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187 Discussion Social Problems. Themes: Levels, Systems, Feedbacks. Discussion of 187. 187 is a kind of urban anthropology The E. LA school pictured is rather different from that most Villanova students attended, but it is not that different from most Philadelphia schools.

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187 discussion social problems

187 DiscussionSocial Problems

Themes: Levels,

Systems, Feedbacks

Discussion of 187
Discussion of 187

  • 187 is a kind of urban anthropology

  • The E. LA school pictured is rather different from that most Villanova students attended,

  • but it is not that different from most Philadelphia schools.

Most serious social problem in villanova intro to soc classes
Most serious Social Problem in Villanova Intro. To Soc. Classes

*: Includes: war, overpopulation, censorship, natural resources, abortion, welfare, lack of responsibility, herd mentality and apathy.

Questions Classes

  • Urban anthropology raises many questions.

    • I am going to focus on three main course themes with respect to 187

    • but any comments or questions whatever, or any reactions to other students comments are perfectly appropriate for e-mail discussion.

    • I will moderate the discussions. Send comments or reactions to me and I will forward them.

  • For example, is the structure of the school in 187 consistent with the value (and constitutional rights associated with) equal educational opportunity?

  • If not, what should be done?

3 themes
3 THEMES Classes

  • 1. LEVELS

    • Does social structure have effects independent of individual action?

  • 2. SYSTEMS

    • Does social structure consist of interdependent parts, and if so, how does that affect how it is analyzed?


    • How do actions or processes self-reinforce, or self-inhibit.

1 levels
1 Levels Classes

1 levels macro structure
1 Levels: macro-structure Classes

  • How much are individual actions constrained by the social structure?

  • Cesar says, “It (KOS) is all I’ve got.” To what extent is this true? To the extent that it is true, Why is it true?

  • Rita says, “You can’t blame everything on environment, but you can push anyone too far, and they will go bad.”

    • Which is true?

    • Can you push anyone too far?

Macro structures and neighborhoods
Macro-structures and neighborhoods Classes

  • One of the main sources of American sociology was the study of Chicago neighborhoods.

  • Some had very high rates of poverty, homicide, unemployment, illegitimacy, prostitution, academic failure, gangs, alcoholism, homicide, etc. etc. Why?

  • Even when the whole population changed, the neighborhood retained high levels of social problems.

Policy implications
Policy Implications Classes

  • Macro:

  • Structural change (draining the swamp)

  • Micro

  • Individual change

    (shooting bullfrogs)

90210 vs east l a
90210 vs. East L.A. Classes

  • Rita is class valedictorian.

  • Rita is a bright, motivated student.

  • Rita’s address demonstrates a lack of grammar and academic skills that means that she could not get into Villanova, let alone afford to go.

  • Rita will probably not even go to community college.

  • Is this a problem?

  • If so, what is the solution?

Pettigrew s quiz and levels
Pettigrew’s Quiz and levels: Classes

  • Common sense is often wrong.

  • All the common sense answers were false.

  • The main issue is that human behavior must be understood as part of a cell, rather than as actions of an isolated individual.

  • E.g. servicemen compare themselves to the people they come in contact with; losing votes in KS is worth it if you gain some votes in PA, etc.

2 systems
2 Systems Classes

  • A school, a neighborhood, a gang or an ethnic group are a set of interdependent parts, each of which reinforce each other in multiple ways.

  • For example, the social problems in East L.A. are mutually reinforcing.

  • You cannot change one part without changing everything else.

  • In a system, you can’t do only one thing.

Example of an ecosystem
Example of an Ecosystem Classes

  • Suppose harbour seals eat 50 lbs. of cod a day

    • 1500 lbs. per month; 9 tons per year

  • Suppose there are 500,000 of them in an area

  • Suppose they can be reduced in number

  • Will killing them increase the supply of cod that fishermen may catch by millions of tons per year?

  • Why or why not?

Ecosystems not necessarily probably not
Ecosystems: ClassesNot necessarily; probably not

  • Harbour seals eat a lot of things that eat cod as well as eating cod themselves.

  • If seals also eat a ton of cod-eaters per year

  • The cumulative effect of reducing the seals may be to increase those predators and therefore to reduce the supply of cod.

  • If you do not know the system dynamics, then you don’t know the effect.

187 systems
187 systems: Classes

  • If the academic problem of East LA schools and students are more than KOS, then getting rid of Benny may not help.

  • And getting rid of Benny may strengthen, rather than weaken KOS.

  • Garfield acts as vigilante; but even a police strategy of attacking the symptoms may be unproductive or counterproductive.

3 three kinds of dynamic systems
3. Three kinds of dynamic systems: Classes

  • Self-reinforcing system: a common result of positive feedback.

  • System without feedback

  • Self-maintaining system: a common result of negative feedback.

  • Find examples of each in 187.

Self reinforcing system
Self-reinforcing system: Classes

  • Self-reinforcing system is a common result of positive feedback

  • “Unstable equilibrium.”

  • Feeds on itself.

  • E.g. a marble on a hill.

  • Vicious cycles.

    • A small push has a big effect; a big push has a big effect. Once the marble is moving, its movement to a steeper slope causes it to pick up force.

    • What is an example from 187?

System without feedback
System without feedback Classes

  • Systems without feedback are usually neither self-reinforcing nor self-maintaining.

  • “Stable equilibrium.”

  • E.g. a marble on a plain.

    • A little push has a little effect; a big push has a big effect.

    • What is an example from 187?

Self maintaining system
Self-maintaining system Classes

  • Self-maintaining system is a common result of negative feedback

  • A “hyper-stable” equilibrium.

  • Eg. A marble in a valley.

    • Either a little push or a big push goes away as soon as one stops pushing, and the system returns to its original condition.

    • What are examples from 187?

Examples of self reinforcing dynamics in 187
Examples of self-reinforcing dynamics in 187 Classes

  • Garfield retaliates to punish the individuals responsible (shooting bullfrogs).

  • Things become actively worse. Why?

    • The gang becomes more solidary and aggressive.

    • One reasons is the dynamic of escalation that results. This one of the classic examples of positive feedback producing a self-reinforcing system.

  • Garfield cannot work with the usual structures of control (families; administration; other teachers; police; student groups). Why?

    • Would more policing than individual vigilantism? (Note that this is what the Philadelphia proposal called for.)

Examples of self maintaining dynamics in 187
Examples of self-maintaining dynamics in 187 Classes

  • Often when Garfield makes a change, such as removing the KOS head, the situation changes back to its prior state.

  • The role exists independently of the person who happens to fill it, the way a job exists independently of the person in it.

  • What is the difference between getting rid of the members of KOS and getting rid of KOS?

  • KOS gets income and status from the drug trade; if you take it away, they will react; they constitute a “vested interest.”

Examples of no feedbacks
Examples of no feedbacks: Classes

  • There are surely some times when the net feedbacks are zero.

  • For example, probably tutoring Rita does not, by itself, either maintain or reinforce itself.

  • Almost certainly there are self-reinforcing processes, and there are also counteracting self-maintaining ones, which happen to cancel each other out.

  • In the 20th c. we have often had to assume that this special case of zero net feedback is typical because, for technical reasons, systems with feedbacks are inconvenient to analyze.