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Butler Community College
Dennis Anderson
Behavioral Science, Math, Science, 
and Physical Education Division
Fall 1995


BS110 Contemporary Social Problems. 3 hours credit. A study of selected serious problems facing the American and global societies in which we live. The problems discussed include war, population dynamics, environmental issues, urban problems, inequality, crime, family level problems, and health care.

Soroka, Michael P. and Bryjak, George J., Social Problems: A World at Risk. Prentice Hall, 1995.

At the completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. formulate a sound basis for assessing both the dimensions and the prognoses for social problems in their own society by examining similar problems in other societies.
  2. synthesize and form a basic understanding of the main sociological perspectives.
  3. develop an understanding of conflict and war and evaluate the cold war and its aftermath.
  4. examine the dynamics of population, the environment, and development.
  5. analyze the different ways in which people act, feel, think, and define their situations based on their sex, social class, age, ethnic group, geographic region, family or nationality.
  6. identify fundamental patterns of conflict that are present in social life on the interpersonal level and among groups and nations.
  7. begin to interpret some of the underlying causes of what we call social problems and to see how sociological data enter into policy decisions.
  8. assemble a basic understanding of the various terms used in the sociological arena.
  9. process the major contributions of the leading sociologists and their impact on the discipline.
  10. investigate and become a more informed consumer of social science data.
  11. transform and improve writing skills for better expression of our analyses of social life.
Preface and Introduction
Chapter 1. The Sociology of Social Problems
The student will be able to:
  1. appraise how social problems affect the development of the field of sociology.
  2. define the difference between a natural problem and a social problem.
  3. indicate in what sense all social problems are subjective in nature.
  4. explain why it is impossible to engage in a completely scientific study of social problems.
  5. paraphrase the social pathology interpretation of social problems.
  6. define and provide examples of cultural lag.
  7. contrast the difference between a manifest dysfunction and a latent dysfunction.
  8. comprehend from a Marxist conflict perspective what is the underlying cause of social problems in any society.
  9. illustrate how non-Marxist conflict theorists explain social problems in modern societies.
  10. evaluate the main argument of the social constructionist interpretation of social problems.
  11. differentiate from the labeling theory perspective, the difference between primary deviance and secondary deviance.
Part One - Global Level Problems
Chapter 2. The World at War: Apocalypse Now
The student will be able to:
  1. tabulate how many people have been killed in wars fought around the world since 1900. Translate why conflicts in this period of history have been especially deadly.
  2. describe the major symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  3. specify during the 1980's how much the nations of the world spent each year for military purposes.
  4. outline the major explanations for why nations go to war with one another.
  5. list the major explanations of war crimes.
  6. explain the most significant problems associated with dismantling and controlling nuclear weapons.
  7. identify which countries are involved in the new arms race. Detail what can be done to halt the arms buildup in these countries.
  8. predict the problems associated with the economic conversion of a country heavily dependent on arms production. Define what is the so-called peace dividend.
  9. compare how future wars will differ from conventional wars.
  10. state what terrorism is. Describe a "terrorist personality". Point out strategies that have been successful in combating terrorist activities.
  11. predict whether or not a lasting peace can be achieved in the modern world, why or why not. Discuss what steps the world community can take to bring about the end of international conflict.
Chapter 3. Population Dynamics: Too Many and Too Few People
The student will be able to:
  1. analyze the three stages of the demographic transition.
  2. identify the two groups of people primarily responsible for much of the environmental damage taking place in the world today. Contrast the types of behavior these individuals engage in that is so destructive.
  3. locate the region of the world where the problem of hunger is most severe and ascertain why.
  4. investigate why the economist and clergyman Thomas Malthus is referred to as the "Parson of Doom".
  5. indicate what the Green Revolution is. Identify where it has been most successful. Generate some of the undesirable latent consequences of this revolution.
  6. describe what the Biotechnology Revolution is. Estimate if this revolution can solve the problem of world hunger.
  7. evaluate which strategies have been most successful on reducing fertility in Third World nations.
  8. define what is meant by population implosion. Identify in what region of the world is this phenomenon occurring. Indicate the short- and long- term consequences of this event.
  9. examine the "push" and "pull" factors, and appraise how they are related to migration.
  10. contrast the major arguments of both the anti-immigration and the pro-immigration movements.
Chapter 4. Environmental Problems: Trashing the Planet
The student will be able to:
  1. deduce why with so much of the earth's surface is covered by water, why has water depletion become such a problem in the modern world.
  2. identify what the major sources or causes of land and soil depletion are in the contemporary world.
  3. indicate why fossil fuels such as oil and coal are being depleted so rapidly.
  4. list the factors which have led to the decline of nuclear power as a replacement for conventional fossil fuels.
  5. compare what have been the main barriers to the widespread commercial use of wind, geothermal, solar, and other alternative energy sources.
  6. state what have been the major causes of acid rain and ozone depletion.
  7. describe what the greenhouse effect is, and detail why this phenomenon is a matter of great controversy.
  8. generate a list of factors which have been responsible for the creation of so much solid waste in the contemporary world.
  9. specify why toxic waste has become such an enormous problem in most developed societies.
  10. evaluate what specific characteristics of radioactive or nuclear waste make these materials perhaps the most serious waste problem facing the contemporary world.

Part Two - Societal Level Problems
Chapter 5. Urban Problems: Cities Under Siege
The student will be able to:

  1. pronounce what you think is the most severe problem facing the urban United States today.
  2. examine what the culture-of-poverty position is regarding the problem of chronic urban poverty. Describe the concentration-effects explanation of William Julius Wilson.
  3. grasp how the suburbs have contributed to the nation's urban problems.
  4. analyze why gang violence has increased in so many U.S. cities over the past few years.
  5. point out the major explanations for urban riots.
  6. identify what group makes up the fastest-growing segment of the urban homeless population. Examine what the major causes of homelessness are in the United States. Contrast whether or not if homelessness is a problem in any other developed nations.
  7. detail the major characteristics of the global city.
  8. define what is meant by enterprise zones. Extrapolate if these zones can help bring about economic recovery in the poorest neighborhoods of the nation's most financially troubled cities.
  9. describe who are the new immigrants to the United States. Indicate where they come from. Explain why they decide to come to this country.
  10. designate what are the major problems facing cities in the developing world.
Chapter 6. Inequality and Poverty: Chasing the Dream
The student will be able to:
  1. ascertain why social inequality is most often measured in terms of economic differences among people of societies.
  2. compare the difference between income and wealth as measures of economic standing.
  3. illustrate how the corporation has affected economic inequalities in industrial and postindustrial societies.
  4. describe what is meant by the concept political economy.
  5. explain what factors have contributed to the loss of so many traditional blue-collar jobs in contemporary societies.
  6. specify how corporate mergers have affected white-collar occupations in developed societies.
  7. investigate how formal education has contributed to increasing inequality in many contemporary societies.
  8. define what the world system theory is.
  9. differentiate between absolute poverty and relative poverty.
  10. analyze the three main perspectives concerning the causes of poverty in contemporary societies.
  11. point out the connection between race and poverty in the United States.
  12. appraise why the current workfare programs are not likely to reduce poverty in the United States to any great extent.
Chapter 7. Problems of Race and Ethnicity: The Melting Pot Boils Over
The student will be able to:
  1. indicate the difference between a racial group and an ethnic group.
  2. illustrate in what sense is it true that race is a social creation.
  3. contrast the differences between majority groups and minority groups.
  4. explain how de jure discrimination differs from de facto discrimination.
  5. describe in what ways discrimination is different from prejudice.
  6. paraphrase the distinction between assimilation and multiculturalism.
  7. extrapolate in what ways the collapse of political empires such as the Soviet Union has affected racial and ethnic group relation in the modern world.
  8. define what is meant by so-called ethnic cleansing.
  9. specify what are indigenous peoples.
  10. reconstruct what was the "melting pot".
  11. analyze how the historical experience of slavery has affected relations between African Americans and Whites in the modern United States.
  12. translate why Latino immigration is regarded as a serious problem by many Anglos in the United States today.
  13. investigate how recent immigrants from Southeast Asia differ from earlier Asian immigrants from China and Japan.
Chapter 8. Inequalities of Sex and Gender: The Longest War
The student will be able to:
  1. differentiate between sex and gender.
  2. deduce how gender stereotypes shape the lives of women and men in societies such as the United States.
  3. compare the difference between gender assignment and gender socialization.
  4. depict how formal education affects the occupational careers of women and men in contemporary societies.
  5. point out what are human capital factors.
  6. describe what dual labor markets are with respect to sex and gender.
  7. contrast the difference between quid pro quo sexual harassment and so-called hostile environmental harassment.
  8. appraise in what sense do contemporary rape laws treat women as second class citizens.
  9. examine why abortion is regarded by many feminists as the single most important gender equality issue of the late twentieth century.
  10. list the main sources of factionalism within the women's movement in the United States.
Chapter 9. Crime, Violence, and Criminal Justice: Getting Busted
The student will be able to:
  1. analyze how the crime rate in the United States compares to rates of criminal behavior in other nations.
  2. detail the three major sources of criminal statistics used in the United States.
  3. examine the relationship among variables such as age, race/ethnicity, gender, social class and crime.
  4. explain why crime victims fail to report millions of offenses to the police each year.
  5. ascertain whether or not unemployment causes crime.
  6. differentiate among the major sociological theories explaining crime.
  7. indicate the relationship between watching violence on television and engaging in violent behavior.
  8. deduce if there is a subculture of violence in the United States.
  9. recite some of the major characteristics regarding murder in the United States.
  10. illustrate the relationship between guns and violent crime in the United States.
  11. designate the four major types of occupational crime.
  12. state the principle explanations for the origin and growth of organized crime in the United States.
  13. suggest why the job of policing is much more difficult in democratic nations than it is in totalitarian countries.
  14. define what plea bargaining is. Derive why it is such an integral part of the criminal justice system in the United States.
  15. identify what the major solutions are to the problems of prison overcrowding.
Part Three - Individual and Family-Level Problems
Chapter 10. Family Disorganization and Sexuality: Crisis in the Home
The student will be able to:
  1. evaluate how post-World War II economic changes in the United States have affected the family.
  2. list the major characteristics of single-parent families.
  3. point out some of the most common problems faced by two-paycheck families.
  4. compare the difference between normal violence and abusive violence as they relate to child abuse. Describe some of the major forms and consequences of child abuse.
  5. specify the major causes of wife abuse. Analyze why do so many battered women remain in abusive relationships.
  6. define what the battered wife syndrome is. Expand on how this syndrome relates to the abuse and death of husbands at the hands of their wives.
  7. indicate what the major forms of elderly abuse are.
  8. extrapolate why the U.S. divorce rate increased significantly in the post-World War II era. Grasp what the major social correlations of divorce are. Describe the consequences of divorce for children.
  9. paraphrase the principle arguments for and against homosexual marriages.
  10. investigate if children who are raised by homosexual parents are more likely to become homosexuals themselves, versus children who are raised by heterosexual parents.
Chapter 11. Drugs, Alcohol, and Gambling: Taking a Chance
The student will be able to:
  1. point out under what circumstances did numerous drugs routinely used in the United States become illegal.
  2. describe the basic characteristics of drug dependence.
  3. measure if the use of illegal drugs in the United States increased or decreased in recent years.
  4. define what anabolic steroids are. Explain why these drugs have become so popular with young males. Derive why these substances are so dangerous.
  5. develop the relationship between drug use and crime. Also, the relationship with drug use and AIDS.
  6. analyze the major arguments for and against the legalization of drugs in the United States.
  7. construct the principle social correlates of alcohol use and abuse.
  8. specify what can be done to prevent people from driving while intoxicated.
  9. illustrate what the disease model of alcohol abuse is. Differentiate how sociologists explain vastly different rates of alcohol use and abuse from one social group to another.
  10. appraise under what circumstances do some people become pathological gamblers. Compare the relationship between gambling and crime. Explain how and why some governments encourage people to gamble. Predict what the future of gambling in the United States will be.
Chapter 12. Health and Health Care: Paying the Price
The student will be able to:
  1. specify in what sense is the psychological model of health a multidimensional concept.
  2. analyze why infant mortality rates are so much higher and longevity rates so much lower in developing countries.
  3. indicate how cultural factors influence women's health in developing countries.
  4. recite the leading causes of death in developed countries.
  5. define what is meant by the epidemiological transition.
  6. identify what the major at-risk population groups are with regards to the AIDS epidemic.
  7. explain why the World Health Organization and other international agencies regard tobacco smoking as a global epidemic.
  8. deduce why it is highly unlikely that the governments of countries such as the United States will ban the use of tobacco products in the near future.
  9. designate what particular factors have contributed to the exceptionally high costs of health care in the United States.
  10. differentiate which specific population groups in the United States are most likely to lack health insurance.
  11. examine what a managed competition health care plan is.
  12. indicate what is the Hawaii plan of health care.
The following teaching/learning activities will assist students to achieve course objectives: lectures, instructor-led class discussions, case studies, student presentations, field trips, group work, guest speakers and textbook reading assignments.

Methods of evaluation may include the following: tests (both subjective and objective), daily work, homework assignments, attendance and class participation, and other methods of evaluation as determined by the instructor.