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How might a sociological imagination be applied to the analysis of poverty in Canada?

Globally, poverty is a state affecting the majority of the worlds people and nations. But for Canada, a well-developed country, poverty continues to be a growing concern. Why is this? Is it enough to blame poor people for their own predicaments? Is it fair to assume that the poor are lazy, have made poor decisions, and are solely responsible for their own struggles? Or has poverty been caused by matters beyond their control? By using our sociological imagination, we are able to place seemingly personal troubles, such as poverty, into a larger social context, in an attempt to better understand how personal troubles may be related to public issues. When we hear the term poor placed upon an individual, it is easy for us as a society to simply assume the blame falls upon the individual for his misfortune. We assume that his laziness and poor decisions in the past have led to where he is now. However, sociological imagination teaches us that not everything is as it seems with regards to many personal issues, and while poverty may seem like the result of many misguided decisions, it can also be the result of matters beyond the control of the poor. Factors outside citizen control, such as government policies, can actually harm successful development and lead to increased poverty. This essentially means that the government is putting policies in place that adversely affect the poor community. For example, while increasing minimum wage seems like a good idea in theory, the benefits of a raised minimum wage only reach a small percentage of the poor community. Minimum wage increases most affect young adults aging from 15-24, most of whom still live at home with their parents, and represent only a small portion of the poverty pie.

Representing a much larger percentage of the poor community are groups such as new immigrants, aboriginals, and single-parent families. These groups suffer from a lack of opportunity, whether it be from language barriers, ethnicity, or time restrictions. It is this group that demands the most assistance from the government, but instead are the ones being hurt the most from policies designed to help them. For example, minimum wage increases lead to increased labour costs for employers, which leads to higher employee expectations and reduced workforce numbers. Employers no longer have the time and patience to train their employees with regularity; they expect the skills needed for the job to be known. It is here that these poor groups are at a disadvantage. The government of Canada need to begin looking for ways to improve job opportunities for the poor, placing an emphasis on the removal of language, training, and time barriers, many experience when applying for work. Ultimately, the problem of poverty in Canada is not because of an unusually high number of lazy, drug abusing, poor decision-making citizens, but because of an inability to see the problem for what it really is, a lack of opportunity. How Canada plans to resolve the issue in the future is yet to be determined, but whatever the decision, sociological imagination should be used. Nothing is as it seems when considering poverty in Canada, and only by using our sociological imagination, will we be able to see many of hidden characteristics needed to make a fair decision as to a solution to a growing problem.

What skills does critical thinking involve and what is the difference between objective or scientific knowledge versus knowledge produced through critical inquiry? Critical thinking has been defined as the reflective reasoning about beliefs and actions. It is a way for many sociologists to decide whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or not true at all. This ability to distinguish between the truth and its many variations demands certain skills from its users. Sometimes the truth is not as obvious as initially believed, making it important for sociologists to distinguish between objective knowledge and knowledge gained through critical inquiry. Todays critical thinkers have been identified to have several key characteristics such as; independence of mind, intellectual courage, curiosity, humility, empathy, and perseverance. As we look closer into these characteristics, we are then able to identify the specific skills needed to become critical thinkers. For example, an independence of mind and intellectual courage require the ability to question information presented and determine if it is legitimate or not. This also means that the user must suspend their own judgment to check the validity of the proposition fairly. Intellectual curiosity demands a certain level of curiosity about the world we live it. Those that are intellectually curios seek to explain discrepancies in the world, and how they became what they are. Intellectual humility requires a level of awareness as to the limits of ones knowledge. No viewpoint is without bias, and users should look to reason and evidence when solving disagreements, rather then personal bias. Intellectual empathy demands that the user place himself in the position of others in order to better understand them. This also involves taking into consideration the perspectives of multiple individuals. Finally, intellectual perseverance is the ability to continue with intellectual insight and truths in spite of obstacles that challenge the user.

How sociologists, and thinkers alike, choose to use these skills described above, is often dependent on their knowledge was obtained. The two most common methods of acquiring knowledge are objectively, and though critical inquiry. Objective knowledge or taken-for-granted knowledge is said to be knowledge that is disinterested, objective, and value-free. What this means is that objective information does not use opinions when relating to social issues, and instead focuses on data and theories. Contrasting this approach is the critical analysis approach, a much more value-laden form of knowledge gathering. When attempting to define which method as superior, its nearly impossible to do. Knowledge acquired from critical analysis does however include the value of conflicting with taken-for-granted understanding. This conflict often promotes the questioning of why things are how they are, promoting a better understanding of the world around us. In summary, the objective of critical thinking is to explore the experiences of humans, both past and present, with the intention of questioning taken-for-granted understandings. In order to use our critical thinking abilities appropriately, we must also keep in mind some of the necessary skills needed to perform critical analyses. These skills include open-mindedness and reflective interpretation. Critical thinking also involves the use of both objective and critical information. Both have their own unique set of attributes, but critical analysis has the added benefit of questioning the information given. This in turn, leads back to sociological imagination and its objective of producing an understanding of both human experience, and larger social process.

Briefly describe your understanding of each of the five theories in chapter one of the text and then analyze either the issue of sexual assault or the issue of child abuse from the

perspective of one of these theories. As a guide for how to do this, chapter one provides an analysis of suicide from each of the five theoretical perspectives. In sociology, there are many different ways to look at social issues surrounding the world, such as child abuse. These perspectives can be broken into five groups; functionalistic, conflictive, feministic, symbolic interactionist, and postmodern. The functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. Functionalist perspectives are based on the assumption that society is a stable, orderly system. This system is characterized by societal consensus, where a majority of its members share the same public values. Within these systems are interrelated social structures, such as family, government, religion, and the economy. From this perspective, any disorganization within the system, leads to change because each component must adjust to achieve stability. When one part of the system isnt working, it affects all other parts and creates social problems, which then leads to social change. The conflict perspective is the second major theoretical perspective in sociology. The conflict perspective originated with Karl Marx and his critique of capitalism and has since been re-examined by Max Weber and Ralf Dahrendorf. Generally, conflict perspective assumes that social life is shaped by groups and individuals that compete with each other for various resources. This results in particular distributions of wealth, power, and prestige in societies and social systems. Feminist theory is the third of the major sociological theories, which analyzes the status of men and women in society with the purpose of using that knowledge to better the lives of women. Feminist perspectives focus on the significance of gender in understanding

and explaining inequalities that exist between men and women in the household, paid labour force, and in the realms of politics, law, and culture. Many women and men believe that we live in a patriarchy, a hierarchical system of power in which men possess greater economic and social privileges than females. Because of this, many feminists argue that womens subordination can only end after the patriarchal systems of male dominance are replaced with more egalitarian systems. Symbolic interactionist perspective is the fourth major theoretical perspective in sociology. Symbolic interactionism examines peoples day-to-day interactions and their behavior in groups. This means that symbolic interactionist approaches are based on a micro-level analysis, which focuses on small groups rather than large-scale social structures. While symbolic interactionism can be traced back to Max Webers assertion that individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world, it was George Hibert Mead and Herbert Bloomer who introduced this perspective to sociology. Postmodern perspective, also called postmodernism, is the fifth and final, major theoretical perspective in discussion. Postmodern knowledge involves a rejection of the grand narratives of science, politics, religion, and others; this, in turn causes a break in the status of knowledge in Western societies. In general, this means that no boundaries should be placed on academic disciplines, where much could be learnt by sharing ideas. This approach also opens up broad new avenues of inquiry by challenging existing foundations and explores how certain groups have the power to influence some groups and downgrade others.

When applying conflict theory to child abuse, it is important to emphasize the notion of power, exploitation, and inequality as factors influencing violence and crime towards children. Firstly, child abuse is the result of children being opposed by their parents or caregivers, in such a way that the caregiver has a real interest in the act of abuse, consciously or not. Secondly, aggressive behavior and attempts to gain power are ongoing aspects of human interaction. Children are abused because the abuser attempts to gain and maintain a position of power and dominance. Finally, those who are in positions of power typically try to maintain this power by violence and spreading myths or lies. In most child abuse cases, children are submitted to terror, violence, and intimidation by their caregiver. As we have seen from each of the five major contemporary sociological perspectives, there is a variety of ways at looking at many social situations. It is also important to note that while there is no definitive right way for looking at social issues such as child abuse, it important to consider each of the five perspectives if one hopes to make an accurate decision towards the issue.

When are qualitative research methods preferable over quantitative methods? What are some of the unique features of qualitative research?

Suppose you were going to do some sociological research, how would you go about conducting your study? Would you use quantitative or qualitative research methods? Its dependent on the situation. By examining some of the unique features of qualitative research, we will then be able to understand when qualitative research methods are preferable over quantitative methods. Although the qualitative approach follows the conventional research approach in presenting a problem, asking a question, collecting and analyzing data, and seeking to answer the research question, it also has several unique features. First of all, the researcher begins with a general approach rather than a highly detailed plan. Flexibility is necessary because of the nature of the research question. The topic needs to be explored so that we can know what or how something is going on, but we may not be able to explain why it is occurring. Secondly, the researcher has to decide when the literature review and theory application should take place. Initial work may involve redefining existing concepts or reconceptualizing how existing studies have been conducted. The literature review may take place at an early stage, before the research design is fully developed, or it may occur after development of the research design and after collection of the data. The final unique feature of qualitative research is that the study presents a detailed view of the topic. Essentially, what this means is that qualitative research usually involves a smaller number of cases and many variables, whereas quantitative researchers typically work with few variables and many cases. Qualitative research methods are best used over quantitative methods when researchers are more concerned with the practice and process, rather than the outcome, of an experiment. Qualitative field research is especially effective in studying subtle nuances in

attitudes and behaviors, in addition to examining social processes over time. The main strength of this method, then, lies in its level of understanding it allows. Another advantage that qualitative research has over quantitative research is its flexibility it permits. Researchers can modify their field research design at any time and as often as they like. Additionally, one is always prepared to engage in field research, whenever the occasion should arise, as there is little to no preparation needed. Other situations, where qualitative research should be chosen over quantitative methods, would include times where cost is a major factor. Qualitative research can be relatively inexpensive where other social scientific research methods may require expensive equipment or extensive research staff. As we have seen, qualitative and quantitative research methods each have their own unique set of qualities and characteristics. However, the key to using each method effectively is understanding their individual strengths and weaknesses. By doing this, sociologists are able to gain accurate results to their research problems.

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Berger, P. (2000). Wadsworth Classic Readings In Sociology. Eve Howard. Jane Murray, R. L. Sociology In Our Times (5th Canadian Edition ed.). (E. Veitch, Ed.) Thomas Wadsworth. Mills, C. (2000). Wadsworth Classic Readings In Sociology. Eve Howard.