Spring 2020
Sociology 130
Monday/Wednesday: 8:30am – 10:20am

Office: O’Connor 336
Office Hours: Mon/Wed 10:30 – 12:30 or by appointment
Phone: (508) 626-4864
E-mail: isilver@framingham.edu


Discussions of social problems are everywhere. They’re mentioned in Instagram and Twitter posts, news reports, and political speeches. We see them dramatized in movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos. Therefore, you come into this course already familiar with many of the issues we will discuss, and they may personally affect you. The course offers fascinating new ways to understand these important topics, exposing you to the hidden stories behind social problems.


There is one book to purchase, which I wrote for this course. There is a copy on reserve at the FSU library. If you are able to purchase it, that would make it more convenient to read on your own schedule. It is available at the University bookstore and on Amazon at the link below:

Ira Silver, Seeing Social Problems: The Hidden Stories Behind Contemporary Issues. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2020.

*Please bring the book to class so that we may go over material together.


There are 13 written homework assignments throughout the semester that are due on the dates indicated below. You are to answer any three questions of your choosing from those listed in the section titled “What Do You Know Now?” at the end of each chapter.

To be eligible for full credit (3 points per write-up), you must post your work before class starts and follow these guidelines:

  • Number your responses.
  • Write one paragraph per response – more is okay.
  • Include details from the chapter. BSing counts for nothing.


Your final grade will be based on the following:

40%          Homework assignments
20%          Midterm paper
20%          Final paper
20%          Attendance and participation

There will be extra-credit opportunities throughout the semester that will either be posted on the syllabus, announced in class, or both.


I understand sometimes there are justifiable reasons for missing a class, but if you miss more than two it will start to affect your grade. If you have to be absent, there is no need to give me a doctor’s note. It is your responsibility to catch up on material you missed.


Students should be aware of the University’s policies concerning academic honesty, which are stated in the undergraduate catalog: “Integrity is essential to academic life. Consequently, students who enroll at Framingham State University agree to maintain high standards of academic honesty and scholarly practice. They shall be responsible for familiarizing themselves with the published policies and procedures regarding academic honesty.” Infractions include plagiarism, cheating on exams and quizzes, unauthorized collaboration with other students, and submitting work in more than one course for academic credit without prior approval of the instructor. The FSU Catalog defines plagiarism as “claiming as one’s own work the published or unpublished literal or paraphrased work of another.” Penalties for academic dishonesty may include receiving a failing grade for the course, academic suspension, and dismissal from the University.


By taking this class, you agree to abide by Framingham State University’s policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity. The University is dedicated to providing educational, working, and living environments that value the diverse backgrounds of all people. The Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (“MCRA,” M.G.L. c. 12, §§ 11H11I11J) protects the rights of all residents of and visitors to Massachusetts to be free from bias-motivated threats, intimidation, and coercion that interfere with their civil rights. The MCRA protects the right to attend school, live peacefully, and enjoy other basic rights.

Wednesday, January 22nd

*Course Overview

Monday, January 27th

*Read: Chapter 2 – Opportunity for Few: The Withering of the American Dream…If you don’t yet have the book, you can access the chapter here.

*Homework assignment #1 due on Blackboard

Wednesday, January 29th

No homework!

Monday, February 3rd

*Read: Chapter 3 – “I Can’t Breathe:” Policing, Race, and Violence…If you don’t yet have the book, you can access the chapter here.

*Homework assignment #2 due on Blackboard

Wednesday, February 5th

No homework!

Monday, February 10th

*Read: Chapter 4 – The Color of Drug Abuse: Handcuffs for Some Addicts, Help for Others

*Homework assignment #3 due on Blackboard

Wednesday, February 12th

No homework!

Monday, February 17th

*NO CLASS – Presidents’ Day

Wednesday, February 19th

*Read: Chapter 5 – Slim Chances: Weight Anxiety in a Society that Prizes Thinness

*Homework assignment #4 due on Blackboard

*Extra credit opportunity! Dwight Performing Arts Center, 4:30: You may earn up to 3 additional points toward your final grade by attending the lecture by Clint Smith titled “History Reconsidered” and writing an essay about it.

Monday, February 24th

No reading!

Guest: Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity and Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut.

*Homework assignment #5 due on Blackboard — Follow this format:

  1. In a paragraph or more, answer Question 1 on page 82 in my book. For those using the online version, it’s Question 1 under “First Impressions?” in Chapter 5.
  2. Write down a question you would like to ask Rebecca Puhl based on the section of Chapter 5 titled “Bias Without Boundaries: The Persistence of Size Discrimination in American Society” (pp. 85-89 in the hard copy).
  3. Write down a question you would like to ask Rebecca Puhl based on any other topic discussed in Chapter 5.

*Extra credit opportunity! McCarthy Center Forum, 4:30: You may earn up to 3 additional points toward your final grade by attending the lecture by Rebecca Puhl titled “Weight Stigma in American Society: Public Health Consequences and Structural Solutions” and writing an essay about it.

Wednesday, February 26th

No homework!

Monday, March 2nd

*Read: Chapter 6 – What’s Sex Got to Do with it? Uncovering the Roots of Teenage Pregnancy

*Homework assignment #6 due on Blackboard

Wednesday, March 4th

No homework!

Monday, March 9th

*Read: Chapter 7 – Everybody’s Doing It: Getting Ahead by Cheating

*Homework assignment #7 due on Blackboard

Wednesday, March 11th

No homework!

Friday, March 20th

*Midterm paper due via email



Week of March 30th

*Read: Chapter 8 – Living in Infamy: Mass Shootings as Enduring Expressions of Masculinity

Week of April 6th

*Read: Chapter 9 – #MeToo: Why Gender Violence is Everyone’s Problem

Week of April 13th

*Read: Chapter 11 – “Better Safe Than Sorry:” Protecting Children from Dangerous Strangers

Week of April 20th

*Read: Chapter 12 – Have Kids Gotten Meaner? An Up-close Look at Cyberbullying and Suicide

Week of April 27th

*Read: Chapter 13 – “You’re Such a Downer:” Why Mental Illness is Much More Than a Personal Experience of Suffering

Week of May 4th

*Read: Chapter 14 – Eyes Wide Open: The Benefits of Seeing Social Problems From Multiple Perspectives