The following course in Contemporary Social Problems is provided in its entirety by Atlantic International University's "Open Access Initiative " which strives to make knowledge and education readily available to those seeking advancement regardless of their socio-economic situation, location or other previously limiting factors. The University's Open Courses are free and do not require any purchase or registration, they are open to the public.
The course in Contemporary Social Problems contains the following:
The Administrative Staff may be part of a degree program paying up to three college credits. The lessons of the course can be taken on line Through distance learning. The content and access are open to the public according to the "Open Access" and " Open Access " Atlantic International University initiative. Participants who wish to receive credit and / or term certificate , must register as students.
A social or ethical issue (also called a social problem or a social illness) refers to an issue that influences and is opposed by a considerable number of individuals within a society. There are many of these issues ranging from inequality and homelessness, from abortion and capital punishment, and from war to damage to the environment; in this class we will be discussing a number in detail. The topics we will be discussing are not uniformly agreed upon, these are issues in which the popular opinion among society is divided; they are hotly debated.
The difference in society’s opinion springs from people holding different values, or what one judges to be important in life. We will be examining various viewpoints on a number of controversial contemporary issues, from people who hold different values. The goal of this course is to teach you, the student, how to critically analyze arguments and write papers in a social science context; with the hopes that you will learn to transform your own assertions and viewpoints into coherent arguments.
In this session we will be focusing on two very different normative ethical systems known as utilitarianism and ethical formalism. Utilitarianism and formalism are often contrasted with one another based on the general type of ethical system each exemplifies. Utilitarianism is a teleological ethical system. The word teleological comes from the ancient Greek telos, meaning end or purpose. Formalism on the other hand is a deontological ethical system. Deontology comes from the Greek word deon, meaning duty. One system is concerned with ends, while the other is concerned with duty.
A teleological, or consequentialist theory holds that an action is morally right either if a person’s doing it brings about good consequences, or if the action is of a kind which, if everyone did it, would have good consequences. The consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. In either case, ultimately it is the goodness or badness of the end result of actions that make them right or wrong. In a consequentialist ethical system, the test of right and wrong actions consists in applying a standard of value to the consequences of the actions. If the consequences of someone’s doing a particular action fulfill the standard of value, then the action is therefore right.
During prehistoric times, at the start of human history, everyone was more or less equal; that is to say, hungry. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle had a few advantages, it took relatively little labor to gather enough food, enough calories to live, and thus you had a lot of free time to do what you pleased, but it was not a lifestyle that was secure. The threat of death was imminent; you could die if there was a sudden change in climate, or if there was an animal flue that kills off your livestock. The ability to plan for and build in a response to those kinds of changes in prehistoric times was impossible.
In the period of the early civilizations, everything is poor except for the one or two palaces the kings or chiefs lived. Virtually everybody in the world was poor, if you define poverty as meaning the lack of reliable access to basic needs, whether its food or water or health technology. These things eluded 90% of the world’s population, and the average life expectancy 35 years. Virtually every community, even the most advanced, were subject to repeated famine.
Lesson 4: Poverty: A historical context, continued
By the middle of the 19th century we see a sustained movement out of poverty for those parts of the world that were industrializing, mostly in Europe. Europe had become the center of accumulation of wealth and power, with the rest of the world progressively being submitted to its rule. The just ending slave trade had devastated Africa, and the Spanish colonization of South America had left its native population barely clinging to survival. The whole of the European imperial project in economic terms creates a vast amount of the world’s poor and is the origin of the notion of the third world. These 3rd world locations were often exploited by wealthy capitalists for their natural resources, which were then shipped off to other countries; this exploitation left in its wake intense poverty, lack of infrastructure, and massive disease burden for the native populations.
Gradually industrialization began springing up in the late 19th in other parts of the world. You see the same things you saw in Europe now in India, China, and Latin America. There is a rise in science and technology, which allows for increased agricultural productivity. With the new form of economy comes a new level of inequality never before witnessed. Fewer people are starving and yet there is still a massive underclass serving the rich, and there is still rampant poverty.
Lesson 5: Homelessness
What is homelessness? Homelessness describes the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure, and adequate housing, or lack "fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.” In 2004, the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, defined a homeless household as: those households without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters. They carry their few possessions with them, sleeping in the streets, in doorways or on piers, or in another space, on a more or less random basis.
Homelessness is a big problem in the world today. An estimated 100 million people worldwide were homeless in 2005. In western countries, the large majority of homeless are men (75-80%), with single males particularly overrepresented. In the USA, LGBT people are over-represented among homeless youth, at 39%. Modern homelessness started as a result of economic stresses in society and reductions in the availability of affordable housing. In the United States, in the 1970s, the deinstitutionalization of patients from state psychiatric hospitals was a precipitating factor in urban areas. By the mid-1980s, there was also a dramatic increase in family homelessness.
Lesson 6: Mental Health
Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment. Mental health is not a state of blissful happiness twenty-four hours a day seven days a week; nobody has a life like that. Each of us at times feels sad, happy, anxious, afraid, etc.., being able to cope with these feelings, while handling the ordinary demands of life; this is what mental health is.
When we are mentally healthy, we maintain the ability to adapt and problem solve, our minds are flexible. A mentally healthy person can cope with change and deal with adversity and handle stress, they can deal with difficult situations when they arise. Say for instance you are late for work and your car won’t start; a mentally well person will think to maybe call a cab, or a friend, ride a bike, or maybe just stay home. They will be able to maintain their flexibility and problem solve. When someone is not mentally well they lose that flexibility and instead rely on the same problem solving strategies, or they may just run away from their problems all together.
Lesson 7: Gender Inequality
Gender inequality refers to unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals based on their gender. It arises from differences in socially constructed gender roles as well as biologically through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences. Gender inequality stems from distinctions, whether empirically grounded or socially constructed.
Men and women are not equal in some respects, and that is a good thing. In humans, biological sex is determined by five factors present at birth: the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, the type of gonads, the sex hormones, the internal reproductive anatomy (such as the uterus in females), and the external genitalia. People with various sex characteristics that do not allow them to be distinctly identified as male or female are intersex. People whose internal experience that differs from their biological sex are transgender or transsexual. Males on average weigh more and are taller than females.
Lesson 8: U.S. incarceration, The War on Drugs
The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world. As of 2011, for every 100,000 people who lived in the U.S., 716 were in jail, or 0.716% of the population. The total number of people in prison in 2012 was a staggering 2,228,424. While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world's population, it houses around 25 percent of the world's prisoners. According to a US Department of Justice report published in 2006, over 7.2 million people were at that time in prison, on probation, or on parole (released from prison with restrictions). That means roughly 1 in every 32 Americans is under some form of correctional control.
The American penal system for the last forty years has been dominated by relentless growth, with a 500% increase in inmates. Of the seven million people currently under correctional control in the U.S., a disproportionate number come from a small subset of neighborhoods in the major cities of each state. Overwhelmingly black, Latino, and poor, the residents of these neighborhoods are those most likely to suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty; homelessness; and sub-standard school, healthcare, and other basic services. A vast majority of those who enter the correctional system when released will re-enter it at some point.
Lesson 9: Quality
Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas using one's body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government or anyone else.
In the United States we are pretty lucky; the legal protections of the First Amendment are some of the broadest of any industrialized nation; people in many other countries are not so lucky. North Koreans live in the most censored country in the world, a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. The world's deepest information void, communist North Korea has no independent journalists, and all radio and television receivers sold in the country are locked to government-specified frequencies. Criticism of the regime or the leadership in North Korea, if reported, is enough to make you and your family ‘disappear’ from society and end up in a political prison camp.
Lesson 10: Global Warming, Advocacy
Global warming refers to an unequivocal and continuing rise in the average temperature of Earth's climate system. Since the early 20th century, when accurate records began being kept, the global air and sea surface temperature has increased about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F). Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years.
Scientific understanding of the cause of global warming has been increasing. In its fourth assessment of the relevant scientific literature, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that scientists were more than 90% certain that most of global warming was being caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities.
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