Archive for January, 2013

When I think of children’s books, I usually don’t think of slavery (although portrayals of race in children’s books have been examined in ASR). In 1864, however, slavery and children’s books came together in the form of Abel Thomas’s The Gospel of Slavery: A Primer of Freedom. The book includes a rhyming discussion of slavery for each letter of the alphabet, with additional historical information below. A discussion of the book (which I assume was not the only anti-slavery children’s book of the time) is available at Slate, with the entire book available here.

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As sociologists, we are trained to look for broad social patterns. Often, we do this using survey data from hundreds or even thousands of people and using complicated statistical procedures to account for differences between our sample and our population. Recognizing this, I’ve heard sociologists use the disclaimer that their personal experiences are based on an “N of one,” meaning that they are drawing conclusions from a sample of one. As we know, though, the general public does not hold itself to the same standard. I was recently reminded of this when an Australian teenager’s Facebook picture of an 11-inch “Footlong” sub from Subway caused people to freak out. Here it is:

Corby's Sub Picture

One Subway sandwich in Australia was less than 12 inches long and suddenly people assumed that all subway sandwiches are less than 12 inches long. People sued. Subway responded that baking times may lead to differences in the size of their bread but that they are increasing their efforts to ensure consistency.

On one hand, it is incredible that a single picture posted on a social network can lead to a response from a major corporation. On the other hand, N of one!

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Complements of Glenn Beck:

Via: Upworthy.com

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Speaking of gender roles, I recently saw a post at The Society Pages linking to this suggestion by Rebecca Rosen at The Atlantic that men refuse to speak on or moderate all-male panels at technology and science conferences. While I think this is a great idea, I also wonder how the fact that prospective male participants ask male organizers to include women affects the reactions. For example, see the exchange in Rosen’s post:

I cannot speak for the dozens of other Jewish male leaders, scholars and activists who also made the pledge, but in my case, push has never actually come to shove. My convictions have not yet been tested. I never had to refuse participation because, so far, not once have the conveners failed to “find” a woman who can participate. Generally, the conversations have gone something like this:

“Prof. Kelner, will you teach at our all-night Shavuot study session?”

“Sure. I’d be happy to. Who else is on the program?”

“Abe, Isaac and Jake”

“You couldn’t find any women to teach? Look, I’d love to join the program, but I’ve made a pledge not to participate in all-male panels. And anyway, do you really want to send the message that there are no qualified women?”

“Wow! You’re right. Thank you. We’re going to fix this.”

“Do that, and I’ll be happy to participate.”

Because a male is organizing the conference and a male is asking about the inclusion of women, this seems like a reasonable request to the organizer. I can unfortunately imagine all kinds of scenarios, however, where a woman mentions the fact that there are not many female participants and is criticized for suggesting that there may be some sort of bias at play. This also seems to invite tokenism or the claim that there “aren’t any qualified women.”

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Many of the things that are reversed in the video below highlight how arbitrary (and ridiculous) many gender norms are. It might be interesting to have students consciously reverse gender norms for a period of time and then write a reflection paper about the experience to see if they come to similar conclusions.

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Mark J. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute has created a graph comparing the increase in textbook prices since 1978 to that of medical services, new homes, and the consumer price index:

AEI_Textbook_InflationAs Perry states, “Compared to the 250% increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the last 34 years, college textbooks have risen more than three times the amount of the average increase for all goods and services.” In fact, according to this graph textbooks have doubled in price since I was an undergraduate.

Perry discusses competition for textbooks, including free alternatives mentioned at Slate. I don’t think I’m alone in that most of my courses use scanned articles and book chapters rather than textbooks, but this practice likely makes textbooks more expensive for those who need to use them. I’m not optimistic that prices will decrease any time soon.

Via: The Atlantic

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Just one of many fine divisions at Monsters University. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to offer sociology, which seems more than scary enough for inclusion! Here is a promotional video:

I’m not sure how surprising it should be that a made-up website for an upcoming Pixar movie puts most college/university websites to shame.

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I recently saw a commercial for a product called “Password Minder” that allows people to keep track of their myriad computer passwords in a safe and effective way. What is this safe and effective way? It is writing your passwords in an alphabetized book that you keep next to your computer! I am not making this up! There is a website that features a version of the commercial I saw at getpasswordminder.com. A lot of the wording from the commercial is also available at this web page.

One of my favorite features is the leatherette cover that “makes sure that your passwords are doubly secret.” By virtue of being opaque, this cover protects your passwords from anybody who can’t see through things or figure out how to open a book! This point is driven home at 1:08 in the video on the website when a nameless woman states, “I don’t have to worry any more about security or identity theft. I now have all my passwords in one place. It’s great!” As any expert will tell you, there is nothing like keeping all of your passwords in one easily portable location to prevent you from identity theft!

Best of all, the Password Minder is only $10 and comes with a free digital reminder to let you know what you need at the store, where you parked your car, or where you stored your Password Minder! For a limited time you can double your order for free (just pay shipping and handling!). I only wish that Christmas hadn’t passed so that I could get Password Minders for all of my family members.

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David Cole, in a recent op-ed for The New York Times, discusses the connection between race and attitudes about the second amendment:

The history of gun regulation is inextricably interwoven with race. Some of the nation’s most stringent gun laws emerged in the South after the Civil War, as Southern whites feared what newly freed slaves might do if armed. At the same time, Northerners saw the freed slaves’ right to bear arms as critical to protecting them from the Ku Klux Klan.

But as long as gun violence largely targets young black men in urban ghettos, the nation seems indifferent. At Newtown, the often all-too-invisible costs of the right to bear arms were made starkly visible — precisely because these weren’t the usual victims. The nation took note, and President Obama has promised reform, though he has not yet made a specific proposal.

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