SOCI 2375: Global Social Problems

Catalog Description

Provides an introduction to a wide range of social problems around the globe, such as homelessness, crime, and poverty, and how these social problems differ by race, class, and gender. Includes major sociological theoretical perspectives on social problems (such as functionalism, conflict, interactionism, and feminism).

A comparative exploration of current political, social, and economic issues in the United States and around the world. We will focus on a variety of contemporary issues and how to think of them from a social scientific perspective with a particular eye towards the underlying social forces that drive many of the problems we are likely to experience in our lives. Students will learn how to analyze contemporary problems from a sociological perspective and approach such problems critically.


Global Citizenship Program

This course is designed to give students content and skills to develop global understanding and intercultural competence.


Course Level Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Define social problems;
  2. Identify how the complexity of cultural rules regarding race, class, gender, and cultural context affect individual life chances;
  3. Critically evaluate the causes and consequences of major social problems in the U.S. and globally;
  4. and formulate a researchable thesis or hypothesis.

Course Text

Social Problems: Continuity and Change, Steven Barkan



Critical Analysis Discussions: 225 points (30 points per week, 15 points in week 8)

Quizzes (cumulative): 100 points (50 points each)

Midterm exam (cumulative): 100 points

Final exam (cumulative): 200 points

Comparative Social Problem paper topic: 50 points

Comparative Social Problem paper 1: 100 points

Comparative Social Problem paper 2: 200 points


Critical Analysis Discussion:  Every week students will be required to analyze one of the readings or topics for that week and apply it to the theoretical concepts from the text and lecture. Students will practice developing global understanding and intercultural competence by focusing on a social problem as illustrated in a variety of world cultures and by emphasizing one or more elements of intercultural competence (cultural self-awareness, cultural worldview frameworks, empathy, verbal and nonverbal communication, curiosity, and openness).


Discussion – 225 points (30 points per week)

You must actively participate in this course. To ensure that students are engaging with the material and with each other, we will engage in active discussions. Each student will be required to post to two discussion threads each and to respond to two of their peers’ posts each week.

This component will help achieve all the course objectives, but especially establishing a working knowledge of the major concepts in the sociological discipline; replacing “common sense” notions of society with empirical facts, analyses, and generalizations; developing a healthy and practical sense of skepticism through enhancing “critical thinking” skills; and learning to think about social problems from a sociological perspective, applying concepts to personal experiences as well as understanding how life chances differ for various groups.

Each week, students will write two substantive posts, equivalent to approximately 1 page of text for each graded thread. The content of the first post in each graded thread must be made by Wednesday and must relate directly to the stated threaded topics for the week. I encourage you to include a link to an outside source, such as a newspaper article, a website, a YouTube video, etc.  Each substantive post is worth 12 points (for a total of 24 points per week).

Additionally, each week, students must actively engage with the posts of other students and with the additional topics within each graded thread. To achieve this goal, students will post a substantive comment in each graded thread on at least one additional day (Thursday-Sunday) each week. The comment must be as thoughtful and substantive as the first two discussion posts. Each substantive reply post is worth 3 points (for a total of 6 points per week).

In summary, you will post 2 substantive posts before midnight on Wednesday (one in each graded thread, each on different days). Then, before midnight on Sunday, you will post an additional two times (on different days than your two substantive posts) in response to others’ posts.

Remember, your experience is important to share with the class. However, personal experience should be relevant and central rather than tangential, or it is self-indulgent. Merely posting often rather than advancing the discussion will not result in a high grade.

Remarks that are dismissive rather than respectful of others’ views, like irrelevant comments or excessive personal reflections, can reduce your grade. Vigorous argument is encouraged to the extent that it contributes to our understanding without silencing others. Learning how to argue publicly about issues that matter most to us is an important skill, much as we may have an aversion to conflict and arguing. Merely repeating one’s position should not be confused with vigorous argument.

Thinking out loud (or in written format in the discussion area) in response to questioning is strongly encouraged. You can change your position as many times as you wish, or try out different ones.


Comparative Social Problem Papers: You will submit a topic proposal and two cumulative papers on a social problems issue. Review the text and lecture topics for possible social problems issues. You will submit a 1-page proposal discussing your social problem and the two countries or cultures you will analyze in the papers. Your first position paper (4-5 pages) will discuss this social problem as it appears in a culture with which you are familiar. Your final position paper (6-10 pages) will include a revision of your first paper and additional material discussing the social problem in a culture with which you are not familiar and comparing this information with the information from the first culture. More information on this assignment, including a rubric, is available in the assignment section


Exams — 300 Points and Quizzes – 100 points
The quizzes and exams are cumulative and consist of multiple choice and short essay questions. The quizzes and exams are open note and open text.  Quizzes and exams are timed.  Please ensure that you have enough time to complete the quizzes and exams in full (including the short essay questions at the end of each).

Each quiz or exam will include material up to and including the material covered for the week. The first quiz will cover material up to and including the readings and discussion through Week 2. The midterm exam will cover material up to and including the readings and discussion through Week 4. The second quiz will cover material up to and including the readings and discussion through Week 6. The final exam in Week 8 is cumulative – it will include all readings and discussions throughout the course.  The midterm and final exams will become available one week before they are due.

The purpose of these exams and quizzes is to assess how well you have achieved the course objectives of establishing a working knowledge of the major concepts in social problems.



Week 1

Intro to the Course

Issue: Rights

Skill: Cultural Self-Awareness

Readings: Barkan: Ch 1 (Understanding Social Problems)


Week 2

Issues: Poverty and Inequality

Skill: Cultural worldview frameworks

Readings: Barkan: Ch 2 (Poverty) and 3 (Racial and Ethnic Inequality)

Assignment: Quiz


Week 3

Issues: Sexual Orientation and Gender Inequality

Skill: Empathy

Readings: Barkan: Ch 4 (Gender Inequality) and 5 (Sexual Orientation and Inequality)

Assignment: Comparative Social Problem Paper Topic


Week 4

Issues: Crime and Violence

Skill: Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Readings: Barkan: Ch 8 (Crime and Criminal Justice) and 16 (War and Terrorism)

Assignment: Midterm


Week 5

Issues: Education and Work

Skill: Curiosity

Readings: Barkan: Ch 11 (Schools and Education) and 12 (Work and the Economy)

Assignment: Comparative Social Problem Paper 1


Week 6

Issues: Environment and Urban/Rural Problems

Skill: Openness

Readings: Barkan: Ch 15 (Population and the Environment) and 14 (Urban and Rural Problems)

Assignment: Quiz


Week 7

Issues: Health and Aging

Skill: Cultural Worldview Frameworks

Readings: Barkan: Ch 13 (Health and Healthcare) and 6 (Aging and Ageism)

Assignment: Comparative Social Problem Paper 2


Week 8

Issues: Technology

Skill: Cultural Self-Awareness


Halavais, A. (2005). Social Informatics: Beyond Emergence. Bulletin Of The American Society For Information Science & Technology, 31(5), 13-16.

Jarrahi, M. H., & Sawyer, S. (2015). Theorizing on the take-up of social technologies, organizational policies and norms, and consultants’ knowledge-sharing practices. Journal Of The Association For Information Science & Technology, 66(1), 162-179. doi:10.1002/asi.23161

Assignment: Final Exam



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