Printed Exam Due October 13 In Class


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Introduction to Sociology Fall 2008, Take-home Exam 1

Printed Exam Due October 13 In Class
DIRECTIONS: In approximately 4 pages, typed, double-spaced, answer:

  • Question 1 AND

  • Question 2 AND

  • EITHER Question 3 OR Question 4 (but not both!!!)

REMEMBER: You may work in groups to “brainstorm” the answers, but you must write your final answers on your own. Please ask me if you have any questions about what this means, but basically it means that you should have no more than an occasional phrase in common with anyone else.

ALSO: Make sure you answer each part of the question. Please let me know if you have any questions (you can ask me!). Use information from your book, class discussion, and slides to support your answers. (Also, please note: I have placed a copy of your textbook on “closed reserve” under my last name in the library.)

  • According to your text on pages 3 and 4, what does it mean to use your “sociological imagination”? Also, what is a “personal trouble”? What is a “social issue”? (DO NOT move on to the rest of this question until you have thoroughly read the section in your textbook [and your lecture notes] on the sociological imagination and feel comfortable with these terms and concepts.)

  • Using the article below, what are the personal troubles (both present and future) you can imagine as a result of the controversy over lowering the drinking age? [Be specific and think of as many as possible using detail from the article and your own ideas.]
  • Using the article below, what are the social issues you see associated with the controversy over lowering the drinking age? What social issues are we facing now and what social issues could we be facing in the future depending on how we resolve this issue? [Be specific and think of as many as possible using detail from the article and your own ideas.]

Alcohol Laws: Should the Drinking Age be Lowered? Groups Call for New Look at Laws; Opponents Want Drinking Age to Remain at 21


Aug. 27, 2007—

As college students usher in the start of a new term with beer pong and keg stands, the nation revisits what's now a fixture of collegiate life: drinking age laws.

An increasing number of college officials are arguing that current drinking laws have failed. Instead of keeping students away from alcohol, they argue, the laws simply drive underage drinking underground and toward unsafe extremes.

Leading the debate for change is John M. McCardell, Jr., president emeritus of Vermont's Middlebury College, who proposes rolling back the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 after granting "drinking licenses" to those who complete an extensive alcohol education program.

McCardell recently founded "Choose Responsibility," a nonprofit organization dedicated to lowering the drinking age and researching the effects of the current law. He says his proposal will "bring alcohol back out into the open, acknowledge that 18-year-olds are adults in the eyes of the law [as they are] in every other respect, and it will reduce the abusive drinking that has become so widespread in the last 20 years."

McCardell said he was tired of facing what he called "two impossible choices" between policing and ignoring drinking on campus. The drinking age law, he contends, has only increased binge drinking by pushing alcohol use into hiding.

And when students drink, increasingly they're turning to hard liquor.

"The pattern of drinking has changed and gotten worse, that's where I agree with [McCardell]," said Dr. David Anderson, director for Advancement of Public Health at George Mason University and an expert on college alcohol use. While he opposes lowering the drinking age, he said "the pattern has gotten more high risk."

Two recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention find that underage binge drinkers are turning to hard liquor as their main alcohol source, unlike adults who rely more often on beer. Liquors such as vodka are easy to smuggle in water bottles, and make it easier to get drunk.

But some public health researchers say the data do not support McCardell's claim.

"I don't know where he gets his data from, but I like to base mine on facts," said Dr. Henry Wechsler, a researcher at Harvard School of Public Health, and a leading expert on college binge drinking.

Binge drinking has remained level at 44 percent among college students for 10 years, according to Wechsler's most recent study in 2001. He thinks lowering the drinking age would worsen the problem "like pouring gasoline on a fire."

"It seems that [McCardell] has found that there are leaks in the boat, and that the way to cure it is to knock out the bottom of the boat," he said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving also opposes lowering the drinking age. The says it believes the change would increase the number of young drinkers getting behind the wheels of their vehicles.

"You'd have a significant increase in crashes [if the drinking age were lowered,]" said Laura Dawson, president of the MADD Northern Virginia Chapter.

This July marked 23 years since Congress passed the 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age Law with the help of MADD, and Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J, and Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. Although states have the right to set their own drinking age, under the current law any state that sets it below 21 forfeits 10 percent of its annual highway appropriations. By 1988, all 50 states had enacted the 21-year-old minimum, with Wyoming being the last to raise the drinking age.

To prove the law's success, supporters like MADD point to what they say is an estimated 23,000 lives that the elevated drinking age saved from drunk driving.

The law supports the organization's mantra that "the sooner youth drink the more likely they are to become alcohol dependent and to drive drunk."

However, McCardell disagrees that the drinking age contributes to safe driving.

"The drinking age has little do with [drunk driving]," said McCardell. If that were the case, he has argued, the better solution would be to raise the driving age to 21.

Although the number of drunk-driving fatalities has decreased with the new law, McCardell says these statistics ignore the effects of improvements in seat-belts, airbags, and public information campaigns against drunk driving, highway construction and regulation laws.

While the drinking age is not the only way to save lives, critics still defend its role.

"The number one way to reduce death in drinking and driving is airbags," said George Mason's Anderson. "[But] the drinking age did make a difference. It's part of the puzzle, and I hate to throw out parts of the puzzle."

However, McCardell also highlights the adverse effects of the current law, such as the disenfranchising of parents in the alcohol coming-of-age and the underground fake I.D. business. Youth are no longer introduced to alcohol in a controlled environment, because many states prohibit parents from providing alcohol to their children at home. Instead, many law-abiding students must first encounter alcohol at college parties.

McCardell proposes lifting the cap for states that lower the drinking age while pursuing pilot alcohol education programs, as long as the states keep drunk driving rates down.

Some young people believe alcohol education classes might encourage responsible drinking among college students.

"It would be giving an indication that they're given a seat at the table," said Zack Yost, a senior at University of Michigan and president of the Michigan Student Assembly. "I think that students might find it empowering."

But public health professionals predict dangerous consequences will accompany lifting the law.

"If you make alcohol available to 18-year-olds, you have to think of the consequences of your actions," Wechsler said. "You're bringing it into high schools."

An industry-wide effort to sell alcohol to younger people would likely follow the change. But most importantly, "we're going to have the same increase in deaths as we had before, about 800 or more," Wechsler said.

Scientists also fear the effect on the brain, which does not complete development until the mid-20s. Others bemoan missing the chance to address the emotional, social, cognitive and physical reasons students drink heavily.

"It's jumping at a simple solution to a complex problem," Anderson said. "It's like a doctor giving a pill to someone with depression."

Implicit in McCardell's plan is a recognition that 18 to 20 year olds will drink, regardless of the law.

"Alcohol remains real in the lives of 18, 19 and 20 year-olds, but it is present not in open but behind closed doors" McCardell said.

Although many students agree that alcohol is intrinsic to campus social life, some dispute the ill effects of allowing their under-21 peers to drink legally.

"I think that [drinking] would increase, but not that much; because no matter what age, we can get alcohol," said Rick Stern, a senior at the University of Maryland who opposes changing the drinking age.

Other students think lowering the drinking age would encourage safer drinking.

"[Students] probably wouldn't be as irresponsible," said Steve Kennedy, a recent graduate from Providence College. "They probably wouldn't feel they have to binge drink when they pre-game."

But students do not seem to be clamoring to claim their drinking privileges at 18, despite McCardell's resurrection of the old argument, "If you're old enough to die for your country, you're old enough to drink." In fact, students seem surprisingly apathetic, if not divided, over lowering the drinking age.

A 2005 ABC News poll, taken on the 21st anniversary of the legal drinking limit found that even among young adults aged 34 and under, 73 percent opposed lowering the drinking age. The public at large seems to agree, with 80 percent of those 35 and up supporting legal age 21.

After all, drinking is not protected by the Constitution.

"There's no inherent right to consume alcohol at 18," Wechsler said. "Young people are prevented from doing other things other than drinking," such as running for a seat in Congress.

He added, "If young people are allowed to die in war, they should also be allowed to die on the road?"

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures


As part of our study of culture, we discussed ethnocentric and culturally relativistic reactions to cultural difference.

  • Using pages 99-101 in your textbook, explain what it means to be ethnocentric? What does it mean to be a cultural relativist? Make sure you clearly explain how these two approaches to cultural variation are different from each other. (AGAIN, do not move on to the next part of the question until you are familiar with this text and your lecture notes.)

  • How would an ethnocentric person from the U.S. respond to the BBC news article below about polyandry in Nepal? Be sure to include specifics from the article in your reaction. Why is this an ethnocentric reaction?

  • How would a cultural relativist from the U.S. respond to the news article below about polyandry? Again, use specifics from the article in your reaction. Why is this a culturally relativistic reaction?

  • How would an ethnocentrist interpret the move away from polyandry in Nepal? How would a cultural relativist interpret the move away from polyandry)? (AGAIN, USE DETAILS FROM THE ARTICLE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENTS!!!)

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of ethnocentrism? What are the advantages and disadvantages of cultural relativism? (USE THE BOOK HERE!!!)

  • Specifically, where can you see examples of the advantages and disadvantages of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism as applied to polyandry? (E.g., could there be a relativistic fallacy in this situation or not?)

Nepal's wife-sharing custom fades

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

It is the harvesting season and Kundol Lama and her family are pulling up radishes in their small field above a river gorge in remote north-western Nepal.

This is rigorous work, but Kundol has a little extra manpower at her disposal. She has two husbands, Tsering Yeshi and Pema Tsering, who are brothers.

When they have filled the baskets to overflowing they sling them on their backs and climb the steep hillside back to their village, Barauntse.

Almost every household here is polyandrous - meaning that the family's sons have jointly married a sole woman.

Natural population

Tsering Yeshi is a farmer, while Pema Tsering has a government job. Their wife says polyandry works well in this beautiful but harsh land.

"My husbands can take it in turns to go out for business, so I'm happy," she says. "If there were only one, he'd be under pressure to go out and trade, and there'd be no one to help at home."

They have three children between them. As in most polyandrous households, although they know who belongs to which father, the distinction matters little.

Pema Tsering, the younger husband, says polyandry gives natural population control to this community, who are Buddhists.

He says that in the neighbouring Hindu culture, "there's only one husband - if he dies, no one cares about the wife and it's difficult for the children as well".

But polyandry nowadays is rare. It survives in Nepal in a few ethnic Tibetan communities such as this one, who are called Lamas.

Tsepal Lama, who runs a guest house in the nearest town, Simikot, is in a monogamous marriage but spells out polyandry's advantages.

He believes it developed because the highland Lamas lacked cultivable land, and with polyandry "the land is not divided among the brothers".

It also worked well where there was a division of labour between brothers - one to look after livestock, one to work in the fields, and one to travel for business or traditional trades such as Nepalese rice for Tibetan salt.

Grazing lands

Even in Barauntse, however, polyandry is struggling to survive.

The family of Tsering Mutup Lama, 38, has seen great changes.

As the eldest of five sons, he was the one involved in the marriage ceremony to wife Kema; the younger four were also deemed to be married to her, but two have since broken away and remarried.

The youngest two, one of whom is only 17, are currently studying in Kathmandu and it is uncertain whether they will rejoin the household.

Tsering says one reason for the two brothers breaking away was that they were forced to sell their livestock and had to move further away for work.

This happened when new laws barred them from access to previously communal grazing lands.

"Once the sheep were sold they had nothing to do - all they did was sit at home and eat," says Kema, laughing a little.

She says such change has also arisen from people having a wider choice of jobs and education.

Neither Kema nor Tsering begrudges the two brothers their new separate lifestyles.

But Tsering is hurt by many Hindus' attitude to polyandry. "My brothers' friends tease them that the tradition is old-fashioned," he says.

Villagers were at first highly reluctant to talk to the BBC, saying that in the recent past journalists have visited this community from Kathmandu and abroad and sought to ridicule the custom.

Kema also says that where there is a big age spread among the brothers, family relations can be ambiguous. She says the two youngest ones feel more like younger brothers to her than husbands.

Under pressure

In Simikot, a couple of valleys away, there are numerous people who have broken away from polyandrous arrangements.

Mutup Lama, 41, a porter and farmer, did so mainly because of age. He and his older brother originally shared a wife in a village, but she was the same age as his brother - 14 years older than Mutup.

After coming to Simikot and finding a new wife, he abandoned all his land and animal rights, he says.

"We're happy and we have two children," he says, but adds that this monogamous life is more of a struggle financially.

This age factor is not always a problem.

A 22-year-old man in Barauntse, Chakka Lama, told the BBC he was absolutely committed to the wife, 10 years older, whom he shares with his one younger and two older brothers, even though he cannot even remember the marriage ceremony.

But polyandry is definitely under pressure. This is because of not only economics and education but also the simple spread of more romanticised ideas of marriage.

Not only that - there have been reports of Maoist rebels, who are powerful in this area, speaking out stridently against the system. They have also recruited some husbands to their ranks.

"I think that within 10 or 15 years the system will completely disappear," says one villager sadly.

Story from BBC NEWS:
QUESTION 3: We sometimes overlook the fact that older Americans and younger Americans represent different subcultures in American society. Your task is to gather information about cultural change from an often-overlooked source: older Americans. [NOTE: If you are age 55 or older, please reverse the directions for this question to interview a younger American! Compare their experiences to yours when you were their age.]

  • After reading pages 84-98, define EACH of the following: 1) subculture, 2) material culture, and 3) non-material culture.

  • Select someone who is significantly older than you (20-25+ years older) and willing to talk about life when they were your age. Start out by recording the name of the person you interview, and their relation to you (parent, grandparent, older neighbor or older co-worker, etc.).

  • Ask them to describe at least 3 elements of material culture as they remember them to be when they were your age. Some possible ideas might be: popular clothing, types of technology, etc. Consult your book for examples of material culture that you might ask about, but LOOK FOR THE CREATIVE AND UNIQUE in your interview. [For instance, did you know that some cars (approximately 40 years ago or so) had record players in them?]
  • Ask them to describe at least 3 elements of non-material culture as they remember them to be when they were your age. Again, try to pick the brain of your interviewee for unique information, but consider asking about such things as: beliefs or values about raising a family (or about diversity in ethnicity or sexual orientation), beliefs about the roles of men and women, beliefs about how meals should be eaten (i.e., together as a family at the table vs. in front of the T.V.), etc.

  • For each of the 6 elements (3 material and 3 non-material culture) you have written about, explain how the situation is the same or different now than in the past?

  • Also, for each of the 6 elements (3 material and 3 non-material culture), explain why you think things have either changed or stayed the same. Specifically, what factors in society (historical, political, economic, etc. changes) do you think can help explain why things have changed or stayed the same?


  • Media is one of the “agents of socialization” impacting our beliefs and practices. Using pages 140 and 145-149, what is socialization?

  • In class, we talked about gender socialization and its impact on our identity as men and women in society. In order to begin to see the effect of media on our gender socialization, find 3 print advertisements (could be from the internet, from a magazine, from a newspaper) that you think embodies the hegemonic (or dominant) “gender socialization” of women. Also, find 3 advertisements that you think embodies the “gender socialization” of men. YOU MUST TURN IN BOTH OF THESE ADS WITH YOUR EXAM.

  • For each of these ads, explain what you think each ad tells about the role of men in society (or what does it mean to be a man in society) and the role of women in society. Be specific about how each of your ads contributes to our beliefs about “what women or men should act like,” “what roles they should have,” “what work they should do,” etc.
  • From your book, what are the 4 main agents of socialization? How do messages about what it means to be a man or woman in the mass media differ (or not) from the messages you get from family? From peers? From your experiences at school?


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