Table of Contents
TAKING SIDES: Clashing Views on Social Issues
Unit 1 Culture and Values
- Issue 1. Does the Media Have a Liberal Bias?
YES: Fred Barnes, from Is Mainstream Media Fair and Balanced? Imprimis (August 2006)
NO: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., from Crimes Against Nature (HarperCollins, 2005)
Fred Barnes, journalist, executive editor of The Weekly Standard and TV commentator, argues that the mainstream media has a pronounced liberal bias. They do not hire conservatives, and an analysis of specific news stories shows their bias. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., environmentalist and political activist, agrees with Barnes that the media is biased but believes that it has a conservative bias. Surveys show that most Americans have many false beliefs that are fed to them by conservative talk radio shows and other conservative media outlets. Many media owners are very conservative and stifle investigative reporting.
- Issue 2. Is Third World Immigration a Threat to Americas Way of Life?
YES: Mark Krikorian, from The New Case Against Immigration (Sentinel, 2008)
NO: Jason L. Riley, from Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders (Gotham, 2008)
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, presents the case against immigration. He emphasizes the changes in America that make immigration less beneficial for America. The current immigrants are not much different than immigrants in the past century but they do not fit the new America as well as the past immigrants fit the old America. One part of the story is that the new America will not assimilate immigrants well. Jason L. Riley, an editor of the Wall Street Journal, applauds immigration because it will propel, not impede, economic growth. America has a flexible labor market, where both employers and employees can change the work situation as they need or desire. In the end, employers, workers, and consumers are all better off. America has a labor shortage that immigrants help fill without taking jobs in the aggregate from Americans. Riley also argues that new immigrants assimilate much like the old immigrants did.
Unit 2 Sex Roles, Gender, and the Family
- Issue 3. Does Divorce Have Long-Term Damaging Effects on Children?
YES: Elizabeth Marquardt, from The Bad Divorce, First Things (February 2005)
NO: Constance Ahrons, from Were Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say about Their Parents Divorce (Harper Collins, 2004)
Elizabeth Marquardt, Director of the Center for Marriage and Families, defends the common belief that divorce has devastating impacts on children and attacks Constance Ahronss counter-thesis. Constance Ahrons, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, found in her research on the children of divorced parents that they do quite well in later life and most think that they were not harmed by the divorce.
- Issue 4. Are Professional Women Opting Out of Work by Choice?
YES: Linda Hirshman, from Homeward Bound, The American Prospect Online (November 21, 2005)
NO: Pamela Stone, from The Rhetoric and Reality of Opting Out, Contexts (Fall 2007)
Feminist scholar, Linda Hirshman, finds that successful and well-qualified women are opting out of work outside the home when their husbands income is adequate for a rich lifestyle. Prioritizing parenthood over work is an affront to Hirshmans feminist values. Sociologist Pamela Stone reports on her survey research and found a number of women who sacrificed careers for parenthood and thought it was their free choice. Her analysis, however, notes that they were tightly constrained by traditional gender roles and inflexible workplaces.
- Issue 5. Should Same-Sex Marriages Be Legally Recognized?
YES: Human Rights Campaign, from Answers to Questions about Marriage Equality (Human Rights Campaign, 2009)
NO: Peter Sprigg, from Questions and Answers: Whats Wrong with Letting Same-Sex Couples Marry? (Family Research Council, 2004)
Americas largest lesbian and gay organization, the Human Rights Campaign, presents many arguments for why same-sex couples should be able to marry. The main argument is fairness. Marriage confers many benefits that same-sex couples are deprived of. Researcher Peter Sprigg presents many arguments for why same-sex couples should not be able to marry. The main argument is that the state has the right and duty to specify who a person, whether straight or gay, can marry, so no rights are violated.
Unit 3 Stratification and Inequality
- Issue 6. Is Increasing Economic Inequality a Serious Problem?
YES: James Kurth, from The Rich Get Richer, The American Conservative (September 25, 2006)
NO: Gary S. Becker and Kevin M. Murphy, from The Upside of Income Inequality, The American (MayJune 2007)
James Kurth, Claude Smith Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, warns of very negative consequences for America of the growing income inequality from a conservative perspective. He also mentions the liberal criticisms of inequality but downplays their importance, because America has institutions that mitigate them. Gary S. Becker and Kevin M. Murphy, both economists teaching at the University of Chicago and Senior Fellows at the Hoover Institute, swim upstream on this issue by pointing out the positive consequences of the growing income inequality. The main reason for the increasing inequality is the increasing returns to education, which, in turn, inspire greater efforts by young people to increase their social capital.
- Issue 7. Is America Moving Toward a Post-Racial Society?
YES: Alvin Poussaint, from Obama, Cosby, King and the Mountaintop, CNN.com (November 13, 2008)
NO: Lawrence D. Bobo, Somewhere between Jim Crow and Post-Radicalism: Reflections on the Racial Divide in America Today (Daedalus, Spring 2011)
Alvin Poussaint is a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School with a focus on child psychiatry. He argues that the election of Barack Obama may indicate that America is approaching the mountaintop that King preached about. Lawrence D. Bobo, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, provides a scholarly analysis of racial inequalities. He explains how inequalities in America are constantly being recreated. Change occurs and is much celebrated, but change is successfully resisted in many subtle ways.
- Issue 8. Has Feminism Benefited American Society?
YES: Barbara Epstein, from The Successes and Failures of Feminism, Journal of Womens History (Summer 2002)
NO: Kate OBeirne, from Women Who Make the World Worse (Sentinel, 2006)
History Professor Barbara Epstein argues that the feminist movement has been highly successful in changing the consciousness of Americans to an awareness of the inequality of women and a determination to resist it. She explains how feminists succeeded at the consciousness level but have declined as a movement for social change. Journalist Kate OBeirne argues that feminism is unpopular with women and is pushing an agenda that most women do not support. She claims that most women have concluded that the feminist movement is both socially destructive and personally disappointing.
- Issue 9. Is the Gender Wage Gap Justified?
YES: John Shackleton, from Explaining the Overall Pay Gap in Should We Mind the Gap? Gender Pay Differentials and Public Policy, London, England: The Institute of Economic Affairs (2008)
NO: Hilary M. Lips, from The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the Rationalizations and Blaming Womens Choices for the Gender Pay Gap. From Expert Advice for Working Women. www.womensmedia.com.
John Shackleton, a Professor of Economics and Dean of the Business School at University of East London, argues that the gender wage gap is not largely due to discrimination. It is largely due to the differential value of male and female workers in the employment market. Employers want profits so pay differently for different skills, commitment, and performance, and women choose less profitable training and limit their commitment. Hilary M. Lips, Professor and Chair of Psychology and Director of the Center for Gender Studies at Radford University, documents the continuing gender gap in wages and blames it largely on discrimination based on stereotypes and prejudice.
Unit 4 Political Economy and Institutions
- Issue 10. Is Government Dominated by Big Business?
YES: G. William Domhoff, from Who Rules America? Power, Politics, and Social Change, 5th ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2006)
NO: Sheldon Kamieniecki, from Corporate America and Environmental Policy (Stanford University Press, 2006)
Political sociologist G. William Domhoff argues that the owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant power figures in the United States and that they have inordinate influence in the federal government. Political scientist Sheldon Kamienieckis research finds that business interests do not participate at a high rate in policy issues that affect them, and when they do, they have mixed success in influencing policy outcomes. In fact, environmental and other groups often have considerable influence vis-à-vis business interests.
- Issue 11. Does Capitalism Undermine Democracy?
YES: Robert B. Reich, from How Capitalism Is Killing Democracy, Foreign Policy (September/October 2007)
NO: Anthony B. Kim, from Economic Freedom Underpins Human Rights and Democratic Governance, Heritage Foundation Web Memo (March 18, 2008)
Robert B. Reich, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, accuses capitalism of undermining democratic governments ability to serve the public good and advance the general welfare. The political power of the corporations exceeds that of the people so many nations with democratic elections do not function as democracies. Anthony B. Kim, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundations Center for International Trade and Economics, contends that economic progress through advancing economic freedom has allowed more people to discuss and adopt different views more candidly, ultimately leading societies to be more open, inclusive, and democratic.
- Issue 12. Should Government Intervene in a Capitalist Economy?
YES: Joseph E. Stiglitz, Government Failure vs. Market Failure: Principles of Regulation, paper prepared for the conference Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation, February 13, 2008, Yulee, Florida
NO: Walter Williams, Future Prospects for Economic Liberty, Imprimis (September 2009)
Joseph E. Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia University, argues that the government plays an essential role in enabling the market to work properly. Capitalism runs amok if it is not regulated to protect against abuse and ensure fairness. Walter Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, argues that the founders defined a small role for government in the Constitution and protected the freedom of individuals. Now the role of government is increasing and individual freedoms are declining. The free market has achieved great prosperity for America and the intervention of government has had net negative impacts.
- Issue 13. Was the Welfare Reform the Right Approach to Poverty
YES: David Coates, Cutting Welfare to Help the Poor, from A Liberal Toolkit: Progressive Responses to Conservative Arguments (Praeger, 2007)
NO: Stephanie Mencimer, Brave New Welfare, Mother Jones (January/February, 2009)
David Coates presents the argument for welfare reform, which is that most poverty is self-induced; the previous welfare program created poverty and many other problems; and the reform reduces poverty, improves the lives of the people who left welfare, and solves other problems. Stephanie Mencimer, staff reporter for Mother Jones, does not denigrate the current welfare law but documents the horrible way welfare is administered in many states. Many welfare workers deny many benefits to many people who qualify for welfare. Thus, many welfare benefits do not reach the poor.
- Issue 14. Is No Child Left Behind Irretrievably Flawed?
YES: Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner, from Testing the Joy Out of Learning, Educational Leadership (March 2008)
NO: Dianne Pich
, from Basically a Good Model, Education Next (Fall 2007)
Education professors Sharon Nichols and David Berliner provide evidence that the test-dominated schooling of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has negative effects. Dianne Piché, executive director of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, supports NCLB the annual testing for progress will measure and reward improvements. The poor and minorities have a lot to gain in this system.
- Issue 15. Should Biotechnology Be Used to Alter and Enhance Humans?
YES: Presidents Council on Bioethics, from Beyond Therapy (Regan Books, 2009)
NO: Michael J. Sandel, from The Case Against Perfection, The Atlantic Monthly (April 2004)
The Presidents Council on Bioethics was commissioned by George Bush to report to him their findings about the ethical issues involved in the uses of biotechnology. Included in this selection are the expected positive benefits from the biotechnologies that are on the horizon. Political science professor Michael J. Sandel was on the Presidents Council on Bioethics but presents his private view in this selection, which is very cautionary on the use of biotechnology to alter and enhance humans. Many other uses of biotechnology he praises, but he condemns using biotechnology to alter and enhance humans. In these activities, humans play God and attempt inappropriate remaking of nature.
Unit 5 Crime and Social Control
- Issue 16. Is Street Crime More Harmful Than White-Collar Crime?
YES: David A. Anderson, from The Aggregate Burden of Crime, Journal of Law and Economics XLII (2) (October 1999)
NO: Jeffrey Reiman, from The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice, 5th ed. (Allyn & Bacon, 1998)
David A. Anderson estimates the total annual cost of crime including law enforcement and security services. The costs exceed $1 trillion, with fraud (mostly white-collar crime) causing about one-fifth of the total. His calculations of the full costs of the loss of life and injury comes to about half of the total costs. It is right, therefore, to view personal and violent crime as the big crime problem. Professor of philosophy Jeffrey Reiman argues that the dangers posed by negligent corporations and white-collar criminals are a greater menace to society than are the activities of typical street criminals.
- Issue 17. Should Laws Against Drug Use Remain Restrictive?
YES: Herbert Kleber and Joseph A. Califano Jr., from Legalization: Panacea or Pandoras Box? The World & I Online (January 2006)
NO: Peter Gorman, from Veteran Cops Against the Drug War, The World & I Online (January 2006)
Herbert Kleber, the executive vice president of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), and Joseph Califano, founder of CASA, maintain that drug laws should remain restrictive because legalization would result in increased use, especially by children. Kleber and Califano contend that drug legalization would not eliminate drug-related violence and harm caused by drugs. Author Peter Gorman states that restrictive drug laws have been ineffective. He notes that drug use and drug addiction have increased since drug laws became more stringent. Despite the crackdown on drug use, the availability of drugs has increased while the cost of drugs has decreased. In addition, restrictive drug laws, says Gorman, are racist and endanger civil liberties.
- Issue 18. Are We Headed Toward a Nuclear 9/11?
YES: Brian Michael Jenkins, from Terrorists Can Think Strategically: Lessons Learned from the Mumbai Attacks, Rand Corporation (January 2009)
NO: Graham Allison, from Time to Bury a Dangerous LegacyPart I, YaleGlobal Online (March 14, 2008)
Brian Michael Jenkins, senior advisor to the President of the Rand Corporation, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, posited that a team of terrorists could be inserted into the United States and carry out a Mumbai-style attack, as terrorism has increasingly become an effective strategic weapon. Graham Allison, Harvard professor and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, affirms that we are not likely to experience a nuclear 9/11 because nuclear terrorism is preventable by a feasible, affordable agenda of actions that . . . would shrink the risk of nuclear terrorism to nearly zero.
- Issue 19. Is Torture Ever Justified?
YES: Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke, from Not Enough Official Torture in the World? University of San Francisco Law Review (Spring 2005)
NO: Philip E. Devine, from Whats Wrong with Torture? International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 49 (September 2009)
Bagaric and Clarke remind us, first of all, that torture, although prohibited by international law, is nevertheless widely practiced. A rational examination of torture and a consideration of hypothetical (but realistic) cases show that torture is justifiable in order to prevent great harm. Torture should be regulated and carefully practiced as an information-gathering technique in extreme cases. Philosopher Philip E. Devine argues for an absolute (or virtually absolute) position against torture. Devine suggests that the wrongness of torture and the repugnance that we feel toward it ultimately go beyond any moral theory. In addition, the examination of extreme cases should not inform our general thought about these and other matters.
Unit 6 The Future: Population/Environment/Society
- Issue 20. Does Immigration Benefit the Economy?
YES: George W. Bush White House, fromImmigrations Economic Impact White Paper (June 20, 2007)
NO: Steven A. Camarota, from Testimony before the U.S. House of representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law (September 30, 2010)
George W. Bush White House surveys the professional literature and assesses immigrations economic impact and concludes that immigration has a positive effect on the American economy as a whole and even on the income of native-born American workers. Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies, argues that immigrations benefit to the economy is so tiny that is should be ignored. On the other hand, immigration reduces the income of the poor with whom many immigrants compete for jobs.
- Issue 21. Is Humankind Dangerously Harming the Environment?
YES: Lester R. Brown, from World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, (Earth Policy Institute 2010)
NO: Bjorn Lomborg, from The Truth about the Environment, The Economist (August 4, 2001)
Lester R. Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and now president of the Earth Policy Institute, argues that population growth and economic development are placing increasingly harmful demands on the environment for resources and to grow food for improving diets. Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, presents evidence that population growth is slowing down; natural resources are not running out; species are disappearing very slowly; the environment is improving in some ways; and assertions about environmental decline are exaggerated.
- Issue 22. Is Economic Globalization Good for Both Rich and Poor?
YES: International Monetary Fund Staff, from Globalization: A Brief Overview, Issues Brief (May 2008)
NO: Ravinder Rena, from Globalization Still Hurting Poor Nations, Africa Economic Analysis (January 2008)
Staff members of the International Monetary Fund examine both positive and negative effects of globalization and conclude that economic globalization contributes greatly to world prosperity. Ravinder Rena, an associate professor of economics at the Eritrea Institute of Technology, argues that globalization produces many benefits but also produces many negative impacts. The poor and poorer countries are the most harmed by globalization.