Sociology 206 Social Problems Syllabus - Winter 2009
Portland Community College Sylvania Campus
Professor: S. Rowan Wolf, Ph.D. - 977-4083
Course Website:  School site:

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Sociology Resources, Soc 206 Indexed Resources Paper Requirements
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Links of Interest
Uncommon Thought News  Categorized news archives
Summary of Requirements
Resources research and legislative resource links
 Concepts and Definitions
Activists Links to a variety of activist organizations
Weekly Class Schedule

Portland Peak Oil 

 Some Resources

Office: SS 217 H82   E-mail:

Class Information: M/W 1:00-2:50 CRN 14458  SCB 203

Course Materials
Textbook:The Intersections Collection Sociology 206: Social Problems or Social Problems, D. Stanley Eitzen, and Maxine Baca Zinn.  Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World (Available online, and on Reserve in the Sylvania Library)  Descending the Oil Peak  (Available online and  on Reserve in the Sylvania Library). Additional reading materials provided by the instructor.

Technology Resources - I strongly recommend getting a google account (if you don't have one) and getting both google notebook and google documents. Notebook allows you to easily keep notes on reading you do online. You may then directly export those notes to google documents where you can print them, download them to Word, etc.

Office Hours: M-R 8am-9:45am 11- 12:30 F 9am-12pm.. Meetings frequently occur on Fridays so make sure I am in if you want to see me. Other are times available by appointment.

About Your Teacher: I have my Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Oregon. My special areas of interests are stratification systems, organizations, and the interplay of values and how they are embedded in social interaction and structure. As an Instructor, I encourage the participation of students in the learning process. My best hope is that students will leave my courses with the tools to look at the world critically and holistically.

Students with Disabilities: I encourage students who have disabilities to contact the Office for Students with Disabilities for assistance in requesting accommodations. Please meet or talk with me outside of class to discuss any special considerations or problems that may affect your participation or performance in the class.

Course Description: You will be introduced to concepts and information pertaining to a variety of social problems. This course examines problems such as poverty, race/ethnicity, violence, and the environment. The examination of these issues is from a broad sociological perspective with an emphasis on critical analysis.

Flexibility Statement: All assignments and calendars may change in response to institutional, instructional, or weather needs. Changes in assignments may affect the number of total points available in the course.

General Course Goals and Objectives:
1. Demonstrate knowledge of how social problems are defined and how they differ from personal issues.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the assumptions underlying definitions of problems, solutions, and attribution of blame.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of how social structure is impacted by, and impacts, diverse populations.
4. Demonstrate an understanding of how the main sociological theoretic frameworks and apply a sociological perspective to a variety of problems. 
5. Strengthen civic particpation by analyzing and participating in meaningful dialogue about social issues

Grading/Evaluation:  Your grade will be based on your completion of the items detailed below and others that may be assigned. Your final grade is based on percentage of total points accumulated. A= 90-100%, B=80-89%, C=70-79%, D=60-69%, F - below 60%.

1. Attendance: Attendance 10 points per week (105 total). Though you are not graded on your participation in the class, attendance is part of your grade. If you cannot make a class, or need to arrive late or leave early, please let me know. Unexplained absences are considered ditching the class. Excused absences receive reduced credit.

2. Reading Summaries: 10 points each week (100 total). A minimum one paragraph summary of each required reading is due at class time of the first class meeting of the week. Assigned readings are indicated in the Weekly Schedule. Summaries of readings indicated as "supplemental" or "of interest" are not required.

3.  Social Problems Short Response Essay: up to 25 points per assignment (125 total). These are short essay responses (minimum 1 paragraph for each question) to the question(s) or issue(s) posed in the "Schedule" area of the syllabus. These essays are a combination of research on your part and your informed analysis based on course readings and materials. See schedule for assignments and page 4 of the syllabus for guidelines. The questions on the worksheets are intended to encourage you to look past the rhetoric and stereotypes of social problems, and focus on the structural and cultural nature of social problems. You must use at least one source for each response.

4.Analysis Papers: 50 points per paper (100 total): Papers are due on the last class period of the week or at class time for classes meeting one day per week. Papers must be a minimum of two single-spaced (four double-spaced) typed pages of analysis over social problems pertinent to the appropriate section of the course. All sources must be cited appropriately. You must use at least two sources for analysis papers. The purpose of the papers is to 1) demonstrate you have an understanding of the material, and 2) the ability to think critically about the issues and concepts covered in the class. While I do not grade on grammar, papers should be clear enough for me to understand them.

5. Research Paper (100 points)  The research paper must address a social problem or solution of your choice and reflect an understanding of the social nature of social problems. It must be at least 4 single-spaced pages, and integrate at least 4 sources beyond the  required readings of the class. You should define the problem even if your paper is a solution or policy analysis focus.

OR  Group Project: 80 + 10 + 10 points (100 total) If included. Somewhere around midterm the class will decide whether we will do group projects or not. The advantage of doing group projects is that more issues may be covered in more detail than if we do a full class curriculum.  If the class decides to do group projects and presentations, you will be divided into issue interest groups. Each group will pursue research and analysis on a selected social problem following the group project instructions. The group will then present their work to the class. The class will evaluate each group's presentation and assign points for the group (up to 10 points); the project group will evaluate each other (up to 10 points), and I will evaluate the project and presentation (up to 80 points). Each group is required to provide a sysnopsis and key points outline to me at the time of the presentation.

OR Service Learning  Students may optionally engage in a service learning project in place of the research paper. Those selecting this option must complete a minimum of 10 hours of service learning with a non-profit or governmental agency. You must also write a minimum 2 page single-spaced discussion of your experience and how the organization 1) defines the problem and 2) how it works toward solving the social problem. If you feel that the organization does not contribute to a solution or that their definition of the problem and the methods used to address it do not "match," then that should be in the analysis as well.

I have a notebook of examples of excellent student papers available at the front desk of the Social Sciences office (SS 217). There are also samples available online at the course website.

Paper Format
Your papers should include the following information:
- a one sentence summary of the focus of your paper;
- a substantive discussion of the social problem you are discussing;
- your name, class, paper number, date, and my name.

- All shorter papers must be on a topic that is appropriate for the portion of the class that the paper covers.Research paper must be appropriate to the course

- All papers should link to topics, concepts, or materials covered in the course - including class lectures and discussions.

- All papers must be typed.

- All sources must be cited within the body of any paper.

- All papers must meet the requirements of the assigned paper (see above)

- All assignments must be in on time unless you have made arrangements with me. Late assignments will receive decreased credit.
Evaluation guidelines for all papers:

1. Demonstrates understanding of the material/ concepts discussed.
2. Citations are correctly made, and paper meets requirements outlined for the paper.
3. Uses a sociological rather than an individual or psychological perspective.
4. Integrates and synthesizes material/concepts.
5. Takes the "next step" beyond the material, often through number four above.

Guidelines for rewriting papers:
Only the first paper may be rewritten for possible additional credit if the paper received less than 45 points (excluding points deducted for lateness), and the paper did not receive zero points for plagiarism.

- Rewrite must be turned in before the next paper is due.
- Original paper with comments must be turned in with the rewrite.
Guidelines for Citing Work:
Exact quotes: "Globalization is a force that will affect all workers." (Neubeck and Glassberg, 1996:215)

Paraphrase: Globalization affects workers around the world (Neubeck and Glassberg, 1996:215). OR According to Neubeck and Glassberg, (1996:215) workers will be strongly affected by the forces of globalization.

Internet Sources: Currently there are approximately 40 million workers employed by multinational corporations (Smith, 1997).

Guidelines for Bibliography:
Book: Neubeck, Kenneth J. And Glasberg, Davita Silfen. 1996. Sociology: A Critical Approach. McGraw-Hill, Inc.:New York.

Article: Jones, Amy. 1997. "Living Life on the Streets." American Journal of Sociology. 36(2):235-256.

Internet: Smith, Jason. 1997. "The Multinational Shuffel." http://www/multinational/shuffel.html.

Class Rules and Etiquette

Discussion: There will be a lot of discussion in this class, and some of it will be over very sensitive issues. I encourage the free exchange of ideas, and feel that this is an extremely valuable part of our learning experience. Please keep the following things in mind.

Avoid making personal attacks on others in the class. Aside from being hurtful, it also tends to discourage people from participating.

Don't talk over the top of someone else. As much as possible, I will allow time for everyone who has anything to say the opportunity to do so.

Try to listen closely to points being made by others. The diversity of experience and philosophy represented in the class are an important part of the learning process.

Monitor how much of the discussion time you are taking. Though your opinions are important, everyone should have the opportunity to share. If you feel you are frequently monopolizing discussion time, sit back and listen for a while.

If you feel uncomfortable with a discussion, or that I have treated you or the issue unfairly, please tell me either at the time, at break, or after class.

Plagiarism is cheating and will not be tolerated. Plagiarism is copying another person's ideas and/or words without giving them credit for creating them. This could be quoting from a book or an article, or copying someone else's assignment. The first instance will result in an F on the assignment (even if it is your final paper which is 25% of your grade). The second instance will result in an F for the class.

Plagiarism includes acquiring papers from other students, the internet, or other sources. I do have methods available to detect stolen or purchased papers and materials.

Most plagiarism is accidental and can be easily avoided by citing work used appropriately. Remember, that I am grading you on your understanding of the concepts and frameworks of sociology. I do not grade you on your ability to write.
Summary of Requirements

Item Points Number Total Points Notes Due
Attendance 5 per class or 10/wk 21 105 excused absences receive reduced credit each class
Reading Summaries
10 per week
As indicated
All required readings for each week should be summarized
each week
Response Essays 25 each 5 125 as assigned Weeks 2,3,5,6,9
Analysis Papers 50 2 100 Appropriate topic
2 single-spaced (four double) pages
Weeks 4 and 8
Research Paper
Group Project
Service Learning
100 1 100 See discussion under "Grading" Last  week before finals (or as needed)


Sociology 206 Reading and Assignment Schedule

The date is for MONDAY of the Week. Papers are due the last class period of the week assigned unless otherwise announced. Papers are due at class time for classes that only meet one time per week. Your final paper is due at the time of the Final.   Please note that the assignments from weeks 8-10 may shift depending on the direction the class decides to take.
 NOTE: Given the changing times, course topics may shift.
Class - Week Topics and Assignments
Note that summaries of required readings are due at the first class meeting of each week.
1 1/5 Introductory class. Discussion of course guidelines and handout of materials.
Required Reading: Intersections: The Sociological Approach to Social Problems (1-21)  and  Intersections: Progressive Plan To Solve Social Problems  (199-219)
Introduction to pertinent concepts

Extra Credit Assignment (10 points): Go to my web site (URL at to of syllabus). Find three sites, or sources that you think might be useful to you. Email me a list of the three items with a brief explanation of why you might find them of value. If you do not have email, you may do this assignment on paper and turn it in by 1/18).

Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 1 readings

2 1/12
Required Reading: Intersections: Wealth, and Power: the bias of the system (23-58)  

Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 2 readings
Response Essay:  1) What makes a social problem a social problem?  2) What does it mean that social problems are rooted in the culture and/or social structure of a society? 
Supplemental Infromation: 40 years Later: The Unrealized American Dream (pdf)   Freedom to Be More Equal than Others: Graduates Versus Oligarchs  Economic Policy Institute Economy Up, People Down (8/05)   Economic Analysis & Research Network (EARN)   State of Working America (EARN)   United for A Fair Economy   The Wealth Gap Widens  A Trillion Good Reasons to Keep the Estate Tax  Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn  Katrina Aftermath Tribute (video) Make Poverty History  (video)  
3 1/19
Required Reading: Learning from Concentrated Poverty (pdf 26pgs) from "The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America" by Federal Reserve & The Brookings Institute (2008)  Still Working Hard - Still Falling Short  (8 pgs) from The Working Poor Families Project
No Classes MONDAY 1/19  

Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 3 readings
Response Essay: Since poverty is rooted in the organization of society, what role does blaming the individual (or group) play in maintaining poverty?

Supplemental Information: The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America: Case Studies from Communities Across the U.S. (pdf 233 pgs full report)
4 1/26
Required Reading: Intersections: Problems of Place (127-159)   Vandana Shiva Globalization and Poverty 
Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 4 readings
Analysis Paper: On issue or policies related to Weeks 1 - 4.
Supplemental Information:  Portland's Low Income Neighborhoods are Food Deserts  (Parker, 11/15/08),  Hunger among U.S. children skyrockets in 2007 (AP, 2008), Characteristics of Low-Income Households With Very Low Food Security (USDA, 2007),  Household Food Security in the United States, 2007  (Nord, 2008)

5 2/2
Required Reading: Intersections: World Population and Global Inequality (61-85)  Global Trends 2025 Intro-Chapter 1 (iv-17) This report is also available in Reserves at the Sylvania Library)

Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 4 readings
Response Essay: What similarities and difference do you see between inequality in the United States and global inequality?
Resources: Village Voice,  Environmental Information Sources - annotated bibliography ,   Pfieffer  Peak Oil and the Working Class Contamination of American Rivers Triggers International Complaint  Saldamando,  Toxic Tour   The Black Mesa Controversy   Guardians: Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change  (Tauli-Corpuz, 2008)
6 2/9
Required Reading:  Intersections: National Security in the Twenty-First Century (161-196)    Global Trends 2025 Chapter 2 -3 ( 19-39)
Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 6 readings
Response Essay: How do you think that the "West," and the U.S. in particular, are likely to respond to the scenario on page 37 of  Global Trends
Supplemental Information:  3/08/03 Shogren,  Oil industry granted clean water waiver       3/05/03 Wallach,  Why does the WTO want my water?      
3/04/03 Burkeman,  Memo exposes Bush's new green strategy     Peak Oil and the Working Class  Pfeiffer  Pfieffer  Peak Oil and the Working Class Contamination of American Rivers Triggers International Complaint  Saldamando,  Toxic Tour   The Black Mesa ControversyEnvironment and Morality: Confronting Environmental Racism in the United States Robert Bullard (UNRISD, 2004)
7 2/16
Required Readings: Intersections: Threats to the Environment (88-123)   Global Trends 2025 Chapter 4 ( 41-59)     Environmental collapse - sooner not later, (Wolf, 2004), 

Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 7 readings

Supplemental Information: NRDC Global Warming Basics  Climate change may spark conflict between nations Independent, 2/28/06,  Climate scientists issue dire warning  Guardian, 2/28/06, 3/25/04 Stipp, Fortune Magazine, Climate Collapse - The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare,  3/25/04 Englehardt, TomDispatch, And Now for Something Really Dangerous
3/05/04 Science@NASA, A Chilling Possibility2/27/03 Burkeman,  Advisers tell Bush climate plan is useless   Doyle 3/06/06 Global Warming Evidence Grows - UN Expert      Climate Hot Map , Union of Concerned Scientists Global Warming ScienceU.S. Space Command Vision 2020 Report (pdf)  Wu, et al, Journal Reviews, Will Freshening of the North Atlantic Ocean Slow the Gulf Stream and Cool Europe?,
8 2/23
Required Readings:   Descending the Oil Peak  : Appendix Peak Oil - An Overview pgs 50-54;  Page 8 - 32
Ban Ki-moon Warns That Water Shortages Are Increasingly Driving Conflicts, (UN News Centre, 2/06/08)
Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 8 readings
Analysis Paper: On issue or policies related to Weeks 5 - 8.
Supplemental Information: How the West’s Energy Boom Could Threaten Drinking Water for 1 in 12 Americans, (Lustgarten, 12/21/08),  World Water Crisis Underlies World Food Crisis (ENS 8/08), Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies? (Lustgarten, 11/08),   US Climate Change Science Program: Major Findings,  Environment and Morality: Confronting Environmental Racism in the United States  (Bullard, 2004),  Contamination of American Rivers Triggers International Complaint (Saldamando, 2005),     
9 3/2
Required Readings:  Global Trends 2025 Chapters 5 -6  (60-89)

Assignments Due:  Reading summaries on Week 9 readings
Response Essay: Select one of the scenarios from the Global Trends report (pg 37, 57, 76, or 89) and respond to it.

Supplemental Information:  From Global Crisis to "Global Government"  (Andrew Marshall, 12/20/2008)
10 3/9
Required Readings:  Global Trends 2025 Chapter 7 (92-98)  

Assignments Due:  Reading Summaries for Week 10  
Research paper or Service Learning analysis due .
11 3/16
Final Class - Monday 6/12 1-3


Introductory Social Problem Concepts

Wolf's Rules of Social Problems
Social problems are social in nature. This means that they are rooted in the culture, structure, or both culture and structure of the society.

You cannot solve a social problem by focusing on the individual.

Because of the systematic nature of social stratification, social problems and their solutions affect different social groups differently.

The way that a social problem is defined predetermines the solution.

Social Problems:  "Societally induced conditions that harm any segment of the population, and acts and conditions that violate the norms of society." (Renzetti and Curran)  What more typically gets identified as a social problem is any what is judged by an influential group of people within a community to be intolerable, and which requires group action to solve.

Culture: The material and non-material components shared by a society or a group of people. Non-material culture is has two aspects - values and norms.

Values: Deeply held ideas (often unconscious) about what is right and wrong, important and unimportant, valued, desirable. A society's story of why things are the way they are. Frequently based in the belief that this is just the way things are, or natural, or ordained by "god."

Norms: Unwritten rules of conduct and behavior which are appropriate and varied in every situation with all categories of people. Norms may also be codified into law. Norms are based in the value system.

Institution: A social structure or pattern of relationships. In sociology, the primary institutions are family, economy, religion, and polity. Also used to refer to collateral institutions which have evolved to meet changing needs - education, medical, social welfare, etc.

Function: There are two types of functions - manifest and latent function. A manifest function is the intended purpose, goal, or outcome. A latent function is an unintended, or collateral purpose or goal. Example - education has the manifest functions of preparing people with the basic skills required to function economically and socially within the society; it has acquired the latent functions of child care, acculturation, nutritional base.

Labeling: Naming with an implied judgement or value. Labels may be positive or negative, or both (i.e. scholar, millionaire, queer, bigot). Labeling is part of stereotyping. Labels frequently affect our basic perceptions and interactions with those labeled.

Stereotyping: Basing judgement on assumed - not necessarily valid - knowledge, values, beliefs. May be positive or negative, but usually negative. Stereotyping is a natural human organizational activity. Flexible stereotyping is when we are willing to add new information to our knowledge base. Inflexible stereotyping is when we feel that what we think is true is true regardless of any other information.

Ethnocentrism: Viewing one's own culture and values as the best, and only, viable one. Judging all other cultures from one's own frame of reference.

Two Criteria for Judging the Seriousness of a Social Problem:
    Magnitude - The measurable size and extent of a problem - different from the perceived size and magnitude.
    Severity - Actual harmfulness for individuals, society, or humanity. Also, is the harm temporary or permanent?
    Primacy:  Combination of magnitude and severity. How harmful are the consequences? Also, is this a primary or secondary social problem, or a consequence of either?

Categories of Social Problems

Primary social problems are most usually based in established patterns of social relationships. They are perpetuated by the social structure and supported and maintained by social institutions. They may even be incorporated into the legal and political system. Examples - poverty, racism.

Secondary social problems are generally consequences of structural issues or consequences (symptoms) of primary problems. Examples - homelessness, slums, unemployment, hate violence.

Tertiary social problems are almost always a consequence of secondary problems; frequently viewed as being a personal problem. Examples - fear, alienation, voter apathy, illness, mental problems.


Two Social Problem Samples. This is for example only, and is not meant to be detailed, or the only causative agents of the problems listed.
Poverty Slums poor health



Single parent families social dependency

Malnutrition poor health

mental retardation

Underfunded schools low academic performance
Racism Segregation alienation and isolation

Discrimination under or unemployment

increased possibility of poverty

less health care

increased likelihood of police contact

Conflict  Fear

Violence and hate violence

Resources for Researching Social Problems

The sources are not exhaustive, but offered to give you an idea of where information may be available.
Resources available in the PCC Library

The reference section of the library has many topical resources.
Journals that may be useful: Society     Journal of Social Issues     Journal of Socio-Economics
Sociological Perspectives
EBSCO Host - online guide to journals and magazines

Internet Sources

General Social Problems and Social Data
Wolf's Sociology Resources
Wolf's Sociology Resources for Sociology 206 (indexed)
Allyn & Bacon Sociology Links Home Page
Official Federal Government Web Sites
FedWorld Information Network Home Page
U.S. Census Bureau Home Page
Current Population Reports
Statistical Abstract on the Web

Drugs and Crime
Federal Bureau of Investigation - FBI Home Page
National Center for Juvenile Justice Homepage
Federal Bureau of Prisons Homepage
Oregon Prison Population Forecast
Unequal counsel  Byron Williams, Working for Change 2/21/05
Work, Income, and Poverty
DOC Research & Statistics
Welfare Reform and the General Welfare
The Effect of Race and Sex on Welfare Benefits
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The US National Income Statistics
Poverty, Family Structure, and Child Well-Being: Indicators From the SIPP
The Economic Policy Institute DataZone
Statistical Resources on the Web/Labor Media
MAP: The Media Awareness Project
Multinational Monitor

EPA Global Warming Site
A Global Overview of Forest Conservation
Union of Concerned Scientists
Mountaintop Mining   
Larson B Ice Shelf   
Drugs Contaminate Water Supplies 
Climate Action Report 2002 
Global cancer rate jump linked to US lifestyle 
The Oil We Eat 
War at Home - U.S. vs US
National Security Issues 

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