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Lakewood Church and the Prosperity Gospel

Three out of four of the Largest churches in the U.S. preach the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ – these are megachurches which preach the idea that God is a spiritual source which individuals can call upon to ‘enrich’ their lives – popular buzzwords include ‘hope, destiny and bounty’, and the sermons are filled with optimism, with the Christian themes of guilt, shame, sin and penance hardly ever being mentioned.

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Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Texas

These mega churches are attended by 10s of thousands and watched by millions, and it’s estimated that one in five Americans now follow the ‘Prosperity Gospel’, which is a sort of cross between Pentacostalism and Faith healing and run by celebrity mega preachers such as Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland.

Joel Osteen’s sermons draw in a massive 7 million viewers a week, and more on Satellite radio. Apparently he practices his sermons for hours, until he gets them exactly right, totally polished.

Osteen’s Church is the ostentatious Lakewood in Texas, and it brought in an income of $89 million in 2017, the same year it failed to open its doors to those driven to homelessness by Hurricane Harvey, at least until a social media backlash forced it to do so!

Osteen himself has a personal fortune of around $60 million and speaks broadly for the broken middle classes of America. He is a fan of Positive Thinking, as is Donald Trump.

Underlying both Trump’s and Osteen’s idea is a belief that God underwrites the justice of the marketplace – or put another way, the market rewards those who work hard!

Sociological Perspectives on Lakewood

The best fit perspective here seems to be Marxism – this seems to be a modern day version of the religious/ ideological justification for wealth and inequality in America.

Although a deeper question from this perspective is why so many people are stupid enough to believe this?!?

Perhaps it’s because it’s just too hard to accept the truth that it’s neoliberalism which has made so many people rich at the expense of so many others being relatively or absolutely poor.

Or perhaps it’s simply because it fits in with the neoliberal ideology, and the widespread acceptance of the prosperity gospel in the states is a sign of how far gone so many of the population are!

Sources

Adapted from The Week 18 May 2019

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The consequences of cutting bursaries for student nurses…

Cutting free tuition and bursaries for student nurses seems to be a good candidate for the one of the worst social policy decisions of the decade…

The NHS is currently critically short of nurses, with 42 000 posts in England unfilled.

This seems to be due to a decision by the Tory party in 2015 to remove free tuition and bursaries for those undertaking nursing courses, requiring nursing students to take out loans to cover their fees and costs of living while studying.

It appears that the prospect of starting a nursing career up to £50K in debt has but people off applying for nursing in droves. Since 2016 nursing applications have dropped by one third, and they are down 40% among mature students.

There seems to be a direct correlation here between the removal of bursaries and people deciding to not do nursing courses, which makes sense given that nursing is a low paid, stressful and low status career: who would want to start out £50K in debt?

In 2015, it was projected that the policy would have saved £1 billion a year, but this is almost certainly not going to be the case as it is estimated that nearly 50% of loans to student nurses will be written off because they will never earn above the repayment threshold, and because of the requirement to hire nurses through more expensive agencies.

It is estimated that replacing agency nurses with regular full-time nurses would save the NHS £560 million a year.

Why did the Tories introduce this policy?

It could be due a total disconnect between elite Tories and the kinds of people doing nursing degrees. Most Tories will have no idea what it’s like living on marginal wages and  the difference bursaries can make down at the bottom of the pay scale.

Or it might be ideological – deliberately done to put the NHS in crisis and make it more expensive to run, justifying (in a downward spiral) the further outsourcing and selling off for profit later. Tories don’t need it after all, they have private health care.

It can’t be due to any rational decision making as this policy clearly makes no financial sense on any level.

Sources 

https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/news/removing-the-student-nurse-bursary-has-been-a-disaster

The Week

 

 

 

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Exam Advice from the AQA’s 2018 Examiner Report – Paper 3 (Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods)

Below I summarise the 2018 AQA’s examiner report for crime and deviance with theory and methods and add in the questions, which aren’t in the report. You can get both the report and the question paper here!

General Advice 

  • Most students seem to have managed their time appropriately, with few signs that they were unable to complete the paper.
  • Some students showed detailed sociological knowledge and sophisticated understanding that they applied successfully to the set questions, and in general students seemed reasonably well versed in relevant material.
  • However, fewer found success in evaluating the issues raised by the questions.

Question 1

Outline Two ways in which gender may influence the risk of being a victim of crime

  • Most students successfully identified two ways in which gender may influence being a victim of crime.
  • Most answers referred to the vulnerability of women or the influence of patriarchy; many linked this with domestic abuse or sexual crimes.
  • References to male victims usually referred to socialisation and/or to violence related to masculinity, leading to men becoming victims of the violence of other men when they became gang members or spent time in the wrong places.
  • The main reason for failing to score marks was to write about committing crime rather than about being a victim.
  • Some gained partial reward for identifying a particular type of crime of which men or women are likely to be victims but without going on to elaborate on this.

Question 2

Outline three criticisms of the labelling theory of crime and deviance

  • The most frequently cited criticism was that labelling theory is deterministic; this was usually explained correctly.
  • Other frequently cited criticisms included the theory’s failure to explain primary deviance, its romanticised view of deviants or its neglect of structural factors.
  • A significant minority of answers outlined criticisms of the labelling process (for example that labelling is discriminatory or unfair), rather than of the theory.
  • Some students tended to recycle the same criticism in different guises.
  • A few wrote excessively long answers to this question.

Question 3

Sociology examiner report 2018.png

Applying material from Item A, analyse two reasons for social class differences in official crime statistics

  • Most students were able to draw on one or two appropriate points from the Item.
  • More effective answers then developed these points appropriately by employing relevant sociological concepts and studies.
  • For example, ‘agencies of the criminal justice system, such as the police’ was linked to how the police use typifications in activities such as stop and search, how justice may be negotiated etc.
  • ‘some individuals may also have greater… pressure to offend’ was applied to utilitarian crime via relative deprivation or blocked opportunities faced by the working class.
  • In less effective answers, the connection between the potential point from the Item and the material presented was less clearly made.
  • In a minority of cases, students simply offered various sociological explanations of class differences in the statistics but with no application of material from the Item.

Question 4

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate sociological contributions to our understanding of the relationship between crime and the media (30)

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Good answers included…

  • the social construction of crime news;
  • media representations of crime,
  • criminals and victims; t
  • he role of the media in creating crime (for example, relative deprivation, moral panics and the deviance amplification spiral)
  • the role of new media in contributing both to crime and to its policing.
  • Good answers also had evaluation which was explicit and well linked to the specific issues raised in the answer.

Some answers took a ‘perspectives’ approach, including Marxist, functionalist, feminist or other views. Unfortunately, this approach led many to focus on tangential material, with detailed accounts of the general sociological perspectives that quickly lost sight of the media, crime, or both. However, there were a few very good answers of this type that did succeed in applying such perspectives to the set question.

Question 5

Outline and explain two disadvantages of using laboratory experiments in sociological research (10)

  • Most students could offer two disadvantages of laboratory experiments.
  • Most often these included the artificiality of the setting (often conflated with the Hawthorne effect)
  • other disadvantages included difficulties in identifying and controlling variables, a lack of representativeness or ethical problems.
  • However, many answers failed to explain or develop these points successfully; some simply described an example of an experiment that experienced such problems. Some students did not know the difference between reliability and validity.
  • A minority of students included evaluation, for which no marks were available on this question.

Question 6

Applying material from Item C and your knowledge, evaluate the advantages of using  structured interviews in sociological research [ 20 marks]

Screenshot 2019-06-09 at 08.30.17.png

  • This question proved to be quite challenging for some students.
  • Most were able to put together a list of positivist characteristics as advantages, such as objectivity, reliability, quantification and generalisability.
  • However, most could not evaluate these advantages.
  • Instead a typical response, having provided a paragraph or two on the advantages, gave a list of disadvantages, or a list of reasons why interpretivist sociologists would not like the method.
  • The result was an essay of two halves with little to link them into a coherent answer to the set question.

 

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Summary of the 2018 A-level sociology examiner report for beliefs in society, paper 2

Below I’ve reformatted the examiners report for the 2018 A-level sociology exam, paper 2 (families and households section) into bullet points and included the exam questions.

This is really just designed to make this more user friendly!

This advice is taken straight from the AQA’s examiner report on the sociology A-level exam 2018.

Beliefs in society 2018 Questions and examiner commentary 

Question 13

Outline and explain two ways in which globalisation may affect religious beliefs and practices (10)

  • Most students able to explain two ways in which globalisation may have affected religious beliefs and practices.
  • Popular answers included pluralism and greater choice, deterritorialisation and the growth of fundamentalism.
  • Some weaker answers described recent changes in beliefs or practices without making the role of globalisation clear.

Question 14

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Applying material from Item I, analyse two reasons why minority ethnic groups in the United Kingdom are often more religious than the majority of the population (10)

  • This question was generally answered well.
  • Popular answers included cultural defence and cultural transition (although the difference between these two concepts was not always clear), and the idea that migrants are simply more likely to be religious when placed in a secular society.
  • This question referred specifically to the United Kingdom and so answers about other countries could not be credited.

Question 15

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Applying material from Item J and your knowledge, evaluate the view that an increase in spirituality in the United Kingdom has compensated for the decline of organised religion (20)

  • Answers here showed a good range of knowledge.
  • Most students took cues from the item and discussed a range of developments, such as variations of secularisation, growth of science and rationality and the growth of New Age activities.
  • There was pleasing evidence of knowledge of contemporary postmodern approaches but only the best answers explicitly addressed spirituality or considered that there might be a difference between the spiritual and the religious.

 

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Summary of the 2018 A-level sociology examiner report for families and households, paper 2

Below I’ve reformatted the examiners report for the 2018 A-level sociology exam, paper 2 (families and households section) into bullet points and included the exam questions.

This is really just designed to make this more user friendly!

This advice is taken straight from the AQA’s examiner report on the sociology A-level exam 2018.

Families and Households 2018 Questions and examiner commentary 

Question 04

Outline and explain two ways in which government policies may affect family structure. [10 marks]

  • There was a tendency to go into detail about the chosen policies rather than to discuss effects on family structures.
  • Some answers assumed an effect and did not take the opportunity to use their sociological understanding to explore the ideas in greater depth. For example, some answers said that changes to divorce laws increased the number of lone parent families, but few discussed increases in reconstituted families or bi-nuclear families.
  • Similarly the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013 was recognised as increasing the number of same sex married couples but also led to same sex divorces, changes in adoption, surrogacy and so on.

Question 05

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Applying material from Item C, analyse two ways in which demographic trends since 1900 may have affected the nature of childhood in the United Kingdom today. [10 marks]

  • Many answers went into reasons for the demographic changes referred to in the item rather than focus on effects on childhood.
  • Others discussed childhood a hundred years ago or earlier.
  • However, many did develop points about child centeredness by looking at its positive consequences for childhood and then developing this to link it to over protectiveness, age patriarchy, pester power, toxic childhood and so on.
  • Similarly, the presence of grandparents was in better answers not merely described but analysed as to how it could be both positive and negative in contributing to socialisation and childcare and in adding to the burden of care for the family with some children becoming young carers.
  • Better answers were distinguished by, as the mark scheme says, ‘developed applications’, going beyond the immediately apparent.

 

Question 06

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Applying material from Item D and your knowledge, evaluate the view that individual choice in personal relationships has made family life less important in the United Kingdom today

  • Many answers discussed changes in family life such as divorce, cohabitation, same sex marriage and gender roles in terms of greater choice but few explored whether these developments made family life more important or less important.
  • More developed analysis showed how diversity did not always lead to less importance being given to family life, importance of a changed form of family life. Functionalism and the New Right were often included but, sometimes with Marxism, described rather than being applied to the question.
  • There was a shortage of postmodernist views in addition to choice and diversity. Better answers referred to pure relationships, confluent love, negotiated families and alternative life courses.

 

 

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A-level sociology exams: hints for paper 2 from the 2018 examiner report

This advice is taken straight from the AQA’s examiner report on the sociology A-level exam 2018. It is relevant to both the families and households and beliefs sections of paper 2.

General advice

Get your timings right and make sure you spend enough time on the final 20 mark question in section B

The report notes that most students answered the questions in the order they appeared in the question paper, answering the last question they attempted was the 20 mark question in section B.

Some students messed the timings up and wrote a very brief answer to this question!

Advice on 10 mark questions

Don’t write introductory paragraphs or conclusions

These are unlikely to gain extra marks, they just take up time

Write two distinct points in your answers 

The report notes that some students made only one point, others made more than two, you need to make two points (as it says in the question!)

The report also notes that ‘sometimes it was unclear how many points were being made’ – you should make your two points distinct by leaving a blank line between them, or starting each of them with ‘one way is…’, and later on ‘a second way is…’

Don’t evaluate in the 10 mark ‘Outline and explain’ question (the one with NO item)

Evaluation is not a requirement for answers to 10 mark “outline and explain” questions, there are no marks for evaluation here.

You can get evaluation marks for the the ‘with item’ 10 mark questions.

Develop each point by using sociological concepts, theory and evidence

The best answers to 10 mark questions were focused, clearly stating a point and then developing it, using sociological concepts, evidence and theory where appropriate.

Make sure you link the two aspects of the question together 

For example, both of the questions below have two aspects (highlighted for emphasis)

‘Outline and explain two ways in which government policies may affect family structure‘ (10)

Applying material from Item C, analyse two ways in which demographic trends since 1900 may have affected the nature of childhood in the United Kingdom today (10)

What you need to do (ideally) is link the red to the blue in each question, using appropriate concepts, theories and evidence.

Furthermore, you want to pick different aspects for each point – for example, in the first question above start with two different policies and link them to two (or more) different aspects of family structure. (And don’t forget that you must use the item for your ‘aspects’ in the Item question)

NB – both of those questions were in the 2018 Sociology A level paper 2.

Advice on 20 mark questions 

‘It may be more effective to cover a limited number of views or theories in some depth rather than to include every possible theory’

I’ve always said ‘3-5 points’ for an essay – this report confirms that you can get a decent mark with 3 points/ theories.

Stay focused on the question 

The report notes that there was a tendency for answers to progressively lose sight of the question and to become a list of different views’.

This ties in with the above point – it might be that the item only directs you to two or three theories, stay focused on them!

Link evaluations to your points and theories

The report notes that ‘evaluation which meets the demands of the questions is better than points which have been learned and included’.

The report also notes that evaluation means strengths as well as limitations – there is a tendency for students to just focus on criticisms.

Plan your essays in advance 

This will help you select appropriate material, stay focused on the question and evaluate effectively!

Sociology Revision Webinars for the 2019 exams!

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my revision webinars. We’re focusing on families and beliefs this coming Sunday!

For more information on Revision Webinars, please click the above gif, or check out this blog post.

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Problems of researching globalisation

Globalisation refers to the increasing interconnectedness of different regions across the world. Globalisation is one of the core themes within AQA A-level sociology, while research methods is a compulsory element.

It follows that the exam board could legitimately ask a question about the problems of researching globalisation. This post is just a few thoughts on how you might answer an exam question, which would probably be in the form of a 10 mark ‘Outline and explain two problems’ type question.

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Two problems of researching globalisation

The first problem is that globalisastion is a difficult concept to define and operationalise. Sociologists disagree over what aspects are the most significant and worthy of study – economic, cultural and political globalisation are all possibilities. There is also disagreement over whether it’s a one way or two way process and whether it necessarily means the decline of the nation state.

This partly stems from the fact that it’s such an enormous process, reaching across the whole world,

Even within one aspect of globalisation such as economic globalisation there are so many things that we could look at to study – such as TNCs, GDP, the international division .of labour, free-trade policies, the WTO and so on, that it’s difficult to decide what to select as an indicator of globalisation.

These differences of opinion over what aspects of globalisation to focus on means that everyone ends up defining globalisastion differently and researching different things.

This means it’s hard to make sense of all the research on globlisation, hard to make comparisons, and hard to escape from the biases of the people who have selected different things to focus on.

As a result, new researchers can pretty much find justification for researching anything in relation to this topic, which can make the study of globalisation a bit ‘postmodern’ and lacking objectivity, direction, clarity and certainty.

A second problem is that it’s difficult to get data from every country, let alone every region in the world. There might be lots of official statistics collected in developed countries, but this is not the case in less developed countries.

In poorer regions of the world, there might not even be reliable information on birth and death statistics, making it difficult to keep track of even the most basic information. Another example is that school enrolment stats in many regions of Africa are notoriously invalid as an indicator of how many children attend school – they may enrol, but many fail to attended afterwards, meaning such stats could not be used to measure the quality of education globally.

Stats might also be collected in different ways – categories of crime might be different in different countries, or not even recorded in the case of lawless states. Governments are also well known for under-reporting war-deaths, especially civilian casualties, meaning it’s a problem to measure trends in global peacefulness.

If you’re doing qualitative research to make global comparisons, some countries might be hard to access because of conflicts, or simply time it would take to adjust to local cultures and languages and it would be difficult to do research in several countries at once within an appropriate time frame.

This could be overcome by employing teams of researchers in different countries, but this would mean more expense, be difficult to co-ordinate and you’d have to make sure everyone is researching in a similar way, which, given the problems with defining globalisation, could also be a tough call.

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Contemporary sociology – religion in the news

Three very recent examples of news events relevant to the sociology of religion.

  • Austria recently joined the list of European countries banning the wearing of face veils in public – the headscarf is now banned in primary schools, but not Jewish or Sikh head coverings. Other EU countries to have done similar recently include France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Bulgaria. This could be interpreted as a moral panic over Islam, differential treatment for women maybe?
  • Hindu agains Muslim violence in India – this documentary is a useful, and shocking example of religiously inspired violence, evidence for religion as a source of conflict. The ruling party in India is the ‘Hindu-first Bharatiya Janata party (BJP)’, so there’s an argument that the state is actually supporting violence against Muslims, who are a religious minority in India.
  • Several states in the US are introducing bans on abortion – the religious right supported Trump in 2016, and now he is an outspoken supporter of anti-abortion policies.
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Sociology twitter feed following the Paper 1 A-level exam….

I did a quick Twitter search for ‘sociology’ after the recent A-level sociology exam to get the sentiment, seems positive enough….

Mostly Happy Tweets…

First of the block is maybe a little rude, but none the less conveys a very positive exam experience…

And lots of happy gifs…

Love this one especially…

A few unhappy tweets

And some complaints about some naughty guy apparently making predictions on Twitter recently.

Only a fool would make predictions, but it takes a bigger fool to listen to them!

And within 30 mins, a link to a student room thread to the 6 questions:

Outline 2 – selecting pupils (4)

Outline 3 – reasons why school is similar to the workplace (6)

Applying material from Item A, analyse two – implications of these things on pupil’s identity (10)

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate – educational achievement and ethnic identity (30)

Applying material from Item C and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of – written questionnaires and parent’s impact on child’s education (20)

Outline and explain two – disadvantages of using personal documents (10)

(source – https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=5961476)

Final thoughts…

OK – so Twitter’s not representative – and of course you’re more likely to tweet if you’ve got something positive to say, AND twitter does tend to attract the more intelligent, so two reasons why ‘exam went well posts’ are going to feature more.

So this post is just a bit of fun, I’ve always liked Twitter, and I do find the post exam Gifs MOST entertaining!

Congratulations if you think you did well, and if you think you did not so well, there’s two papers left to make up for it, and even if you fail, it could be the best thing that ever happened to you, it just might take you a few years to realise it!

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Exam advice from the AQA’s Examiner Reports from 2018

The AQA produces an examiner report after every exam, and it’s very good advice to look at these reports to see common mistakes students made last year, so you can avoid making the same mistakes this year!

AQA sociology examiner report 2018.png

Below I’ve selected FIVE choice pieces of advice based on the two most common errors from the 2018 Education with Theory and Methods paper.

  1. For the short answer questions, make sure you get your ID and Development the right way round – for example, last year’s 4 mark question was on ‘two reasons why marketisation policies may create social class differences in educational achievement’ – many students started with a policy rather than a reason, they should have started with a reason and then illustrated with a policy.
  2. The six marker was ‘outline three reasons for gender differences in educational achievement – the report says that many students did not get a second mark because they failed to be specific enough in their application to gender or educational achievement, so be specific!
  3. For question 5 – the methods in context question – the best answers used the hooks in the item, so use the item!
  4. At the other end of the paper – the final 10 mark theory and methods and question, a lot of students seemed to run out time to answer this, so make sure you get your timing right. Remember that it’s almost certainly going to be easier to get 4/10 for a 10 mark question than to go from 12/20 to 16/20 on a methods in context question – the bar’s lower after all!
  5. Focussing on the final 10 marker – if you get another ‘criticise a theory’ type question’ then the best answers simply used other perspectives to develop their criticisms.

It seems that the 10 marker with item and 30 mark essay question were OK!

Sources 

All information taken from the AQA’s 7192/1 examiner report.

You can read the full report here.

You can view the 2018 paper here.