Wednesday, May 17, 2017


To earn my ten service hours for the semester,  I volunteered at the Special Olympics Bocce Ball tournament. A couple days before, I attended a training session, where I learned the rules of bocce ball and how to keep score. They also explained how the courts would be set up and what was expected of the volunteers. I showed up at the event at 8am on a Sunday and the task that was assigned to me was to sit under a tent. In the tent, I helped find players for their games and kept track of the score sheets and who was winning. My favorite part of the entire day was seeing how excited the players were to start their games and the amazing sportsmanship that they demonstrated. Sitting at the tent and being responsible for writing down the winners and losers of each game made me realize how much planning went into the event. As games finished, the volunteers at the courts would bring me their score sheet and I filled out a bracket with the results. Sometimes it got busy and I found it difficult to keep up with all of the score sheets that the volunteers were bringing back. Although I thought that I would be keeping score at a court, I'm glad that I volunteered at the tent because I was able to talk to a lot of the players as they were waiting to start their game. One woman told me all about her past wins at bocce ball tournaments and how excited she was to start her game. I had never volunteered for the Special Olympics before and this was a great opportunity for me to branch out and have a new experience. It was incredibly rewarding to see the excitement of each of the players and how much they knew about bocce ball. Whether they won or lost, they all had a great time. Because of this experience, I would love to work with the Special Olympics in the future.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

American Culture

Living in America gives people a different perspective that is shaped by their American values. Other cultures have different perspectives shaped by a different set of values, defined by their unique culture. One American value in specific, is self-help. Americans believe that they should always be working toward becoming a better version of themselves, whether it be joining a gym or working hard to go to college. People are constantly trying to do what will further their career or make them "happier". People also value individualism and in the reading written by Stefan Schemer where he shares his thoughts on jogging. People wake up early and go jog alone which is something that Schemer finds different. Individualism is highlighted through jogging because people put in the effort to wake up early to go outside and run by themselves. This is their own personal choice and what they believe is best for them. This also showcases self-help because Americans view it as a way to get in shape. Another value that is incredibly important to Americans is time, the phrase "time is money" is constantly used in a variety of situations. People are always in a rush and trying to get to the next item on their agenda. People do not often take the time to enjoy the experiences in their life. This goes along with the long hours that people work in America and how little time some people have for their family.

In Kohl's "Values Americans Live By", he talks about the values that Americans have adopted. For example, Americans value future orientation, rather than past orientation. Americans are constantly trying to predict the future or figure out what is the next best career move. They are constantly looking to the future to guide them in the present. Everything that people do is to hopefully set themselves up for a bright future. Another American value is directness and honesty. People are not afraid to voice their opinions or tell the truth, sometimes even if it may hurt another person. The American culture values truthfulness rather than concealing their personal thoughts. I personally believe that it is important to hear the truth, even if it may have negative consequences. In other cultures, people keep their opinions to themselves because they want to please those around them, but Americans are vocal about their opinions and want their voice heard.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Culture plays a big role in the creation of one's identity; it is pervasive and affects people in ways that they may not even be aware of. In my life, I have been lucky enough to experience two cultures, one being American culture, but also what is like to be Russian and Jewish. While I am immersed in one culture while at school, I am a part of what seems like a completely different world when I am with my grandparents. When I step into their apartment I hear the Russian television blasting and my grandpa constantly asking me if I listen to Russian music. During Passover, the whole family gets together to have seder and my uncle reads the prayers, which have been translated to Russian from Hebrew. Although I have grown up in the American culture, when I meet someone who can relate to the Russian culture it is almost like an instant connection.

Although I haven't traveled to many countries, on instance in which I experienced culture shock was when I vacationed in Jamaica. Culture shock is that moment of confusion that one experiences upon being immersed in a different culture and not being aware of their customs and expectations. To get to my resort from the airport, my family took a coach bus and I was able to see different aspects of Jamaican culture. Something I remember seeing was a lot of young kids walking to school alone, which I thought was very different from my life. At the time, I was in elementary school and could walk to school in ten minutes, but my parents would never let me and there I saw many young kids walking to school without an adult. This could show that they value independence and that the kids are taught to be responsible and independent as they walk to school. In America, seeing a young kid walking with their friends to school could raise some suspicion, but in Jamaica it seemed to be the norm. I also saw a difference in material culture because all of the kids going to school wore uniforms. They all wore the same clothes which made it very simple for them and they didn't have to think about what type of clothes was popular at the moment. Clothing is a big part of material culture in the US as many people follow different trends, for example, Converse or Birkenstocks.

In class we played card games at different tables to illustrate culture. We played in silence and each group played by different rules. When the loser and winner of each group had to move to a different table, they were unable to understand how their new group determined the winner. This parallels the culture shock that people feel when they enter a new country. The cards in the game were examples of material culture as each table had a different set of cards. The different rules that each table played by acted as the norms and the silence represented the language barrier that people often experience when immersed into a new culture.

In the movie, "God Grew Tired of Us", the new life of the Lost Boys in America is shown. It is a group of young men who came to America from Sudan to work and get an education in order to support their families in Sudan. A big difference in the culture that they noted is how people in America will walk past each other on the streets and not even say hello. In Sudan it is acceptable for people to go to others' homes even if they do not know them, which in the US would result in people calling the cops. A lot of the norms and societal expectations in the US were things that they had to learn and noted were different than those of Sudan. In "Social Time: The Heartbeat of Culture", the different meanings of time in culture is demonstrated. For example, in Brazil being on time signifies having nothing better to do and being late shows that the person is very busy. This illustrates the different ways that time is valued across different cultures.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Race, is a social construct, it has been created by society and continues to be a part of society despite some people believing that it has been left in the past. Race is not biological; any idea of race that we have today in society was created by society. This is demonstrated in the way that the census has changed over the years. Every year, there are more and more options for people to select as their race which is evidence that race is constructed by society. Another example of this is that every country has a different idea of race. Traveling from the US to Europe for example, you may be called a different race. Each society constructs their own idea of race which further goes to prove that race is not biological. Race is not something that is the same all across the world, but varies based on where you are. Race is manifested in our society through explicit and implicit bias. Explicit bias is when someone makes a conscious choice to have a bias toward a specific race; implicit bias is the unconscious preference toward a race. Implicit bias is everywhere and people are not even aware when they act in this way because it is a subconscious choice that they make.

In White Like Me, Tim Wise talks about the implicit racism that is prevalent in multiple aspects of society today. He also talks about how many people believe that racism is something of the past because we have had a black president, however that is far from the truth. He also points out how white people never have to think about their race and he even asked some people to explain what it is like to be white and they were unable to do so. Minorities were able to explain what it was like to be of their race and how it set them apart from others which is evidence of the way that explicit and implicit bias play a role in their everyday lives.

The panel in class that spoke about race was very eye-opening and made me realize how different a certain situation could be for someone if they are of a minority. I have never been discriminated against based on race and the panel showed me that my classmates have experienced hurtful and ignorant encounters with others that I could never imagine. As Jenny shared her experience, although I couldn't personally relate, it made me think about what it was like for my family to move to America and how my sister felt when she entered first grade not knowing any English. When she said how she would speak in English to her mom on the phone, I was able to relate because anytime my parents call me, they will speak to me in Russian on the phone, but I will respond in English if I am in front of other people.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Social Class

Social class has the power to affect multiple aspects of someone's life. It affects their dreams and aspirations for the future as well as everyday aspects of life. It influences the neighborhood in which they live, the medical care they are able to receive, as well as a variety of lifestyle choices such as food and recreation. For people living in poverty, every decision that they make is guided by their income. Whether they seek medical care or decide to wait until it is absolutely necessary or if they allow their child to participate in school activities which can add up to be very expensive, each of these choices dictates how much money they have to pay rent and to buy food. In my life, my social class has influenced the way that I approach choosing a college. I know that I cannot go to any college I want to because of the high tuition. Something I must take into consideration is the debt that I may have to pay at some schools in comparison to others. For example, my dream school has always been New York University, but I chose to not apply there because I knew I would have to take out large student loans that would take me a long time to pay back.

Playing monopoly in class demonstrated just how hard it is to move up to a different social class. I started in the level that is one above the lowest and although I was able to buy properties, slowly I began to lose money. In the end I moved down a level rather than moving up and had less money than the lowest level had to start with. The person with the most money seemed to have the most fun playing because they were able to buy the greatest number of properties and make the largest profit. Not only were they able to afford anything that they wanted, but they also started off with a lot of properties and a large sum of money. For them, it was easy to continue playing while for I thought it would be wise to buy properties, but then I spent money on that and would also have to pay rent at other properties which resulted in me losing a lot of money. This illustrates the difficulty that people in poverty face and the obstacles that prevent them from moving up. Although people may believe that they are in poverty because they aren't hard-working, that is simply not true. Often they work multiple jobs and still have barely enough to get by. Nickel and Dimed, is the story of a woman who conducts an experiment on living in poverty. She works two jobs and is still barely able to pay her rent. She also discovered that the people were very hard-working and often management was the reason that they were not able to do their job to the best of their abilities.

Social class also dictates the educational opportunities that people have. People in a higher social class are able to pursue higher degrees, but people in a higher social class also have the resources to be able to seek that level of education. For example, the ACT is a key aspect in college admissions and people in a higher social class are able to afford tutors which results in higher scores and leads to admission to a selective school. The Line: The Dynamics of Poverty showcased poverty in three different areas. In the inner city, many kids don't see a future for themselves because of the constant violence which is why some may not try as hard in school. On the other hand, in an affluent neighborhood, education is a priority because the students are always planning for the future and their careers.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Deviance is repeatedly or serious violating society's norms and it is relative to time and place. An action is only perceived as deviant if there are other people there to decide that one is violating society's norms. Something that is deviant in one society may not be perceived as deviant in another society. For example, to me, having a tattoo is not deviant because people in my family have them, but in some societies it may be viewed as something outside of the norm. Things that I perceive as deviant, I have learned to associate them with being outside the norm because of the society that I have grown up in. At school, the norm is to do your homework and to put forth an effort in class, so I have learned to view anything other than that as deviant.

After reading Saints and Roughnecks, I learned that the opinion that others have of you can influence you. The Saints were well-liked by everyone and people saw past their bad decisions. On the other hand, the Roughnecks, due their socioeconomic status and inability to look the part, were viewed as deviant at all times and were expected to act that way. The Saints were able to get away with a lot due to their socioeconomic status and polite manners. Although they did act in ways that went against society's norms, no one was able to see that which is why they were not really viewed as deviant. The Roughnecks were almost expected to be deviant. As a result, the Saints ended up being more successful in their careers than the Roughnecks because of what was expected of them.

Social class plays a big role in determining what is deviant. Each social class has its own norms and what may be perceived as deviant in one social class may be the norm in another. In 30 days in Jail and Courtroom 302, those who were of a lower social class were disadvantaged. People in a lower social class have very little time with a public defender. People in higher social classes have money for their own private attorney who would try to make sure that the charges are dropped or that they receive the shortest  possible sentence. Another way that Courtroom 302 and 30 days in Jail demonstrated an aspect of social class is that people in lower social classes often returned to jail soon after being released. The older man from 30 days in Jail returned quickly after being released. Once these people return home, they are often placed back in the environment that originally resulted in them being arrested.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Masculinity and femininity are both created by society and form the thoughts that people have about others. Not only do they often create assumptions about others, but they also establish certain expectations that people may have of others' actions. Society, through the media, has created "ideals" for both men and women which many people believe embody masculinity and femininity. Ultimately, media dictates what society believes to be acceptable actions for men and women. When trying to think of words to describe femininity, many people may say "passive, emotional, domestic" and "tough, strong, dominant" to describe masculinity. These presumptions have all been created by society.

Killing Us Softly 4 demonstrated how ads often portray women in a way that is impossible to achieve in real life. This gives society false expectations or expectations that simply cannot be met. Nearly every photo or ad is photoshopped even when the model is already incredibly thin and beautiful. Many of the ads portrayed women as submissive and even transformed their bodies to appear as an object. Tough Guise 2, discussed how violence has been incorporated in a lot of games and movies that are advertised toward boys and men. This reinforces the idea that men must be strong and dominant. With games and movies like these being advertised toward boys and men, the social construct of masculinity is supported and tells society how they believe a "real man" should act.

Agents of socialization play a large role in our experiences and the way that we believe we should act in society. For example, my family has an integral part in shaping who I become. Sometimes I notice myself saying something that my mom says or reacting to a situation the way my dad would. In Agents of Socialization,  it discussed how working-class parents teach their kids to be obedient and follow the rules, where middle-class parents utilize reason more and allow for more self-expression. In my family, my parents don't really have many rules and allow me to make my own choices as long as I am being responsible. Another important agent of socialization is school. Agents of Socialization explains the idea of the "hidden curriculum" which are the values that a school teaches indirectly. I have experienced this in many classes. For example, in some classes I have learned that the teacher expects the class to come in and be ready to take notes for the entire period. In other classes, it is much more interactive and talking to peers is encouraged. Taking notes the entire period takes a more passive approach to learning while the other allows myself to be a more active learner and participant in the class. Both of these experiences shape me as a person and indirectly teach me how to act in certain situations.