Social Inequalities

The purpose of these papers is to gain a deeper understanding of course readings as you analyze them, integrate them with each other and the material from lecture. The first two papers follow the same format, so you can incorporate comments and suggestions from the first paper into the second. Each paper should focus on 3-4 readings from one topic area of the course. You are free to choose the ones you want to write about; readings from the beginning of the semester through the due date of the paper are appropriate for this assignment. For example, for the first paper, choose readings from the beginning of the semester up until the first paper is due. For the second paper, choose readings from between the due dates of the first and second papers. You will probably find it easier if you choose readings that focus on one theme, such as race in the U.S., U.S. social classes, labor markets, education, etc. You can stick to the broad topics areas that are defined on the syllabus, i.e. “labor markets”, or pick and choose readings from different weeks and relate them to a consistent theme. The readings you select should be from the required reading list on the syllabus (not recommended). If you choose to bring in outside readings, these would be in addition to, not instead of, three or four readings from class. The first part of the paper should introduce and briefly summarize the readings you have chosen. In your first paragraph, state which readings you will discuss, and introduce the points you will be making about them. For example, will you compare and contrast the different perspectives the readings offer about X? Will you discuss questions you have about Y (something specific pertaining to the selected readings)? Good papers will provide a clear introduction of what the paper is about. Follow with a brief summary of each reading, with attention to the main points you will emphasize about the reading later on in the paper. Try to make this part about 1/3 of the total paper. Writing a concise summary is a challenging skill because it requires that you have a good understanding of the reading itself—as such, the length of the summary portion of the paper will be considered in your grade. The rest of the paper should consist of a discussion of the readings integrated with your own thoughts and questions, expanding on what you said you would write about in the introduction. Strive to bring together ideas from the readings with the lecture material and your own analysis and insight. Students often have a personal reaction to some of the readings. You may bring in a relevant personal experience at the end of the paper, but take care to ensure that this does not dominate the paper, or substitute for analysis. A paragraph or two at the end of the paper is usually appropriate. The second “analysis” part of the paper should consist of one of the following: Compare and contrast. What do the readings have in common? How are they different? Do you think one is more or less convincing than the other about a specific point or explanation? Why? Be sure to note similarities and differences. Relate to other materials from outside class. Make and explain connections between the readings and/or lectures and materials or information you saw outside of class. Explaining how class materials are relevant and can shed light on current events and/or political controversies is a good strategy. For example, you could ask, what would Z (specific author) argue about A (some event or controversy) given what you have read of their work? Ask questions and critically evaluate. This sounds simple, but is the most challenging to do well. You might start by looking for gaps, or by pointing out strengths and weaknesses of the author’s argument. Be sure to support why you think one part of the argument is weak or strong. Explain why your critique is important. Think about the counter-argument to what you are arguing. Be sure to make your critique about the author’s argument, not about the subject itself. What questions did the reading bring up for you? Is there something that the reading neglected to address? Why is it important? What are alternative points of view? Can you critique the reading on methodological grounds? This is reading list Course Schedule*: INTRODUCTION, Aug. 24 Readings: Reich, R. (2011) “Why Inequality is the Real Cause of Our Ongoing Terrible Economy” ,Sept. 4, 2011 Murray, C. (2012) “The New American Divide”. Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2012 Week 1: Aug. 27, 29, 31 INEQUALITY FROM A SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE– a portrait of economic inequality in the U.S., classic theories of inequality Readings: Scott, J. & Leonhardt, D. 2005. “Shadowy Lines that Still Divide”. New York Times, May 15, 2005 Article 1 of the “Class Matters” series (online) Weber, M. in The Essential Weber, a Reader. Ed. Sam Whimster. (2004). “Status Groups and Classes” and “The distribution of power in society: classes, status groups and parties.” Pp. 176-194

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