Tag Archives: Sociology

Can We Really Flip the Switch?

SWITCH by Chip & Dan Heath

Brothers Chip Heath, professor of Organizational Behaviour at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and Dan Heath, a consultant to the Aspen Institute, have followed up their bestselling and course-adopted book Made to Stick with a groundbreaking book that addresses one of the greatest challenges of our personal and professional lives—how to change things when change is hard.

In Switch, the Heaths have written a thoroughly engaging narrative about the difficulty in bringing about genuine, lasting change—in ourselves and in others—especially when we have few resources and no title or authority.  The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting review that discusses the book’s message within the context of one reviewer’s personal life challenge, and in a recent video review social and new media  maven Chris Brogan called the book “a must read”.

Check out their reviews by clicking on the links above, and start reading the book here; then post a comment: what do you think of the authors’ message?  Do you see applications in the classroom, among faculty/administration, or within your larger discipline?  Can we really flip the switch?

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Obama, Madoff and American Self-Esteem

WHY WE HATE US by Dick Meyer

by Dick Meyer, author of Why We Hate Us: American Discontent and the New Millennium  (Three Rivers Press, 2009).

Since publishing Why We Hate Us: American Discontent and the New Millennium, the single question I have been asked the most is, “Will Barack Obama lead Americans to hate us less?”

The answer, I am sorry to report, is “no.”

The basic argument of my book is that Americans have developed a broad, enduring distaste and suspicion toward the main institutions and directions of our public culture. This holds true for politics, government, journalism, business, entertainment, marketing, law and even the clergy. Increasingly, Americans feel alienated from their culture and susceptible to its coarseness and toxicity. Continue reading

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Author Response: “Why the Debate on Immigration is All Wrong”

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

A few years ago, in a conversation with my husband’s oldest brother, I said that I thought the only solution to illegal immigration was to help create jobs in the handful of countries that send about four in every five undocumented immigrants to the U.S.

My husband’s brother, assuming I was talking about U.S. foreign aid, got very angry. He reached for his pant pocket and yanked out his wallet. He slapped it down on the picnic table. “This is my money!” he told me. No one, he said, was going to use his hard-earned cash to help a bunch of people in another country he didn’t even know. Continue reading

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Tracy Kidder on Haiti

MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS by Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder, author of such bestselling books as the college common reading classic Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World  and the new, critically-lauded Strength in What Remains, has penned an interesting op-ed in The New York Times about the current crisis in Haiti, offering some much needed historical context. 

You can read the article here.

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Author Response: “Legalize All Drugs Now!”

HIGH by Brian O'Dea

Brian O’Dea, author of HIGH: Confessions of an International Drug Smuggler (Other Press 2009), responds to comments posted to his “Legalize All Drugs Now!” essay from September 23rd, 2009.

I was interviewed recently by a young reporter who grew up in the midst of the so called “drug war”.  As far as she was concerned, it is perfectly alright for our government to wage a war against the weakest of our citizens, even though her entire premise for it being acceptable  was built on a foundation of lies, untruths, omissions, and a complete disregarding of the facts.  Numbers issued by the DEA have notoriously distorted the facts for years (a simple example is found in their excessive valuation of the drugs they seize), and even only recently, under extreme pressure from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition –LEAP.CC) have they changed a blatant lie on their home page regarding marijuana.

At any rate, I digress, let’s return to the interview. Continue reading

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Your Brain on Swine Flu

The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley

by Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why and a contributor to TIME Magazine.

One of the strange things about influenza pandemics is that they happen in slow motion, giving us time to reflect.
Looking back, it’s clear that one major challenge was (and will be) striking the elusive balance between reasonable mobilization and overreaction. We want people to wash their hands and stay home when they are sick; we don’t want people to stone buses carrying a sick passenger from another country.

How do we dial up—or down—our response to a pandemic in real time? It might help to shape public warnings and communication according to how the brain actually works. Continue reading

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Is Empathy Hardwired?

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

World-renown primatologist Dr. Frans De Waal’s new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, draws upon decades of research and study, considering such fundamental questions as: Do we have an instinct for compassion?  Or is everything we do motivated simply by innate self-interest?

The book has received a lot of interest; most recently, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting review accompanied by compelling video and images, and the Los Angeles Times pondered the book’s central argument in light of all of the recent negative events (i.e. the War on Terror, the financial meltdown, the ongoing unrest in the Middle East) triggered by humans at the dawn of this still very new century.

You can read an excerpt here, and visit the author’s website for more information.

So what do you think of this newest chapter in the nature versus nurture debate?  Is empathy really hardwired?  If so, what does that mean for us?

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Why the Debate on Immigration is All Wrong

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

by Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a  Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother (Random House 2007).

Congress and the Obama Administration are again proposing new “solutions” to curtail illegal immigration. Sadly, they are the same tired ideas that have been tried — and failed — in the past. No one is proposing the one thing that would work.

First, a few facts. In recent years, driven by a dearth of jobs in the U.S., illegal immigration has dropped . Still, half a million people continue to enter the U.S. illegally each year; in all 4% of the population in the U.S. is undocumented. In Los Angeles, 4 of 10 people are from another country.

The benefits of this influx are clear. These migrants do some of the most backbreaking, dirty, dangerous jobs U.S.-born workers largely won’t do—and for rock-bottom wages. Immigrants’ low wages keep some businesses from closing or going abroad in order to compete. A 1997 study by the National Research Council, still considered the most objective and authoritative on the effects of immigration, found that immigrant labor also lowers the cost of food and clothing for all of us. Indeed, 5% of every good or service Americans buy is cheaper because of immigrant labor. That means more Americans can avail themselves of essential services offered at lower prices—like child care. Now, the downside….
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Legalize All Drugs Now!

HIGH by Brian O'Dea

HIGH by Brian O'Dea

by Brian O’Dea, author of HIGH: Confessions of an International Drug Smuggler (Other Press 2009).

“The most important… revolutions all include as their only common feature the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our certainty….” —Stephen Jay Gould

President Obama recently announced that his administration would bring a halt to “preemption”, a practice that used federal regulations to override state laws on the environment, health, public safety and other issues.  This includes the arcane drug laws that have seen the feds at odds with various states over the dispensing of medical marijuana and that have seen the DEA raid medical marijuana dispensaries in violation of state law and voters rights, which established these state laws in the first place.  Even the Supreme Court won’t hear another challenge to California’s decade-old law permitting marijuana use for medical purposes, finally coming down on the side of the state.  Now, more than ever, we have a true potential for change, a desperately needed change from treating the sickness haunting the weakest among us with the hammer of corrections.
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