Saturday, March 31, 2012

Opportunities to Work in 2012 Election

For those about to graduate who might have interest in politics and the 2012 Presidential election, the Obama campaign is hiring:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sociologists as Folk Devils at the Supreme Court

A photo that accompanied New York Times articles about the Supreme Court arguments on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has some interesting connections to sociology.

There, in the middle of the picture, on a protester's sign, we read "No Obmarx Care or Cloward & Piven Spending."  Marx you will recognize, but who are Cloward and Piven?

Frances Fox Piven is a professor of sociology and political science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and past president of the American Sociological Association.  She is the widow of Richard Cloward, also a sociologist, who died in 2001. Cloward is most commonly encountered by sociology students in deviance courses in connection with Delinquency and Opportunity: A Theory of Delinquent Gangs, co-authored with Lloyd Ohlin. In this book the authors offered a critique of the then (1960s) prevailing theory of delinquency as an individual problem, arguing instead that it is caused by poverty and lack of opportunity (what we sometimes call "differential opportunity" theory to make the contrast with differential association theory that suggests delinquency comes from hanging out with the wrong people).  Their work influenced the shape of social programs ever since.  Cloward and Piven were major forces behind what we now know as "motor voter" -- making it easier to register to vote (and that are also under assault as we speak).

Piven and Cloward have become folk devils of the far right and a background focal point in the current debate on Obamacare. In 1966 they published an article, "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty," in The Nation.  It included the suggestion that if the poor could make increasing demands on the federal government the eventual result would be a federally guaranteed minimum income.  This
It is our purpose to advance a strategy which affords the basis for a convergence of civil rights organizations, militant anti-poverty groups and the poor. If this strategy were implemented, a political crisis would result that could lead to legislation for a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty (Cloward and Piven 1966).
Detractors call this the "Cloward-Piven Strategy" and make all manner of arguments that any effort to deploy government resources to combat poverty is an attempt to convert the U.S. into a socialist state.  For a sense of this vast left-wing conspiracy you can read this blog post from 2008 or just look at the diagram below.

Source may be J. Simpson (

If only more of our sociological work could cause such a ruckus.  Study up; there's much work to be done.

Selected Bibliography

Piven, "How I Ended up in Glenn Beck’s Line-of-Fire… And why it matters." (blog post 06/02/10)
Cloward and Piven. Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (1978)
Piven and Cloward. Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (1993)
Piven. Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (2008)
Piven. Who's Afraid of Frances Fox Piven?: The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate (2011)

Coding, Social Science, and Activism

This past weekend I participated in the OccupyResearch "Hackathon" at the MIT Media Lab.  It was part of a nation-wide effort with other groups working in LA, NY, DC and Oakland.  People with all ranges of computer skills worked on analyzing and visualizing data about and for the Occupy movement.

It was a mixed crowd.  Women and men (yes, more of one than the other -- one of our jobs is to change that).  Students and professionals. There was a sociology student from U Mass, computer science undergrad from MIT, grad students in art and comparative media and cinema studies and computer science and physics.  Some participants did web programming, others built data bases for the Occupy Research General Survey, ran statistical analyses or used free open source tools (such as Many Eyes, a tool you should try out) to create cool visualizations.

I became further convinced that we need to teach more in the way of computer skills in the social sciences, whether our students' trajectories are social science, activism, public service, or private sector.  And this resonates with a story in today's New York Times about free, online tools for learning how to code.  They mention organizations like Girls Develop It and San Francisco based Women Who Code that you might want to check out.  I've been playing around with Code Academy for the past few months, learning how to code in Javascript.  It's probably the most painless and stress-free bit of computer learning I've ever done.  These tools will not turn you into a Apple engineer over night, but they are great ways to crack open the door, see what "coding" is all about, exercise a new mental muscle, and, potentially, lead you to new endeavors.

A very major track in the future of both social science and social activism is going to be in the areas of "big data" and social media and open-source.  Now is the time to get in on the ground floor.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Internships at Public Policy Institute of California

There is still time for students to put in their applications to be considered for one of the PPIC’s Richard J. Riordan Summer Internships.  For detailed project descriptions and access to the application, visit and follow the Summer Internship link.  The application process will remain open one extra day to take in applicants through tomorrow, Tuesday 3/13/2012.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

New from Stanford Social Innovation Review

FROM the  

An excerpt from the new book,Campaign Bootcamp 2.0 by Christine Pelosi*.

Women often find it harder to make the leap into campaigns because many of us remain the primary caregivers for our children and our parents, so family time is harder to let go. And public attitudes remain stereotypical, even among close supporters. I remember receiving an award at the pre-Columbus Day luncheon of the Irish-Israeli-Italian Society of San Francisco during my days as a deputy prosecutor. There I was, my speech all lined up about the caring traditions of TrĂ³caire, Tikkun Olam, and Caritas when a family friend approached my table announcing loudly, "I’m praying for your husband." My response, thinking she mistook me for one of my married sisters: "It’s Christine; I don’t have a husband." "I know," she replied, "that’s why I am praying for him!" My colleagues roared with laughter. One who has since gone on to elected office herself said, "When people ask me where my husband is, I say, ‘I don’t know, but if you find him tell him I’m looking for him.’"
*"Christine Pelosi has a lifetime of grass-roots campaigning experience. Christine serves as chair of the California Democratic Party Women's Caucus and she has worked as an attorney in the Clinton-Gore administration and a child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor in San Francisco."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Religion in the Super Tuesday Primaries


Report from Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on recent primaries

Religion in the Super Tuesday Primaries

Romney continues to struggle among evangelicals, Santorum yet to win among Catholics

Mitt Romney won six of the 10 GOP caucuses and primaries held on Super Tuesday, while Rick Santorum won three states and Newt Gingrich was victorious in one. Romney continues to struggle among the GOP’s white born-again/evangelical voters. He did win the evangelical vote in two of the seven states where exit polling was conducted – Massachusetts (where he served as governor) and Virginia (where neither Santorum nor Gingrich were on the ballot).1 In four states, Romney received significantly less support from evangelicals than from non-evangelical voters. This continues the pattern seen in previous caucuses and primaries; before Super Tuesday, Romney had received less support from evangelicals than from non-evangelicals in every contest for which data are available.


Career Night 2012


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

Future of hyper-connected self (i.e., YOU): What's your prediction?

...about the hyper-connected minds of the younger generation in 2020?

In a report just out from Pew Internet, "Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives," experts and stakeholders "were fairly evenly split as to whether the younger generation’s always-on connection to people and information will turn out to be a net positive or a net negative by 2020. They said many of the young people growing up hyperconnected to each other and the mobile Web and counting on the internet as their external brain will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do well in key respects. At the same time, these experts predicted that the impact of networked living on today’s young will drive them to thirst for instant gratification, settle for quick choices, and lack patience."

What do you think? Is it a wiser brain that's always connected and able to google for the answer to any question or does it become an empty vessel sitting atop a device equipped with eyeballs and fingers?

Read the full press release here or download a PDF of the research report.

Careers: Cara Carrillo (2008) works for PolicyLink

Cara Carrillo, Program Coordinator, works for the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink. Carrillo manages operations for the Institute through research, administrative, and program support – working to fulfill the vision of all children living in communities of opportunity that enable them to reach their full potential. She has spent the past three years providing administrative, research, and program support to teams working on equitable infrastructure investment and federal policy advocacy. Prior to joining PolicyLink, Carrillo worked to promote educational equity at Marin Education Fund (now 10,0000 Degrees) in San Rafael, CA. Carrillo holds a BA in Sociology/Anthropology from Mills College. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Careers: Sarah Gonzalez (class of 2009) NPR Reporter


Sarah Gonzalez
Broadcast Reporter
Sarah Gonzalez is the Miami-based reporter for NPR's StateImpact Florida. She comes from NPR in D.C. where she was a national desk reporter, web and show producer as an NPR Kroc Fellow. The San Diego native has worked as a reporter and producer for KPBS in San Diego and KALW in San Francisco, covering under-reported issues like violence, food insecurity and public education. Her work has been awarded an SPJ Sigma Delta Chi and a regional Edward R. Murrow. She graduated from Mills College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in sociologyand journalism.

Follow on Twitter:@GonzalezSarahA