This is part one of a two-part series exploring sociology and its importance to Americans, how it defines who we are and helps formulate our culture of personality. In part one, we'll define and explore sociology itself and examine the constituents that make us who we are as a unique society. In part two, we will consider how these factors affect America's identity today and in the future, and how these elements help develop our individual identities as American citizens.
So what is society, how does it affect us, how we are viewed, and how we perceive things ourselves? At its core, sociology is "an attempt to understand and explain the way that individuals and groups interact within a society." It is simply the school of thought that explores social behaviors. It explores how people react to one another in social situations. It is also an examination of different cultures.
Why is this essential and how does it help formulate our identities as Americans?
Sociology is a comprehensive review of who we are as people and why we have the way we do. By studying sociology, from its central core at the family level to large organizations of persons, we can better understand our actions and improve the way we interact with each other. By studying the evolution of family structures in America at different times and their effects on society, we can see why we have the way we do in larger gatherings. This can help explain significant social movements and government activities like the civil rights movement, which changed and improved the United States regularly. Or we can explore inequities within American society that helps explain (and hopefully reduce) the crime rate in this country. Sociology is a powerful tool that we as citizens can use to help better America.
Let's acknowledge the fact that the United States of America is the best country to live in today. It has been for many years. This is the reason why so many people immigrate here today, and why so many have flocked to our shores in the past. We are known throughout the world as the Great Melting Pot. This is why so many have given up everything they have just to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty as they sail by Ellis Island, on their way to a new and better life. However, that does not mean that we can not improve ourselves. By using sociology as a mirror to examine ourselves with, we can identify strengths and weaknesses with what we see, utilizing our strengths and fixing our weaknesses. By looking at America's flaws as a society today, we can identify troubling trends, find their causes, and improve our society, as we did with the civil rights movement in the 1960's and 70's. Likewise as we did with the Suffragette movement in the 1920's and the fight against McCarthyism in the 1950's.
An honest objective view of America today shows some troubling trends and helps explain a lot of the problems that we face today as a society. By exploring those problems, we can begin to learn to recognize them. Once we understand them we can work on addressing and fixing the issues improving our society in the process.
In direct regards to the importance sociology plays to us Americans, I'll start where most social behavioral patterns are formed, in the home within the family. Family has been extremely valuable to most American citizens through history, and it still is today. As a collective society of transplants and immigrants, we have an extensive identity, homogenized over the years to make the "American" that we know today, a religious, racial, and sexually tolerant society (for the most part) influenced by many different cultures . We can walk through a mall and eat Chinese food, Italian pizza, or French gourmet. We can go worship at a Mosque or a Baptist Church. We can listen to rap music, salsa, classical and country within a ten minute interval with the simple turn of a dial. These are all remarkable things that have evolved over time, but this patient, open personality has evolved over the years, and its roots were planed within the home.
As little as 100 years ago, the Irish people would frown upon a cross marriage to someone of Italian heritage. A Protestant would never consider marrying a Catholic. African-Americans and women did not have the right to vote. With the election of President Kennedy in 1959, we had an Irish Catholic President. Thanks to Barack Obama we have an African-American President. Women such as Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin have been nominated by their party for the Vice Presidency. Hillary Clinton made a serious run to be the Democratic Presidential nominee. Gay marriages have been approved in many states. All of these incredible things happen because our identities have merged as a collective, but the important thing that ties us to our distinct heritage is our family, that is where it all starts.
While family nurtures us and has been crucible to forming today's America, and while it is the basis of our identity, there are an incredible number of divorces and children coming from broken homes today. "50% of all marriages in America end in divorce."
The family unit is the base of our identity. If the foundation cracks, eventually the house will tumble. Our family is our past, and our children are our future. Which leads to a more disturbing realization, based on government research reviews, children from broken homes are almost five times more probable to suffer unwholesome psychological issues than those whose parents stay together. It also points out that having two parents are much better than one if children are to keep from sinking into emotional anguish and antisocial behavior.
In part two, we will continue to examine the importance of family on us Americans, and see what other factors and effects impact our nation now and probably in the future.
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Miriam B Medina