March 29, 2008

Extracting the Good, But Leaving the Bad: My Search for Valuable Internet Resources on Sociology

This week, I continued the search for valuable online resources that I began weeks ago. While there is a superfluous amount of information sources online, I used the Webby Awards and IMSA criteria to decipher between what is a reliable versus weak source. Described below and available in the link roll of this blog, I have found ten exceptional websites. My favorite of the websites is VALPO. It is aesthetically pleasing in it's simple, but organized layout. Each week the website posts a current important topic, and I am constantly fascinated by the subject matter. However, the website would benefit from being more interactive. A site that does a wonderful job inviting viewers to share insight and opinions is A Very Public Sociologist. This site is a blog that is well laid out with noteworthy discussions and informative posts. However, the authors do not establish their authority anywhere on the page-this is certainly a weak point for the blog. While A Very Public Sociologist only has one main flaw, SocioSite is an example of a page that is highly useful and academic, but faulty in multiple areas. It links to numerous famous sociologists, but it is unattractive, boring, and lacking much other information. Even with these errors, this web page has been extremely useful to me-in fact, just last week I utilized the database supplied on the page. A similar site is the American Sociological Association, which has a simple interface, but is of high value. It provides an interactive forum for sociologists online. Furthermore, I am quite impressed by Cyberspace and Web Sociology as it directly discusses sociology online. It is easy to navigate, but could be more descriptive in its material. All Academic is another great resource. The website is useful for finding articles on abstract subjects, although many times you have to pay to view the entire article. Spoil the Kids provides many articles and viewers can read them for free. The articles focus on sociology of childhood. Because the site is so wonderful, it would be great if the producers of Spoil the Kids had other sociological websites that focused on more topics. Furthermore, Sage Journals is a blog with many posts on sociology, but it is quite frustrating to navigate. A blog that is easier to navigate is The Global Sociology blog. It has outstanding posts, however the posts need to be more concise. Lastly, another fantastic blog is Y for Yendetta. This blog is well-written and credible, but not always relevant to my research. These online sources exemplify the outstanding information and discussion that the internet houses.

March 10, 2008

"It's 3 AM" and Your Children and Being Used to Persuade You: How Children are Used in Politics

At the mere mention of the word 'child,' people instantly make associations with happiness, innocence, naivety, among other qualities. Furthermore, people of all backgrounds and ages relate to children because everyone once was a child and many people have their own children. Due to children's common relationship with people universally, this topic evokes sympathy from many different types of people. It is because of this unique quality that kids are brought into heated political conversations. Playing the "kid card," or utilizing children as a persuasion tactic, has been in use for decades. Posters during both the Vietnam War era and the World War II era featured children in order to bring attention to the suffering that the wars were causing. Currently, Hillary Clinton has a campaign commercial that utilizes children to display Clinton's qualifications for presidency and her ability to protect families while in The White House. Children's impact on both the government and every day citizens' voting decisions is phenomenal. Thus, many sociologists have examined why children have so much influence. To fully understand this sociological phenomenon, one must begin by examining children's symbolic use in history and end by looking at the current use of children in politics.

Historically, the faces and stories of anguished children have been used to spotlight the cruelties of war. While wars cause destruction for all human beings involved, it takes the imagery of helpless children for people to understand the real consequences. During the Vietnam War, photographs of impoverished and endangered Vietnamese children were publicized in the United States. The war was extremely controversial amongst Americans and the photographs, like the photograph depicted on the left, revealed America's detrimental affect on Vietnamese youth. One poster created during Vietnam features a child's handwriting and the message that "war is not healthy for children and other living things." Lots of Americans had children of their own and empathized with the losses that Vietnamese families were suffering. Thus, the photographs and messages had a great impact on them. Similarly, photographs of children were used worldwide during the Second World War. The photographs and posters served the purpose of instilling fear into people so that they would take the war seriously and take the precautions necessary to stop the war from affecting their own families. One alarming WWII poster displays Adolf Hitler and the Japanese Prime Minister Tojo looking over the globe with weapons in their hands. The rhetoric of the poster states that "our homes are in danger now!" The use of the word homes in combination with the weaponry the dictators are holding is greatly affective in causing fear. People think of their homes as a place of safety where their children and belongings are secure, and Hitler and Tojo were threatening their shelter. In addition, elementary schools in Britain displayed similar cautionary posters. Some of these posters read that "Hitler will send no warning-so always carry your gas mask," "Still more bones wanted for salvage," and "Don't do it mother-Leave your kids where they are." Not only did these posters depict children in wartime, but they were exhibited in elementary school halls to get messages across to parents about the dangers of the war. This tactic of using children to communicate issues on a personal level is still being used today.

Currently, a television commercial run by Hillary Clinton's campaign boldly states that when "it is 3 AM and your children are safe and asleep," Clinton (depicted on the right) will be the best candidate to protect your family. The commercial displays multiple pictures of young children asleep in their beds, which is an image that is precious to all parents. This commercial is ironic because of course, any American citizen wants to feel safe while they are asleep at night. However, Clinton's commercial only directly addresses the safety of children. Family security is a highly sensitive and important issue to American voters. Thus, Clinton utilizes the emotional appeal of parental concern for their children in her campaign. She attempts to create anxiety in parents by capitalizing on their natural fear about their child's safety in her advertisement. This advertisement has provoked many strong responses amongst Americans. On CNN's blog, one person articulates that Clinton was having difficulty getting her foreign policy proposals heard. Therefore, she "[kicked] it up and [tried] to hit people where they live," using the impact of the homestead to draw people's attention. She was quite successful in her tactic, as shown by the coverage of the commercial by many news mediums, Saturday Night Live, and The Daily Show. Sociologists examine why children have the ability to bring attention to Clinton's cause and many other causes, even when multiple other persuasion tactics have failed.

Two renowned sociologists David Buckingham and Henry Giroux separately examine the way society views children. After studying their research, it is simple to understand how children have such a great affect on politics. In Buckingham's work, "The Death of The Child," he denotes that anxiety over youth culture began in the 1930s when children stopped spending all of their time under their parents' supervision and started to spend more time around peers. Because adults had such different childhood experiences due to the vast expansion of technology and growing independence of children, adults worry that childhood is in trouble. They project their biggest fears onto children. Therefore, they feel they must preserve and protect 'childhood.' Issues, like war, that threaten this entity are highly emotional for parents-politicians play on this reaction. Moreover, Giroux discusses society's concept of childhood innocence. Children are molded to be blank slates that adults can project their desired qualities and values onto. Children are supposed to be unknowing and protected. Their malleability is appealing to society because it maintains adults' power. War and other political issues endanger this innocence, which is why when children are brought into political issues, adults respond strongly.

Concisely, although children have no voice in politics, they have an immense impact on political decisions. They are symbols of citizens' greatest fears and hopes and they touch the hearts of nearly all human beings. Children are vital tools in political persuasion. This influential characteristic has been successful in the past, put into use in the current time, and it will surely be utilized in the future.
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