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Fall Semester 2011, Tuesday-Thursday 11:10-12:25, Aquinas 108

Instructor: Dr. Sullins

Office: Aquinas Hall, Rm. 116C Sociology Dept. Phone: (202) 319-5445
Office Phone: (202) 319 - 5943 E-mail Address: sullins@cua.edu
Teaching Assistant:  Patrick Stark TA E-mail Address: 06stark@cardinalmail.cua.edu


Monday 12:00-1:30  (TA)
Tuesday 12:30-1:00 (Instructor)
Thursday 12:30-1:00 (TA and Instructor)

   Welcome and Overview    Requirements     Texts    Assignment Schedule    Resources

Welcome and Overview

This course is an introduction to the sociological study of social problems. It is designed to make students aware of major social problems, and to explore the causes of and possible solutions to them.  In this task we will attempt to set social problems in a global perspective both politically and intellectually, comparing different societies and theoretical perspectives and by examining broad social trends. Throughout the course the perspective of Catholic social teaching will be compared and contrasted with other viewpoints, and students will be encouraged to develop their own ethic and practice of engagement with social problems.

Required Texts

Course Goals

The goals of the course are to increase student understanding of the social conditions which are problematic in modern society; to develop student's critical thinking skills to better appreciate diverse perspectives, including that of Catholic social thought, regarding the root causes of social problems;  to engage in participant observation in an actual attempt to address a social problem; and to stimulate students' creative thinking regarding viable solutions to the challenges faced by individuals, communities, societies and the global community of nations.  These goals are pursued in service of the more general goals of a social science and liberal education at Catholic University.

Goals for Student Learning

At the end of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. analyze the interacting social, personal, political and moral forces that are thought to contribute to or ameliorate social problems.
  2. identify the effect of global trends and forces on local or national social problems, and vice versa.
  3. describe the history and current prospects of the development of the global ideals of human rights and social justice.
  4. describe (better) her/his own identity, rights, expectations and responsibilities regarding the pursuit of social justice in American society and the global sociocultural context.
  5. articulate the unique contribution of Catholic social theory to the understanding of the problems of human society.

The attainment of these goals will be assessed by weekly study question assignments, midcourse anonymous student feedback, and final exam essays (click to see the questions and exam expectations).

Course Requirements and Grade Percentage

Midterm exams are multiple choice, short answer or essay, and true-false questions based on readings and lectures; they are not cumulative. 

The final exam will be in-class essay requiring thoughtful integration of all the course content, and will be cumulative.  Exam questions will be selected from a larger list of possibilities.  Click Here to see this larger list.

Reading Assignments:  Study questions are provided for each week's reading material.  On Monday each week you will hand in either the answer to these questions or an abstract of that week's material.  This is due each Monday for the upcoming week's (not previous week's) readings.

Your study question answers or abstract will be graded as check, check-plus, check-minus, or zero.  A check means acceptable work, all but a few weekly papers will receive a check; check-minus is unacceptable work, and constitutes an invitation to re-do the assignment and hand it in again until you get a check; check-plus is very outstanding or impressively good work, and is rarely given; zero means the assignment was not handed in (or was handed in blank or substantially incomplete).  Checks may not be redone for a higher score.  These will affect your total course percentage score as follows:  checks will have no effect; each check-plus will add 1%; each check-minus will subtract 1%; each zero will subtract 2%.  At the end of the semester the lowest reading assignment score may be dropped.

For more details see my general policies on grading, assignments, attendance and exams.

Issue Project: You will be be assigned to an Issue Project group to research, intern or act on an issue or topic of interest related to the course.  Students in the group will co-ordinate their work so as to cover as many aspects of the issue as possible. Each student will write a 10 page paper researching part of the issue or reporting on your practicum as described in the next paragraph.  

Each student choosing to do a practicum will be required to engage in (12 hours) participating in/observing an activity devoted to addressing some social problem.   Your 10-page paper will reflect on and you may make a brief informal class presentation (ungraded) regarding your experience and findings.  For more details see my Twelve Suggested Questions to cover in your report.  Also see an example of an "A" quality report.  Here are some suggestions for choosing a practicum site.

Group Presentation:  Your Issue Project group will prepare a twenty minute presentation on an issue or topic of interest related to the weekly material of the course.  This will be graded on quality and accuracy of research (50%) and organization and clarity of the presentation (50%).  See the Expectations and Evaluation Criteria for Class Presentations.


Note: Due to guest speakers the course schedule is subject to change.  Advance notice, as much as possible, will be given of all changes both in class and on this web page.  The student is responsible to discover anything that has been both announced in class and posted to this page.
Week of August 29
Introduction; Overview of Sociological Theory
Light and Keller, "The Sociological Eye"
9/1: Mass of the Holy Spirit, class ends early.
Week of September 5
Intro to Catholic Social Teaching (CST)
Readings (Study Questions)HCST (Heart of Catholic Social Teaching) Ch. 4
Overviews of Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno
Week of September 12
Concepts of Justice and  and  Human Rights
Readings (Study Questions): HCST Ch. 8
Centesimus Annus (plain language version), Pope John Paul II.
The International Bill of Human Rights and associated Covenants.  Note the title/subject matter of all nine major covenants, and read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  
Also see UDHR Summary Poster
Week of September 19
CST and Social Problems
Readings (Study Questions): HCST Ch. 7
CST outline slides (Powerpoint)
9/20: Practicum site choice due.
Week of September 26
The Family I 
Readings (Study Questions): GSP Ch. 1
Crisis of the Family, Finsterbusch (ed.), pp. 62-78
Week of  October 3  
The Family II
Crisis of the Family, Finsterbusch (ed.), pp. 79-113
(Study Questions)  
10/6: Midterm I Study Guide 
Week of  October 10
Poverty and Plenty
Readings (Study Questions): GSP Ch. 6
10/11: Paper/practicum Progress Report due
Latest Human Development Report Stats
Week of October 17
Readings (Study Questions): GSP Ch. 2
Week of October 24
Population and Immigration
Readings (Study Questions): GSP Ch. 7
10/27: Special guest lecturer: Patrick Stark on Immigration
Week of October 31
Industrialization and Globalization
Readings (Study Questions): GSP Ch. 3
Week of November 7
The Environment
Readings (Study Questions): GSP Ch. 8
Jared Diamond, "Environmental Collapse" (2004 Chafee Lecture)
11/10: Special guest lecturer: Patrick Stark on Environmental Issues
Week of November 14
Review and Exam
11/15: Summary/review for exam
Presentation: Immigration (Group 1)
Presentation: Human Trafficking (Group 3)
11/17: Midterm II  Study Guide  
Week of November 21
Readings (Study Questions): Lee et al., New Homelessness Revisited (on Blackboard "Course Documents")
11/23: Special speaker: National Coalition for the Homeless.  Class meets in Pryzbyla 312.
11/25: Thanksgiving Recess, class does not meet.
Week of November 28
Warfare and Crime
Review and Integration
Debrief, Case Studies and Presentations
Readings (Study Questions): GSP Ch. 5
11/29: Presentation: Child Abuse (Group 5)
          Presentation: Food Security (Group 6)
12/1: Presentation: Gendercide (Group 4)
        Presentation: Illegal Drugs (Group 2)
12/1: Paper/practicum report due.
Week of December 5
12/6: Last day of class.
12/8: Immaculate Conception.  Holiday and Reading Day.
Week of December 12 Final Examination scheduled by Enrollment Services for Thursday, December 15, 10:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Notes to note well:

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D. Paul Sullins and/or The Catholic University of America