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Seeing Social Problems

Seeing Social Problems
The Hidden Stories Behind Contemporary Issues

First Edition

January 2020 | 328 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Seeing Social Problems: The Hidden Stories Behind Contemporary Issues shows students how to think about social problems in a new way, by carefully analyzing headline-making issues they are already familiar with and illustrating the connection between individual problems and larger social forces. Each chapter engages students in thinking about the world sociologically by focusing on a specific case study that represents a more general social problem. The chapters always start with the knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and personal experiences that students bring to the case—what author Ira Silver refers to as the conventional wisdom—and effectively demonstrate to them the “first wisdom” of sociology: “things are not what they seem.” In each instance, Silver shows how sociologists ask questions, gather empirical data, use multiple perspectives, and consider larger social forces to discover the “hidden stories” behind individual behavior.

Included with this title:

The password-protected Instructor Resource Site (formally known as SAGE Edge)
offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides. Learn more.

Preface: To the Instructor
About the Author
Chapter 1 • Looking beyond What You Already Know: Becoming Curious about Social Problems
Social Problems Are Everywhere

The Virtue of Sociology: Opening Your Eyes to the Hidden World around You

Viewing Our Society through Different Lenses

Recognizing That Social Problems Have Diverse Explanations

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms

Chapter 2 • Opportunity for Few: The Withering of the American Dream
Struggling to Get Ahead in the Land of Opportunity

The Opportunity Divide: How American Society Produces Economic Inequality

Blocked Opportunities: How Social Forces Impede Low-Income Youth from Living the Dream

Tarnished Hopes for the Future: How Poverty Impedes Low-Income People’s Motivations to Get Ahead

A Personal Tale from the Other Side of the Opportunity Divide: How Social Forces Bolster Success

Rethinking Welfare: How the Sociological Perspective Can Widen Your Understanding of Who Deserves Help

Taking Collective Responsibility: Why the Withering of the American Dream Is Everyone’s Problem

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 3 • “I Can’t Breathe”: Policing, Race, and Violence
Violent Encounters between Cops and People of Color

Assigning Personal Blame, Either to Bad Cops or to Dangerous Black Men

Responding to Public Fears: Police Brutality as a By-product of Getting Tough on Crime

The Hidden Roots of Crime: How Race Shapes Opportunity

The Sociological Stories behind the Footage: Taking a Deeper Look at Police Violence Videos

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 4 • The Color of Drug Abuse: Handcuffs for Some Addicts, Help for Others
Crack and Opioids: A Tale of Two Drug Epidemics

Race and the Social Construction of Drugs

The Racial Inequalities Underlying Drug Enforcement

Policing Drugs by Creating Scapegoats

Not as Simple as “Just Say No”: The Social Forces Contributing to Drug Abuse

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 5 • Slim Chances: Weight Anxiety in a Society That Prizes Thinness
Thin Is In: The Social Construction of Body Size

Bias without Boundaries: The Pervasiveness of Size Discrimination in American Society

The Elephant in the Room: Explaining Why Obesity Is Most Prevalent in Low-Income Communities

Feeling the Weight: Why People of Average Size May Be Insecure about Their Bodies

Debunking Conventional Wisdom about Body Size

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 6 • What’s Sex Got to Do with It? Uncovering the Roots of Teen Pregnancy
Parental Anxiety Gone Wild: Raising Kids in a Society Where Sexualized Images Are Everywhere

Who’s Doing What and When? Shifting Views about Sex, Birth Control, and Pregnancy

Dim Hopes for the Future: Highlighting the Social Forces That Contribute to Teens Having Babies

“Acting Like Sluts”: How the Individual Perspective toward Teen Pregnancy Reinforces Gender Inequality

Reducing Teen Pregnancy: Early Educational Opportunity Is Key

Looking Cross-Culturally; Exposing an Alternative Way to Understand Teens and Sex

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 7 • “Everybody’s Doing It”: Getting Ahead by Cheating
From Champ to Chump: How Lance Armstrong Tarnished His Reputation Riding the Road to Victory

A Sketchy Path to the Top: Doping in Sports

Striving to Be #1: Competing in a Winner-Take-All Society

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Who’s a Cheater

When Second Best Feels Like Losing: The Medicalization of Imperfection

Game On: Seeing Cheating as a Way to Conform with Mainstream Values

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 8 • Living in Infamy: Mass Shootings as Enduring Expressions of Masculinity
Making Sense of the Senseless: Exploring What Drives Mass Shooters to Commit Acts of Destruction

Seeking Revenge: Viewing Mass Shootings as Efforts by Disrespected Males to Get Even

The Columbine Effect: How Online Networks Enable Aggrieved Males to Plot the Next Rampage

Violence without Outrage: How Mass Shootings Resemble Riots

Cementing Their Legacy as “Real Men”: How Rampage Reporting Immortalizes Toxic Masculinity

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 9 • #MeToo: Why Gender Violence Is Everyone’s Problem
Publicizing Trauma: How Social Media Has Brought Gender Violence out of the Shadows

Exhibiting Entitlement: Gender Violence as a Display of Male Power

Adding Insult to Injury: Why Blaming Gender Violence Survivors for Their Victimization Contributes to the Problem

“Be A Man”: Violence as a Socially Acceptable Expression of Masculinity

Seeing Gender Violence as Everyone’s Problem

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 10 • Bearing Witness to Inhumanity: Making Sense of Cruelty to Animals
Feeling Their Pain: Exploring Why Animal Cruelty So Deeply Affects Us

Gory Thrills: Making Sense of the Pleasure Some People Get from Abusing Animals

Tastes So Cruel: Exposing the Hidden Workings of the Factory Farming System

Confronting Our Inhumanity: A Look at Efforts to Cease the Practice of Animal Entertainment

The Payoff of the Sociological Perspective: Seeing Who We Are through Our Relationships with Animals

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 11 • “Better Safe Than Sorry”: Protecting Children from Strangers and Other Dangers
Careful Who You Friend: Exploring the Predatory Behavior of Strangers Lurking on the Internet

Unequal Childhoods: Exposing Why Some Kids Are More Prone Than Others to Online Exploitation by Strangers

Overprotecting Children: The Unintended Consequences of Safeguarding Kids from Risk

Strangers with Benefits: Discovering the Advantages of Interacting with Unfamiliar People in Public

Thinking Straight about Threats to Children

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 12 • Have Kids Gotten Meaner? An Up-Close Look at Cyberbullying and Suicide
Any Time and Place: How Teens Use Technology to Act Cruelly toward One Another

A Peek Inside Teen Culture: Uncovering Social Forces That Give Rise to Cyberbullying

Not a Solitary Act of Desperation: Exposing Social Forces That Lead Teens to Die from Suicide

Getting to the Root of Kids’ Meanness toward One Another

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 13 • “You’re Such a Downer”: Why Mental Illness Goes beyond Personal Suffering
Diseases of the Mind: Exploring the Wide Array of Psychiatric Disorders

Conditions Blood Tests Cannot Prove: The Social Construction of Mental Illness

Inexact Science: Explaining Cases Where ADHD Is Misdiagnosed

Being Sad When You’re Supposed to Be Happy: How American Culture Influences the Experience of Depression

“Feeling Crazy”: How Gender Shapes the Ways People Think about and Cope with Mental Illness

People Whose Minds Are Merely Different: Challenging the Stigma Associated with Mental Illness

What Do You Know Now?

Key Terms


Chapter 14 • Eyes Wide Open: The Benefits of Seeing Social Problems from Multiple Perspectives
Benefit #1: Recognizing Different Realities

Benefit #2: Expanding Your Focus

Benefit #3: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Benefit #4: Looking Inward




Instructor Site

Online resources included with this text

The online resources for your text are available via the password-protected Instructor Resource Site, which offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides.
Student Study Site

The open-access Student Study Site makes it easy for students to maximize their study time, anywhere, anytime. It offers flashcards that strengthen understanding of key terms and concepts, as well as learning objectives that reinforce the most important material.

For additional information, custom options, or to request a personalized walkthrough of these resources, please contact your sales representative.
Key features
  • 12 case studies revolved around highly publicized social problems—mentioned on social media or dramatization in movies, TV shows, and news reports—enable students to make connections with the issues and develop a deeper understanding of a social problem they or someone they know may have experienced. The chapters are written as stand-alone discussions and can be assigned in any order.

  • Two sets of discussion questions that promote critical thinking—one early in the chapter and one at the very end—broaden one’s perspective by encouraging students to recognize the difference between their existing knowledge about a given social problem (“First impressions?”) and how the chapter has built upon that knowledge (“What do you know now?”)

  • A direct, conversational, and jargon-free writing style with examples drawn from popular culture and the entertainment industry makes key concepts easier for students to understand and sparks interest in the course. 

  • Many visuals illuminate the narrative, referencing trends in popular culture and presenting accessible tidbits of social-science data.

  • Relevant experiences shared by the author give students a sense of the person behind the book they’re reading and illustrate the powerful personal impacts sociology can have when students think about how their lives fit within the material they’re reading.

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