Module on Power and Politics that has long-since disappeared from exams and textbooks.

    2. Statistical data does go quickly out-of-date and is likely to be more current in tater versions of texts. Against this, keep in mind that statistical data in even the latest versions of textbooks is likely to be 2 – 3 years out-of-date by the time a text is authored and published. Against this, textbooks aren’t a particularly great statistical resource anymore when all the most up-to-the-minute stats are freely available at the press of a few mouse clicks…

    3. Research cited in older texts may have been questioned or disproved by the time later texts are published and this is clearly a drawback as far as teaching is concerned. The extent to which this is actually a problem, given the texts republished here are, at most, 20 years old (i.e. they just about squeeze into contemporary definitions of, well, “contemporary”) is something you need to consider before using them.

    Free the texts…

    GCSE Sociology Resources

    Monday, January 13th, 2020
    Culture and Socialisation Study Guide
    Study Guide

    Although iGCSE Sociology is a different exam to the conventional GCSE Sociology studied in the majority of English schools, the Specification content is very similar for both in terms of the general areas studied (Inequality, Family, Methods and so forth) and the specific content studied within each area.

    This, as you may be starting to suspect, is quite convenient given that I’ve recently stumbled across a range of iGCSE resources (Study Guides, PowerPoint Presentations and Word-based Notes) that GCSE teachers and students should find very useful.

    And free.

    Never neglect the value of free.

    The resources seem to have been assembled by Theresa Harvey and while they’re generally a few years old (the date range seems to be 2008 – 2014) I’ve no doubt you’ll find at least some of them useful.

    See the resources…

    Visual Sociology: Picturing Inequality

    Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

    Equality of Opportunity?

    As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of using graphic material (pictures and illustrations rather than examples of extreme physical violence) to both illustrate sociological ideas and encourage students to think a little more deeply about such ideas and how they can be applied to increase their depth of sociological knowledge and understanding. I’ve tried to use this technique to good effect in:

    • blog posts – visualising strain theory is a particular favourite
    • teaching – one of my favourite “visual lessons” was to use optical illusions to introduce and illustrate the idea of different sociological approaches – how could people look at the same thing (“society”) yet see it so differently?
    • my work as a video producer.

    In this respect my argument is that the right picture can be a simple and evocative way of getting students to both understand and think about the ramifications of certain ideas across a range of sociological areas:

    • Education and differential achievement.
    • Deviance and rates of arrest / imprisonment.
    • Social inequality and various forms of discrimination.
    • Theory and concepts like economic, cultural and social capital.

    The picture above, for example, can be used to get students to think beyond relatively simple and straightforward ideas about class, gender or ethic discrimination (it’s morally wrong…) in order to explore more complex sociological ideas about the concept of equality of opportunity: what, for example, does it really mean and can it be used by powerful groups to actually embed greater inequality into social structures?

    (more…)

    Family Relocation: A Neglected Dimension of Power?

    Saturday, October 28th, 2017

    When looking at power relationships within families there are a number of fairly-obvious areas – such as domestic labour and violence (both physical and sexual) – that tend to receive most of the critical focus at A-level. While not suggesting this “dark side of the family” is somehow unimportant, insignificant or unworthy of so much attention, an over-concentration on these “manifest and obvious” displays of power can result in other, perhaps more-subtle, examples of power imbalances being overlooked. This is particularly the case where power relationships become a little more complicated, messy and not so clearly bound-up in relations of individual, physical, domination and subordination.

    One such area relates to work and family relocation for dual-earner families where decisions have to be made about whose work has the greatest priority when, for example, the family needs to move. Hardill (2003), for example, found women were more likely to be the ‘trailing spouse’ in this relationship: male occupations had greater priority and the family relocated to follow male employment patterns.

    While this type of research is interesting and suggestive, a further question to consider is whether these types of decision-making are indicative of greater male status and higher levels of power within the family group, rather than simply reflecting male-female economic differences in wider society. (more…)

    7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 7: Cards, Cakes and Class

    Monday, October 3rd, 2016

    sim_cakesThe final offering in what no-one’s calling “The Wonderful Week of Sims” is designed to give students practical experience of social inequality based on the unequal distribution of economic resources (wealth) – the eponymous “cake” of the title. While this can be an end in itself – a central part of the sim is the physical segregation of students within the same classroom – it can also be the building block for an examination of the possible consequences of such inequality.

    (more…)

    Visualising Class Structures

    Sunday, September 18th, 2016

    class_coverVisualising Class Structures is a PowerPoint Presentation, designed for whole-class teaching, that features visual representations of ten different class structures / variations,  accompanied by some of the key ideas involved in each classification. Brief background Notes for teachers are also included with each slide.

    The current presentation has been updated (2019) to include Savage’s “7 Class Model”, most notable for its introduction of the “Precariat” and construction around 3 types of capital (economic, social and cultural). 

    There’s also now a further updated version available that features a user-friendly menu system (see below).

    The slides are intended to be a visual backdrop teachers can use to introduce / discuss different class structures: from the classic Pyramid or Pentagon, through Neo-Marxist relational structures to contemporary (a little bit postmodern) idea like Polarised Convergence and Flatlining.

    Update

    Click to download Menu-based Presentation
    Now with Added Menu!

    The original Presentation was simply a set of slides you advanced one after the other, something that was functional but limited. If you didn’t want to discuss particular types of class structure you either had to manually edit them out of the Presentation or click-on-through until you reached the slide you wanted to discuss.

    While, quite frankly, this was no biggie, I thought it might be helpful to add a menu to the Presentation so that you can select the slides you want your students to see.

    To make the menu less intrusive, you can make it appear as-and-when it’s needed (just click the star at the top of the screen to make it appear, click inside the menu box to make it disappear).

    Weekly Digest

    Thursday, May 12th, 2016

    All the links that caught our eye this past week in one handy post…

    Sociology

    Education

    Methods in Context Mark Scheme

    Government backs down over plan to make all schools academies

    Thousands of supply teachers could lose out on more than £200 a month owing to changes to tax relief rules

    Professionalisation of governance: “Without parent governors, schools face uphill battle to engage families”

    The impact of longer school days

    I’ve seen the future and it doesn’t look good: “I Teach At A For-Profit College: 5 Ridiculous Realities”

    Students who use digital devices in class ‘perform worse in exams’

    Genes that influence how long you stay in education uncovered by study

    Crime

    Manchester’s Heroin Haters – Vigilante violence?

    Insecure working as social harm? Some thoughts on theorising low paid service work from a harm perspective

    Revealed: London’s new violent crime hotspots

    Chief Constable confirms election expenses probe involves 2 Cornish MPs, and his own boss

    Street crime resources

    Extending the Web: “Legal highs brought low as councils use banning orders to curb use”

    Tough talk on crime has led to a crisis in Britain’s prisons

    Corporate / White-collar crime “David Cameron to introduce new corporate money-laundering offence”

    Wealth, Poverty, Welfare

    Poverty by Design? “Sink estates are not sunk – they’re starved of funding”

    Top 25 hedge fund managers earned $13bn in 2015 – more than some nations

    Media

    18 Baffling Tropes Hollywood Can’t Stop Using

    Selling Shame: 40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Woman Would Find Offensive | Mental Floss UK

    The General Strike to Corbyn: 90 years of BBC establishment bias

    How to Fabricate Front Page News

    Social Inequality

    Class, Culture and Education – a good discussion piece for students: “Why working-class actors are a disappearing breed”

    Example of different type of discrimination: “Blacklisted workers win £10m payout from construction firms”

    Tax havens have no economic justification, say top economists

    A Sandwich and a Milkshake? Interesting discussion point for UK inequality / tax cuts for wealthy

    Methods

    Statistical Artefact: Useful research Methods example “Fewer people die in hospital at weekends, study finds”

    Family

    Childhood / sexualistion  /media: “Magazine under fire for swimsuit tips for pre-teen girls”

    Psychology

    Epigenetics: “Identical twins may have more differences than meet the eye”

    Esteller study: “How epigenetics affects twins” | The Scientist Magazine

    The uses and misuses of “growth mindset”

    Miscellaneous

    The way you’re revising may let you down in exams – and here’s why

    A psychologist reveals his tips for effective revision

    Britain at a glance – lots of lovely data in easy-to-read formats!

    How to create better study habits that work for you

    Sociology Review

    Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

    Like its A-level Psychology counterpart, Sociology Review offers good-quality articles and support materials designed to help students gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of both Sociology and the requirements of the A-level exam.

    The publishers, Hodder Education, have started to develop a strong web presence for the print magazine, part of which involves offering some nice freebies related to each issue’s content, which you can check-out here:

    Sample Magazine – actually, if you know where to look (and we do…), 4 free online sample magazines with articles based around the following themes:

    1. Family
    2. Culture and Identity
    3. Globalisation and Inequality
    4. Crime

    Free Resources  include activities, supplementary notes, posters and podcasts (but, unlike our more-privileged psychological cousins, there are no short video clips).

    Social Inequality: applying cultural and economic capital

    Friday, March 27th, 2015

    airbagYou may be familiar with Robert Putnam’s ideas about social capital (“Bowling Alone”), where he argues that a key feature of late modern societies is the breakdown of large-scale, organised, social networks (such as political parties, trade unions and the like).

    His latest work – Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, 2015 – features an intriguing and interesting idea that can be slotted into exam answers whenever you need to reference and explain social inequalities.

    Putnam uses the concept of “social air bags” to argue affluent groups are able to protect their children from the consequences of their behaviour in ways that are rarely open to poorer social groups; just as an air bag may protect you from the consequences of a car crash, “social air bags” can protect you from the consequences of various social collisions – from finding yourself in trouble with the law to making sure you don’t fall behind at school.

    In a nutshell, the concept relates to the various ways some social groups are better-placed to use their higher levels of cultural and economic capital to protect their children from the potentially negative consequences of their life choices.

    Meritocracy: Putting it Bluntly?

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

    The recent public spat between Chris Bryant MP and singer-songwriter James Blunt about the “over-representation” of rich, white, males in the Arts provides a neat and interesting backdrop to the concept of meritocracy.

    Is it just a question of “cream rising to the top” – or does it involve more-complex ideas about inequality and privilege?

    If you want to take things a little further, the article can also be used to consider Functionalist (Davis-Moore thesis) and Neo-functionalist (Saunders) arguments and refutations.

    7 days of social science research: free films

    Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

    Although they’re now a few years old (made around 2012) these short (5 – 6 minute) films from the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) are loosely based around an interesting conceit – a children’s nursery rhyme – that’s used as brief introductions to a range of topics:

    Monday’s child is fair of face: image and identity

    Tuesday’s child is full of grace: charity

    Wednesday’s child is full of woe: poverty and inequality

    Thursday’s child has far to go: migration

    Friday’s child is loving and giving: family and relationships

    Saturday’s child works hard for a living: work and employment

    And the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe, and good and gay (“gay”, in this context, refers to the original meaning of the word: “happy” – hence happiness and wellbeing.

    Ethnicity: Free Films

    Monday, July 28th, 2014

    These four short films from the University of Manchester focus on two broad aspects of ethnicity – identity and inequality – that might serve as interesting introductions / discussion starters.

    We need to find a new way to talk about ethnicity (4 minutes) looks at the history of multi-ethnic diversity in Britain in the context of contemporary globalising processes – and what “ethnicity” means in a globalising world.

    Is Britain becoming more segregated? (4 minutes) looks at ideas about diversity and tolerance coupled with segregation and intolerance. It argues that the evidence suggests that far from becoming “more ethnically clustered and segregated” the reverse is true. Britain is slowly becoming less ethnically clustered and less ethnically segregated. The film also discusses the implications for ethnic tolerance this gradual change may create.

    Ethnic inequalities and employment in austerity Britain (4 minutes) discusses recent research into ethnic group (majority and minority) employment across dimensions like gender and how various forms of ethnic discrimination impact on employment and unemployment.

    The impact of ethnic inequalities on health (3 minutes) looks at how social and economic inequalities impact (disproportionately) on ethnic groups in the field of health – particularly mental health.

    Social Inequality: Missing the Bus?

    Saturday, April 19th, 2014
    All aboard?

    Grasping the full extent of social inequality on a global scale can be a daunting prospect, but Oxfam have made things slightly easier by using a double-decker bus analogy to help students get to grips with the full extent of global wealth disparities…

    The world’s wealthiest people aren’t known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.

    If you want to explore global wealth inequality in a little more depth without delving into the minutiae of multiple three-dimensional Spreadsheets (or something like that), these three Guardian Reports might help:

    2014: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world

    2017: World’s eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%

    2019: World’s 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%