TTH 2:00-3:20 SGM 123
Dr. Karen Sternheimer
Office: KAP 348A
Office hours: T 12:30-1:45; TTH 3:30-4:30
and by appointment
Office: KAP 355
Office: KAP 355
Office hours: TTH
Office hours: M 1-2,
What is a social problem? How do we know? Who has the power to define social problems and propose
Throughout the semester we will continually return to these questions. Our central purpose is to critically
evaluate what issues rise onto the public agenda as problems, as well as who may (or may not) benefit
from proposed solutions. Additionally, we will address why some issues are regularly blamed for causing
social problems despite the lack of evidence to support such claims. We will also consider how claims
about what causes specific social problems (and presumed solutions) stem from debates about culture and
social structure within American society.
Throughout the course we will focus on issues such as poverty, racism, crime and punishment,
unemployment, teen parenthood, substance abuse, immigration, education, homophobia, homelessness,
the environment and materialism, as well as many other topics that may arise in our discussions over the
course of the semester.
This course meets the General Education requirement for "Social Issues" (Category VI).
course also meets the Diversity Course Requirement,
and explores several dimensions of social
diversity, including gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, and social class in the context of a
range of historical, cultural, and contemporary institutional contexts.
Explore how social problems are socially constructed within the media, by politicians, and by other
Critically examine how discussions about social problems draw on both cultural and structural
explanations, as well as how race, ethnicity, class, and gender are built into the discourse on social