Sociology 117, Winter 2006


Class meets:  Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 12:30-1:40pm, in Engineering 2, room 192

Instructor:  Mike Males,, tel. 831/426-7099

Office: MW, 12:00-12:30, 1:45-2:15, or by appointment.

Course webpage:


Description of course:  Today's California adolescents and young adults are the first generation without a racial/ethnic majority to come of age in a modern society, a process which will accelerate across America in the next century.  California's splits are stark:  60% of those over age 45 are White/Anglo;  65% under age 20 are Latino, Asian, Black, and Native. This course will explore California youth as a transitional generation whose trends are rewriting traditional theories with regard to:

·         the interplay of race, immigration, class, gender, and age in the perception of California's social problems; 

·         the myths versus the realities of crime, suicide, drug abuse, school failure, and other public policy issues;

·         the evolving relationship of today's mostly nonwhite youth to California's white-dominated elders.


Course objectives:  Students who attend class regularly and do the readings and assignments can expect to gain understanding of:

·         modern youth issues, recent historical perspective, and how California's youth experience resembles and differs from those of other areas.

·         where to find and how to read basic population (demographic) information sources (on birth, death, migration) and secondary sources (i.e., crime, vital statistics, and education reports).  This class requires only basic math skills.

·         an appreciation of “reality versus image” in the framing of modern youth issues in the news media and official statements, particularly as the presentation is affected by gender, social class, and race/ethnicity.

·         using original information sources to clarify and reframe issues of age, race/ethnicity, generation, and economic status in California's increasing diversity.


Readings at Slug Books, 224 Cardiff Place, near UCSC, in the 7-11/Bay Credit Union shopping center

                Reader (2006). California Youth in Transition (required)

                Currie, Elliott (2006). Road to Whatever (required)

                Mead, Margaret (1970, 1978), Culture and Commitment (not required, on reserve)


Course organization:   Classes typically involve a lecture supplemented by charts and other information presented on overheads, and discussion; some will include videos or guest lecturers dealing with such topics as race/ethnic issues and immigration.  Lecture notes and study questions will be provided to guide readings, study, and paper development.  Students are responsible for all materials presented at each class and will not do well if they don’t attend.  Each students is strongly encouraged to schedule at least one meeting with me, particularly if seeking narrative evaluation.


Grading/evaluation:  Grades/narrative evaluations will be based on several short assignments involving basic population pyramids and brief interpretative essays;  a midterm and final exam on lectures, videos, and readings;  class participation;  and a 12-15-page paper. Assignments are due at the beginning of class, and unexcused lateness will be penalized.  The final paper may concern a wide variety of topics relating to modern youth, but it must interpret an original data set or ethnography. The reason, frankly, is that adolescents are lied about so much that secondhand information is unreliable. One good approach is to evaluate the youth behavior of your choice in two, or several, diverse California counties. Picking an unusual topic that will cover information neglected by the Reader is especially useful—talk to me about it.


Course outline by week:


0-1 --  1/6-1/13.  Everything everyone “knows about youth today” is wrong (but what is right?)

                Reader, chapter 1                                Growing up in a state of extremes, pp 1-44

                Reader, appendix A                 Ethnography

                Reader, chapter 2                                Adolescent psychology: junk science run wild, pp 45-95

                Assignment 1:                  Race/ethnicity transition, population pyramid, 2005 vs. 1970

                                                                                brief essay interpreting population pyramid (1 page)

                                                                                due at beginning of class, Friday, 1/13


2 -- 1/18-1/20 (no class 1/16). The myths begin: American adolescence constructed as “problem”

                Reader, chapter 3                 America’s hundred-year war against precocity, pp 96-128

                Assignment 2:                  analyze news media article/show on teens in general (1 page)


3 -- 1/23-1/27. Abandonment turns to fear, 1980-2006

                Reader, chapters 4-5                The ‘60s, ‘80s and beyond. pp. 129-205

                Assignment 2:                  due at beginning of class, Friday 1/27


4 -- 1/30-2/3.  Adolescent myths: “teenage sex”

                Reader, chapter 6                 Teenage sex, pp. 206-253


5 -- 2/6-2/10. Adolescent myths: crime, guns, violence

                Reader, chapter 7:                 Myths of Adolescence I: Crime, Guns and Violence, pp. 254-310

                                                                Appendix B: Prop 21

                Assignment 3:                  develop 1-page description of paper topic, listing sources


6 -- 2/13-2/17.  Adolescent myths: drugs, alcohol

                Reader, chapter 8                 Myths of Adolescence II: Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco, pp 311-356          Currie, intro, chapter 1                Road to Whatever, pp. 1-40

                Assignment 3:                  due Monday 2/13

                Midterm exam                       Friday 2/17 (short answer questions, short essay)


7 -- 2/22-2/24 (no class 2/20).  Police, prisons, curfews, the law

                Reader, chapter 9                 The Law and Adolescents, pp. 357-391

                Reader, chapter 10 (part)   White and threatened; Teenage and millennial, pp 408-413

                                                                Appendix C: San Francisco juvenile justice

                Currie, chapter 2                                Road to Whatever, pp. 41-122

                Individual meetings about paper topics during week


8 -- 2/27-3/3.  Youth and society: workers, student, consumers, community

                Reader, chapter 10 (rest)                Youth in society, schools, community, as consumers, time, pp. 392-413

                Currie, chapter 3                                Road to Whatever, pp. 123-184


9 – 3/6-3/10. Culture wars (framed and commodified) and space (limited)

                Mead (suggested)                           Culture and Commitment, chapters 1,2 (skim), chapters 3-4 (read)

                Currie, chapter 4                                Road to Whatever, pp. 185-216


10 -- 3/13-3/15.  The future:  racial/ethnic, class, and generational isolation vs. integration

                Mead (suggested)                           Culture and Commitment, 1978 version, chapters 5-9

                Currie, chapters 5-6                Road to Whatever, pp. 217-284

                Paper due                          beginning of class, Monday 3/13


Final exam:  Thursday, March 23, 8:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., Engineering 2, 192, OR ONLINE