Soc 100 Writing Assignment For Middle School

Framing is arguably one of the most crucial concepts our students can learn. Framing and social construction are inextricably connected processes. Only when you understand how frames are used to manipulate (and create) the public’s perception can you fully critically analyze social issues. If you don’t understand framing, it’s really easy to be taken by a well crafted message, regardless of how warranted and measured its claims are.

The problem is, students struggle with the concept. Framing is almost a meta-process. It’s something that often happens in between the lines. When done well it’s subtle and covert.

In class I will show my students a commercial, or some other curated message, and together we critically analyze each piece of the message. We work together to identify all of the symbols and frames used. Slowly, one by one, the class begins to nod along as we go through it until finally most of the class leans back in their chairs and smiles that, “A ha!” smile. However, the moment I ask them to do it on their own they struggle to see anything beyond the surface message.

The deep analysis of cultural messages is hard to teach and hard to learn precisely because cultural messages and frames hide in plain sight. So instead of starting the learning process by trying to give students the eyes to see their surround in new ways, I think it’s better to start with something much easier to see and then try to bring the skills gained back to the student’s everyday life.

I Need Your Help

The activity I am about to tell you about I’ve never been tried before. Unlike most posts on SociologySource, I won’t be talking about a project that worked smashingly for me. Rather, this is a call to our readers for help. I see a problem, I have an idea for a solution, and I need YOUR help to execute it.

Using Cover Songs to Teach Framing

Music provides a handy metaphor for framing. When a band or artist covers a previously popular song in a way that is all together different it demonstrates how the same base material can be framed in very different ways to create starkly contrasting affects. At the end of this post I have some examples of just the sort of covers I am talking about.

I want to design a simple in-class (and/or homework) assignment that asks students to read a bit about issue framing and then analyze two starkly different versions of the same song.

Here’s What I Need

  1. Song Recommendations.
  2. Help me find songs that have dramatically different versions between the original and the cover version. The Holy Grail would be a song with two versions that are diametrically opposed. For instance a song that is very stereotypically masculine and aggressive paired with a version that is stereotypically feminine and passive. I’m looking for contradictory versions of songs that illustrate a sociological concept (gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.)

  3. A great, short, intro level article or piece about issue framing.
  4. I have never found a concise discussion of framing that I’ve liked for an intro level class. It’s a complex idea that is hard to succinctly describe in simple terms. If you have an article or short piece that you’ve had success with I’d love to read it.

Want to help?

Send me your recommendations to me via Email: Nathan@SociologySource.com, hit me up on twitter (@SociologySource), or post it on our Facebook page.

All contributors will be given credit by name. Thanks in advance!

Example Songs

Below are just a few examples. The original version followed by the cover.

“WHIP MY HAIR”


Artist: Willow Smith


Artist: Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) feat Bruce Springsteen

“HURT”


Artist: Nine Inch Nails


Artist: Johnny Cash

“Suspicious Mind”


Artist: Elvis Presley


Artist: Dwight Yoakam[1]

 

Example Vignette
Gender Roles

*THIS PAPER IS FOR EXAMPLE PURPOSES ONLY.
STUDENTS MAY NOT CHOOSE THE CONCEPT GENDER ROLES FOR THEIR PAPER, AND MAY NOT USE ANY PART OF THIS PAPER.
IN THE CASE WHERE STUDENTS USE THE CONCEPT OR ANY PART OF THE PAPER FOR THEIR ASSIGNMENT, STUDENTS WILL RECEIVE A ZERO.

Jimmy Jones
Sociology 100

PART ONE

I had an experience in my high school graphic arts class that represents the concept of gender role“the attitudes, behavior, and activities that are socially defined as appropriate for each sex and are learned through the socialization process”  (Kendall 2007). 

The bell rang to conclude fourth period, and the hallways were immediately swarming with students.  The building where my final class was held was obscured from view by a magnificent outgrowth of weeds that extended up to the rooftop and provided the concrete structure with a constant rustling that one would hear in the center of a forest.  This seemingly abandoned building, so distant from the rest of the school, was where the first graphic arts class in the school’s history was to be conducted.  The last thing that this building had been used for was to teach an electric class several years earlier, and it was left to decay ever since.  The work area, which was directly adjacent to the classroom and connected by a short hallway, was littered with old electrical equipment and covered in a heavy layer of black silt.  Nevertheless, as my tenth grade year progressed, I became accustomed to this neglected classroom and even felt an affinity for its solitude and isolation from the rest of the school.  The graphic arts curriculum was based on the use of computers to create and edit images; unfortunately, the school failed to supply the class with any computers, and as the weeks went by, it became evident that we might never have the opportunity to do any work at all.  The school, however, was in the process of replacing the outdated computers in its science laboratories and expanding the school’s access to the internet.  As a clever result, the administration submitted a bribe to its desperate graphic arts students:  if they could cleanup and organize their inconceivably disordered work area, then the computers being replaced in the science laboratories would be given to their class instead of being sold, and the school would connect their work area to the internet.  Thus, the renovation began.
The woman who instructed the graphic arts class was calm and perhaps the most accepting teacher to ever grace the school‘s hallways.  Assignments were given out sparingly, and the time allotted for completing them generally lasted until the end of the quarter when a student’s grade was to be assessed.  Consequently, when the proposition of cleaning up the work area for computers arose, the teacher simply introduced to the class several brooms, paper towels, and boxes and, without words, let everyone start where and how they pleased.  The moment I entered the work area, I knew exactly what my task would be:  to load the discarded electrical equipment into boxes, hand carry it to the opposite end of the school, and dispose of it by lifting it above my head and into one of the garbage containers.  It was if I was compelled by an unidentified force to engage in this arduous task alongside the three other boys.  Before this undertaking, we had never met each other and, because of our disparate grade levels, had very little in common, but since the remainder of the class consisted of girls and the piles of metal parts that had to be lifted away was unimaginably heavy, it was expected by everyone else that we would be the ones to do this physically exhausting task.  Quite naturally, I thought, there were not enough boys to handle this job.  On the other hand, the nine girls, as was expected of them, busied themselves with sweeping, wiping down the tables, and polishing off the whiteboards to an immaculate shine.  At the time, I did not find my thoughts or how the class was divided by certain tasks into a group containing only girls and a group containing only boys as unusual.  At home, my father always proceeded to do the chores that required physical stamina and strength, such as hoisting the ice filled cooler into the car before going to the beach or digging holes in the yard to plant trees, and he usually asked me to assist him rather than my sister, who was a year older.  Furthermore, my mother regularly counted on my sister to help her vacuum the house or to cook.  Everything seemed normal.

Though I was a boy, I was only about five feet and two inches tall and weighed well under a hundred pounds; I had not exercised a day in my life.  A number of the girls were much taller than I was and undeniably stronger, but none of them volunteered to help transport trash from one side of the school to the other.  After carrying the first box, which had to have weighed half of what I did, to the garbage containers, my body felt completely paralyzed.  Regardless of how debilitated that first trip had rendered me, I forced myself to uphold my normal disposition and not reveal any signs of weariness.  Therefore, the instant I got back to the work area, I filled another box with refuse while showing utter indifference to the physical torment that I was experiencing and embarked for the other side of school once again.  By the fourth or fifth journey, I was so depleted of energy that I could hardly lift my arms; the other boys were obviously weakened as well.  But rather than take a break, which the teacher suggested to everyone, we repressed our fatigue and continued to work, for we did not want others to perceive our weakness or our inability to endure hardship:  we were acting like men were supposed act.  The teacher even complemented our strength and assertiveness.  Class was inordinately long that day because the juniors were being subjected to standardized tests by their English teachers, but they could not have been suffering more than I was.  The girls, convened in the classroom, decided to take a break from their chores.  Since the classroom was the only exit to the work area, I could not help but to see them relaxing as I struggled to not appear to be struggling to transport a box full of metal to that remote location on the other side of campus.  Some of the girls were slouched forward over their desks, using their arms as a pillow, and others slouched so far backwards that their heads could hardly be seen above their desks.  How I envied them.  But I was a boy, and I realized that I would be frowned upon had I sat down and done the same.

When the work area was finally cleared of all electrical rubble and every window sill cleaned of dust, the entire class came together to stock the storeroom with the paint and wires that were scattered about in disarray.  The girls, working in small groups of two or three, made full use of every box and shelf in the storeroom by placing certain types of paints in specific boxes and then stacking them evenly on top of each other.  The behavior of the boys, including myself, was quite different.  We each worked independently and went through no lengths to categorize items.  I brought one large box to the back of the work area, and whatever was in remote proximity to me was shoved in callously.  One of the other boys set a box down on the ground and was throwing things in it from across the room as though he were playing a game.  The teacher, who, with the girls, was conducting the meticulous process of organizing the storeroom, saw the boy as he cheered and imitated the mannerisms of a professional basketball player; she only laughed and smiled with him.


PART TWO

(NOTE: As stated in the instructions, your paper needs to begin part two with a summary of the perspective you choose; the summary is left out of this paper.)

From a functionalist perspective, gender roles are integral to maintaining stability not only in the family, but also in society because they perpetuate order and predictability.  In general, men are biologically predisposed to be stronger than women, and their biased upbringing, which reinforces toughness, exaggerates this disparity.  Therefore, a man has a wider choice of occupations, especially in those involving labor, and can provide a larger, more secure income for his family than would be possible if the woman of the family worked.  Hence, the gender role of a man is to be assertive, physically strong, and skilled in a task that can be used in the workplace.  Gender socialization teaches a male from childhood, how to establish himself in all of these respects.  The family, as an institution, teaches boys how to be rough and to take control of a situation; they are not touched or treated as delicately as girls and are taught to renounce sentimental emotions.  At school, they are acknowledged for participating in sports, such as football, which develops strength, stamina, and physical coordination.  At home, whenever a situation requiring strength arose, such as working in the yard, I, as a male, was expected to help out.  Over time, this exertion increased the total capacity of my body allowing me to work over longer periods.  The pressure that society placed on me to perform gender specific attitudes, behaviors, and activities transformed me into a better worker, but most importantly, it allowed me to function in society.  I was conditioned to never give up and to hide my weaknesses; these two qualities alone make me a more prospective employee.  For women the situation is reversed.  The appropriate activities of young girls include the nurturing of dolls and playing house.  It is usually the mother who is expected to support the emotional needs of the family.  It is more difficult for a woman to provide for her family because she will be trapped between her desire or need to work and the responsibilities necessitated by pregnancy and childbirth.  The functionalist perspective, therefore, establishes that, since men are not burdened by childbirth, men are more fit to work for an income, while women are more fit to child rearing and household chores if or when they decide to have children.  My family, my peers, and my school were the primary agents of socialization that taught me what activities were considered feminine and how I would not be accepted if I voluntarily did them.  According to a functionalist perspective, by following the male gender role, I avoided being ostracized by the other students in my graphic arts class, and because my peers also abided by their specific gender roles, no conflict emerged from how the work and responsibilities were assigned to each student, for both the boys and the girls knew precisely what they were expected to do.  The assimilation of society’s preexisting notions of gender by males and females is essential to keeping stability in this way.  A functionalist perspective envisions disharmony in the family and in society when individuals diverge from the traditional concepts of being male and female.

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