Tags: children/youth, class, education, inequality, race/ethnicity, the wire, 00 to 05 mins
Length: 1:31; 1:48
Access: YouTube clip 1; clip 2
Summary: Public education is meant to be the "great equalizer" and the cornerstone of the American Dream. But the reality is that the US has the greatest educational inequalities in the developed world, and in many ways, our educational system reproduces inequality rather than lessening it. These inequalities are largely rooted in how public schools are funded in the US. Most countries fund schools centrally and equally, but in the US, schools are largely funded through local property taxes and the wealthier your neighborhood, the wealthier the school (on average, wealthy schools spend 2-3 times more per pupil than poor schools). The impacts of these inequalities have been well documented in Kozol's (1991) classic study, Savage Inequalities, in more recent work (e.g. see "Structured for Failure: Race, Resources, and Student Achievement" by Linda Darling-Hammond, 2010); and they are illustrated throughout season 4 of The Wire. For example, schools in poorer districts cannot pay as high for teacher salaries and have a harder time attracting good teachers. In the first Wire clip above, the Principal and Assistant Principal discuss the teacher shortages that they have in science and math, and how the teachers took jobs in suburban schools. Roland Pryzbylewski (Prez) enters their office (after dealing with the schools' deteriorating infrastructure) in search of a job, and while he still lacks his teaching credentials, he is hired to teach math. Poor, low-achieving schools are five times as likely to have unqualified teachers, and this impacts teacher quality in the classroom (Darling-Hammond 2010). Schools in wealthier neighborhoods offer much higher salaries, more educational resources, and have fewer disruptive students, thus attracting better teachers to teach children from wealthier families. But the principals are happy to hear his past job was a police officer, given the severe behavioral issues Prez will face in the classroom. In the second clip, Bubbles helps his friend Sherrod return to school. Sherrod stopped attending school in the 5th grade, and is now 13 years old, which is a typical age for an 8th grader. But due to a lack of resources for students to repeat grade levels and a view that if they place the older children in the younger classes, "it us unfair to teachers, who are responsible for maintaining order." Accordingly, Sherrod will start off attending the 8th grade. This policy of "social promotion" effectively guarantees that Sherrod will not be prepared for the academic material taught in class. These types of inequality are also much more likely to impact students of color. Viewers would also be interested in this experiment on Oprah, where students from poor inner-city school traded places with a wealthy suburban school, which reinforces the examples above. You can also view other clips from The Wire that are useful for teaching sociological concepts.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: children/youth, consumption/consumerism, gender, social construction, gender binary, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This local newscast covers a recent Target store's removal of the "boys" and "girls" sections to go gender-neutral. They note the store is changing the symbolic pink and blue background colors to neutral colors. While in the past, girls played with Barbies and boys played with action figures, Target is transcending these distinctions to enable different toys, electronics, and bedding goods to appeal across gender boundaries. They note their decision to go gender-neutral is based on "customer feedback" and that separate girls and boys sections are "not necessary." Some customers reacted negatively to the switch, stating "Can you say publicity stunt?", "RIDICULOUS!!!", and "No longer a fan or shopper of Target." In effect, these customers are policing the gender binary. One of the news shows' interns praises Target for the move toward "gender equality" and enabling children to "create their own person and not have to choose one thing because that's what they're supposed to choose." For related videos, viewers may want to check out similar debates about a J. Crew advertisement, a 5-year old boy who loves to wear dresses, efforts to make gender-neutral Legos, Fox news analysts that mock gender-neutral bathrooms, and a peer sex educator that breaks down the gender binary.
Submitted By: Sanah Jivani
Tags: bodies, culture, race/ethnicity, social construction, african-american, black, essentialism, privilege, racial identity, transracial, white, 06 to mins
Summary: Rachel Dolezal sparked a national conversation on racial identity in June 2015 when her black identity was discredited by her white parents. This video is an NBC news interview, in which Dolezal claims "I identify as black" and goes on to defend herself against various criticisms about her racial identity and experiences (including a lawsuit against Howard University, claiming they discriminated against her as a white woman). On the one hand, Rachel Dolezal can be seen as a successful activist that "breathed new life" into her local NAACP chapter as its president (she has since resigned). And some people (both inside and outside the black community) have defended her support for African-American culture, and view criticisms of Dolezal as fracturing the movement for racial justice. However, most commentaries on Dolezal have been highly critical. Jessie Daniels summarized the criticisms in her excellent post, "Rachel Dolezal and the Trouble with White Womanhood." Specifically, Dolezal's attempt to pass as a black woman has taken away resources (i.e. a full scholarship to Howard University) reserved for African-Americans, she has allegedly stolen the stories of African-American (and Native American) oppression and experience and presented them as her own, her white skin has helped her benefit from colorism and white privilege (i.e. a visibly black person would not be permitted to pass as white), and that such claims reflect bell hooks' notion of "eating the other." Her case has also sparked a controversy about her claim of a transracial identity, which has long been applied to adoptees whose race did not match that of their parents. First, this claim of a transracial identity has been criticized by transracial adoptees, who argue that “We find the misuse of ‘transracial,’ describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of ‘blackness’ in order to pass as ‘black,’ to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.” Second, numerous conservative pundits jumped on the notion of "transracial" as being the same as transgender, in order to critique and discount both identities. But as Daniels and other scholars and activists have pointed out, the two identities are uniquely different. Carla Kaplan shed light on another dimension of black identity that, upon first glance, seems to be shared with Dolezal. Kaplan noted that, in the 1920s, the term "Voluntary Negro" was used to describe light-skinned blacks who looked white and chose to identify as black. The key point here is that the term was not intended for whites and was meant to honor African-Americans whose ancestry was shaped by racism (unlike that experienced by Dolezal), and that while they could "pass" as white, they chose to embrace their black identity out of racial solidarity. Kaplan went on to acknowledge that a "fervent social constructionist" view might logically enable such a fluid racial identity, but that she would still be culturally wrong in doing so.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: crime/law/deviance, government/the state, historical sociology, violence, war/military, authority, human rights, imprisonment, state terror, torture, 61+ mins
Access: no online access (trailer here)
Summary: The film Olvidados explores the horrors perpetrated under “Operation Condor,” which was responsible for: 50,000 deaths; 30,000 “disappeared”; and 400,000 arrested and imprisoned in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In the 1970’s, Operation Condor was a US-backed program to install right wing dictators in Latin America to eliminate the threat of communism. To accomplish this, the CIA provided training and support to the militaries of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay, which led to the disappearance of tens of thousands of citizens all of whom suffered from some of the worst violations of human rights in modern history. In the film, an aged Bolivian General, José (Damián Alcázar, El Narco), looks for redemption after suffering from a heart attack by confessing truth to his only son about his role in the persecution of countless men and women. Among the people who were “disappeared” are a journalist (Carlotto Cotta), a dancer (Ana Calentano), an activist (Tomás Fonzi), and a pregnant woman (Carla Ortiz) – all of whom were brutalized at the hands of José and other military leaders, which produced a cascade of lies and betrayal across generations. The historical events chronicled in the film would be useful to help teach numerous sociological topics, including concepts related to the state, authority, military, torture, imprisonment, human rights, and social justice. It could also be a useful resource for a travel learning course that focuses on any of these South American countries.
Submitted By: Cinema Libre Studio
Tags: art/music, consumption/consumerism, gender, marketing/brands, media, science/technology, social mvmts/social change/resistance, activism, culture jamming, new media art, gender socialization, 21 to 60 mins
Summary: How does social change happen? For more than a century, this question has inspired much sociological research. Within the study of social change, sociologists have often focused their attention on social movement activism and various forms of contentious politics. More recently, some sociologists have sought to move beyond these parameters to ask what other things might “count” as activism. For example, Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Social Movements Mobilizing Ideas blog recently featured a two-part series entitled “New Ways to Define Activism” (Part I and Part II). Often, sociologists cite new digital media environments and technologies as timely reasons for why we must revisit “old” definitions of activism. While this question might be relevant in the contemporary context, this video illustrates how activists began to strategically draw upon digital media technologies more than twenty years ago. In 1993, a group of artist-activists launched a multi-faceted media campaign call the Barbie Liberation Organization (BLO) in reaction to Mattel’s new talking Barbie, which contained an electronic voice box that played stereotypical phrases such as “Math class is tough” (listen to talking Barbie). The campaign mixed traditional and electronic media, hardware hacking, and “boots on the ground” activism, resulting in this video, which sought to raise awareness of gender stereotypes in a normally difficult-to-reach population of Americans. This video would become one of the earliest and most influential demonstrations of electronic media culture jamming. Instructors can use this video to elicit discussion of successful culture jamming in several ways. First, the video is presented as a legitimate news report, which begs larger questions about the trust we place in news media or the authority of corporations in general. Second, the purported newscast is peppered with clips from actual investigative news reports, such as A Current Affair, to further enhance the legitimacy of BLO’s report. However, many of the clips are taken out of context and edited to subvert the original message, such as when one toy expert’s words are used to accuse Mattel of "terrorism against children” when she was instead accusing BLO of such tactics. Here, we see the artist-activists employing the very medium they challenge to contradict the intended message, which is the crux of culture jamming practice. Finally, the video serves as a DIY tutorial—no different than the myriad of how-to videos populating the web today—which instructs viewers how to perform the voice box swap at home, thus giving consumers and activists alike agency to subvert the toy’s intended message. For a culture jamming video assignment, also posted on The Sociological Cinema, click here.
Submitted By: Josh Gumiela and Valerie Chepp
Tags: inequality, lgbtq, marriage/family, media, sex/sexuality, representation, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: At the 2015 Emmy Awards, Viola Davis won an Emmy for her role in the TV show, “How to Get Away With Murder,” making her the first African-American to win an Emmy for best lead actress in a drama series. Her acceptance speech was equally important, as she “placed her award within the larger context of diversity in Hollywood.” Davis’s win and acceptance speech reflect a situation that is simultaneously characterized by changing and static social dynamics. This resembles what sociologist Patricia Hill Collins has called the “changing-same” nature of contemporary social inequality, a situation in which new opportunities for change are presented as a result of dramatic shifts in the global political economy, yet where patterns of racial, gender, class and other inequalities nonetheless remain intact. This video clip provides another opportunity to consider the changing-same feature of social inequality in Hollywood. Focusing specifically on representations of queer characters on television, the clip illustrates how these representations have changed over the past several decades. As explained in this Slate article, “These days there are more queer TV characters than ever before, and television representations of gay life are increasingly rich and nuanced, even as the old lesbians-titilate, gays-entertain tropes sometimes remain in play. This video considers all the out-queers on the small screen—as well as all the gay wannabes, pretend-to-bes, and should-bes—taking stock of how far we've come and looking forward to where we might go next.” Yet, given Collins' insight on the changing-same nature of social inequalities, viewers are encouraged to consider how patterns of inequality around sexuality, queerness, and gender non-conformity remain entrenched in American popular culture. Thanks to Michael Miller for suggesting this clip.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: children/youth, consumption/consumerism, corporations, marketing/brands, media, science/technology, identity, internet, social media, teenagers, youth culture, subtitles/CC, 21 to 60 mins
Summary: This 2014 PBS Frontline documentary, Generation Like, serves as a nice updated follow-up to the popular 2001 documentary, The Merchants of Cool. As in the 2001 episode, Generation Like explores how large corporations and marketing firms seek to tap into young consumer markets. However, unlike the teens that came of age during the making of The Merchants of Cool, today’s young adults are navigating a radically different media and advertising environment, namely, one dominated by social media. As explained in this plot summary, “Thanks to social media, today's teens are able to directly interact with their culture - artists, celebrities, movies, brands, and even one another - in ways never before possible. But is that real empowerment? Or do marketers still hold the upper hand? In Generation Like, author and FRONTLINE correspondent Douglas Rushkoff (The Merchants of Cool, The Persuaders) explores how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media - and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers. Do kids think they're being used? Do they care? Or does the perceived chance to be the next big star make it all worth it? The film is a powerful examination of the evolving and complicated relationship between teens and the companies that are increasingly working to target them.” While this documentary would be useful for teaching ideas related to teen consumption and corporate advertising, it could also serve as a useful way to examine characteristics of the generational cohort following the Millennials, who have been dubbed "Generation Z."
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: aging/life course, demography/population, methodology/statistics, demographic transition, fertility, mortality, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In an earlier video post from The Economist I introduced the population pyramid, which is a type of graph used by demographers to interpret population characteristics and project how those characteristics will change in the future. Using these pyramid graphs, it's possible to discern whether a given population is growing rapidly, growing slowly, or in decline, and whether the country has undergone a demographic transition. Few graphs are more useful than population pyramids, for they allow policymakers to establish tax structures, based on projections of the number of working-age people who will be able to pay taxes and the number of people who will be dependent on social services. Knowing characteristics of a population is also essential if one hopes to prevent food shortages, avoid ecological threats, and lesson the blow of chronic poverty. This video lesson prepared by Kim Preshoff is a nice primer on reading the graphs, as it compares the population distributions of a number of different countries, including Russia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Canada, Japan, China, and the United States. After watching the video and discussing the potential challenges each country faces, it's useful to ask students to find or create population pyramids for other countries and report on the challenges their chosen country faces based on its population characteristics.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: culture, gender, inequality, social mvmts/social change/resistance, cultural relativism, gender oppression, honor-based societies, transnational feminism, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: This is an extended preview from the film Honor Diaries (2013), which explores the subjugation of women in honor-based societies. As explained in the clip by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel, “The concept of honor, it’s very difficult to explain it to Western societies. A lot of it has to do with how women behave and the sexuality of women.” Oanta Ahmed, author of In the Land of Invisible Women, elaborates saying, “Honor is something that is carried and contained in women, and is there to be guarded by men." The movie focuses on the work of nine women’s rights activists—Zainab Khan, Raheel Raza, Juliana Taimoorazy, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Raquel Saraswati, Fahima Hashim, Nazie Eftekhari, Jasvinder Sanghera, and Manda Zand Ervin—and explores gender-based abuses including female genital mutilation, child marriages, and acid attacks. This video is useful for illustrating the concept of transnational feminist activism or, “activist efforts by feminists to change gender relations outside their own states and collaborate between and among feminists in different countries” (Wade and Ferree 2015:358). In this case, women activists from different countries (including Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Canada, Iraq, and the UK) have come together to work against the subjugation of women in honor-based societies. The clip is also useful for inciting discussion around tensions pertaining to culturally relativist arguments about gender oppression. Western feminists have a long history of imposing their own culturally-specific perspective of feminism upon those in other societies. Aware of this imperialistic feature of Western feminisms’ history, many, including students, may resist criticizing oppressive practices taking place in non-Western societies. The activists in the clip confront this issue head-on (around the 7:50 minute mark), highlighting the resistance toward criticizing these practices for fear of being labeled an Islamaphobe. Saraswati says, "We shy away from criticizing anything that’s different because we don’t want to be seen as the type of people that would restrict someone’s expression." Westerners can learn to distinguish respectful cultural relativism from abusive oppressive practices by looking for guidance from the countless numbers of human rights activists working on these issues in their home countries. As evidenced by the women activists in this video, the notion of honor as being intricately tied to women's behaviors and bodies is justification for abuse.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: class, education, inequality, housing, intergenerational inequality, school funding, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this commercial for Realtor.com, Elizabeth Banks explains how privilege is passed on from parents to children. In the ad she explains a feature on the Realtor.com website that shows where school boundaries are located. This gives parents looking for a house the ability to know which schools their children will attend, or as she states, it lets you “know where to live to get your kid into the best school.” She then explains how sending kids to better schools means attending better colleges, which means better jobs. In just 12 seconds, she explains how economic inequality is reproduced from generation to generation. The importance of housing in maintaining and reinforcing inequality has been explored extensively in sociology. Property taxes are a major source of funding for public schools. Those schools located in districts with higher housing values will generally have more funding for public schools. Students in higher income areas have better facilities and supplies, more access to technology, and more opportunities for extra-curricular activities. This then increases their chances of attending better colleges, and therefore increases their chances for higher occupational attainment. Rather than education leveling the playing field between poor, middle-class, and rich students, we see that education is a way that inequality gets reinforced. The commercial is appealing to parents to buy houses in the “good neighborhoods” and avoid the “bad neighborhoods.” But what does this mean for families who don’t have the financial wherewithal to move into neighborhoods with the best school districts? Their kids are more likely to attend underfunded schools, which decreases their chances of attending better colleges. So we see the children of middle-class and upper-class parents will have opportunities and privileges passed on to them that are denied those from lower socio-economic statuses. This video would pair well with this New York Times article.
Submitted By: Wes Shirley
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