Assignment One: Units One and Two
Please pick four of the following questions and answer them fully. Each question is worth equal credit. Each answer should be around 350 words. Make sure that you answer all parts of each question fully. We won’t specifically penalize you for fewer or more words, but if you are writing a lot less you are probably not giving us enough of an answer for a good grade. We expect that the test will take less than two hours if you are well-prepared.
The questions are taken directly from things that we have covered in class. Between your lecture and section notes, the readings we have done, and the slides posted on Canvas you should have plenty of material to answer these questions. You do not need to cite any of the course material (like your textbook or the lecture or a source linked to on one of the slides). We don’t expect you to use outside sources, but if you do for any reason, please make sure to cite it (give enough information for us to know where it came from – we do not require any specific citation system for this test). In general, using your notes and other course materials to answer these questions is going to be a better strategy that will result in a better grade than relying on internet searches for any concepts or ideas. The test is closely aligned with what we have been teaching, meaning that your notes and knowledge will be better guides to answering these questions than more generic accounts in other sources.
Answers will be graded with a 0,✓-,✓, or✓+, worth 0, 1, 2, or 3 points respectively. We will use the following table to convert these checks to a letter grade:
An answer that receives a check will competently answer the question by drawing on concepts and arguments included in the lectures, discussions, and readings from the class and using examples when called for that are well explained and clearly and explicitly connected to the concepts, arguments, and issues that you are writing about. A check plus answer will meet the check standard but exceed it by effectively expressing a strong understanding of the full range of concepts, ideas, and issues that a question raises in connection to what we have covered in the course. A check minus answer will have some of the features of a check answer but will in other parts be confusing, make significant mistakes, or fail to fully answer all parts of the question. In general they do a less effective job in communicating your answer. A 0 answer will not effectively answer the question nor will it communicate an understanding of the underlying concepts and ideas.
Please pick four questions to answer (~350 words for each answer).
1. Behind the numbers, the study of demography involves matters of power, desire, life, and death. Referring to the lectures on demography please identify and explain two specific examples that demonstrate the connection between demographic factors and these other aspects of social life.
2. Mills writes, “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” What does he mean by this? Why does he think this is true? Please use the example of maternal mortality (including racial disparities in maternal mortality) to explain your answer.
3. Describe the most significant ethical questions raised by germline genetic engineering and CRISPR/CAS9 technologies from a sociological perspective. What are some of the strongest arguments for and against it? Why do we need to consider the social consequences of what is effectively a genetic technology?
4. Please use as much detail as you can from the Schulz article on the Cascadia subduction zone, the Buffalo Creek flood, and/or the case of Hurricane Floyd’s impacts in North Carolina (so you can focus on one of these, a couple, or all of them, however you can give the best answer) to explain why we should think about “natural disasters” as intersections between natural and human social systems.
5. How can a view of opioid addiction that focuses exclusively on individuals lead us to different ideas about resolving the opioid addiction and overdose crisis than a view that puts addiction into its social context? Why? What is one specific way that you could use the social context of opioid addiction to advocate for a policy that would be missed if you focus exclusively on individual morality and responsibility?
6. What does Erikson mean when he argues that people who experienced the Buffalo Creek Flood also suffered “collective trauma”? Identify a quote from Erikson’s book on the flood (excerpts are available on Canvas) that demonstrates the difference between collective and individual trauma (there are lots of quotes that would work for this purpose in the book). Please explain the quote and the difference between individual and collective trauma. What do you think the idea of collective trauma tells us about how we should think about disasters?
7. Use concepts from the demography lecture to provide as detailed an explanation as you can in ~350 words for the chart of human population growth posted as a separate Canvas file titled “human population chart.” (You should focus on explaining the chart from -8000 through the present, not the “future scenarios” it projects.)
8. How does an effort to understand maternal mortality statistics in the U.S. benefit from a sociological perspective? Please answer in as much detail as you can – a good answer won’t be a short answer.
9. Please give a detailed explanation (including examples) of the idea that the characteristics of a group can influence group performance and individual experiences of being a part of the group in a way that goes beyond the individual characteristics of group members. As part of your answer provide at least three specific features of groups that help to understand the power of group-level characteristics.
10. Please read the following short articles about the rise of “Tommy John” surgery, especially among young baseball players. Then use the approach we adopted in class to thinking about disasters, maternal mortality, and opioids to explain the sociological dimensions linking bio-mechanical causes to the specific effects described in the articles.