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Explaining the rapid decline in the teen pregnancy rate

There was a 50% decline in the ‘teen pregnancy’ rate in England and Wales between the 6 years 2010 to 2016.

Teenage pregnancy stats England.png

The rate declined from around 40 conceptions per 1000 15-19 year olds to less than 20 per 1000. Similar trends in the 15-19 conception rate occurred in both Northern Ireland and Scotland.

This means that the UK’s teen pregnancy rate has gone from being one of the highest in Western Europe, to much closer to the average. This trend has been heralded as one of the most significant public health success stories of our times.

These statistics were highlighted this week in a report published by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). The charity commissioned YouGov to collect a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, using the the following mixed-methods approach:

  1. A diary task in which participants documented their day-to-day lives over the course of 4 days (including one weekend.)
  2. Four online focus groups with 16-18 year olds drawing on the diary notes (inNovember 2016)
  3. The results of the focus groups were then used to inform a demographically weighted quantitative survey of 1,004 16-18 year olds which was conducted online in February 2017.

In this this blog post I selectively summarise some of the findings of this research. I focuses on the reasons why the teenage conception rate has fallen so dramatically in the last six years.

Why is the teen pregnancy rate declining?

The conclusion to  the report highlights the importance of three factors:

  1. importance of good quality sex education
  2. The use of contraception
  3. The rise of what the authors call ‘generation sensible’: today’s teenagers are basically more risk averse and responsible than you may think.

To my mind this final analysis is typical of a charity looking to influence social policy. The first two factors are things the government can control, and the link between them and the decline in teen pregnancy is fairly obvious.

Of far more interest is the significance of social factors which the government cannot control: the social factors which lie behind the rise of so-called ‘generation sensible’…

The rise of ‘generation sensible’ and the decline of teen-pregnancy

Just over half of teenagers feel negative about the state of politics in the UK. The report finds that teenagers are worried about their future prospects. They feel that the current older generation in charge isn’t creating the kind of society in which they can prosper. In this context, teens are more likely to knuckle down and study to improve their future prospects.

Teenage views politics.png

Many of today’s teens have a dim view of those who engage in risky drug-related and sexual behaviors, and such behaviours have declined.

Teenagers are not that promiscuous: only a third of teenagers admitted to having had sex, and half of those had only had sex with one person. Some of the responses in the focus groups were that they were too busy for relationships.

Sexting seems to be replacing body-body sex: nearly 80% believe sexting can be a legitimate part of a relationship. Half of teenagers admitted to having received a sext, with a third admitting to having sent one.

Almost half of 16-18 year olds don’t drink at all, or drink only once a month or less. Only 13% drink more than twice a week. Moreover, many teenagers have a negative view of binge drinking and don’t like the risks associated with being ‘out of control’. Today’s teenagers have even more negative attitudes towards drugs.

Teenage drinking.png

Sociological relevance

This study provides a really interesting insight into how risk society and the perception of lack of opportunities in the future have changed the world-views of today’s youth.

It also seems to suggest support for the view that today’s youth have become ‘responsibilised’. They are taking responsibility for their own futures by not engaging in risky behaviour which might reduce their life chances. Foucault would be nodding his head furiously I imagine.

Despite the ‘policy’ feel of the report, I also think it’s an important reminder that social policies are quite limited in their ability to steer human behaviour. It seems that the other social factors are just as important here.

What’s of further interest is just how rapidly this change has occurred.

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What is the significance of the ‘increase’ in student suicides?

There has been an increase in the suicide rate among Higher Education students, from 3.8 per 100, 000 in 2006/07 to 4.7 suicides per 100, 000 in 2016/17, according to new data released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

student suicides.png
Google headlines for ‘student suicide’ search, June 26th 2018

NB this isn’t only the latest data, it is also ‘new’ in the sense that this is the first time that the ONS has published data specifically focussing on ‘higher education student’ suicides, so in this sense I guess it is inherently news worthy, and the release of the data on the 25/06 certainly caused quite a stir in the mainstream news and talk shows following the release, with the main focus seeming to be on ‘what we should do about the problem of increasing student suicides’, and the fact that this is ‘new data’.

However, to my mind, while I appreciate the fact that there is an underlying increase in students reporting mental health issues that seems to correlate with the increase in suicide, I also believe there’s reason to be sceptical about the usefulness of the above data, especially since the ONS itself refers to these stats as ‘experimental statistics’.

Below, I summarise what the ONS data tells us about HE student suicides, and then contrast two sociological approaches to interpreting this data: the first being a broadly ‘structuralist’ perspective which accepts that the data is basically valid and asks ‘why are there more student suicides?’ (which was pretty much the narrative in the mainstream news); and a second, broadly Interpretivist approach which questions the validity of this data, and asks whether or not all of this might be something of a moral panic?

What does the data tell us?

Firstly, there has been an increase in the suicide rate among higher education students if we compare the data from 2006/07 to 206/17

student suicide rate 2017.png

However, although the data appears to have stabilized in the the last three years, the ONS reminds us that these rates are based on such low numbers (95 suicides in 2016/17) that it’s hard to draw any statistical significance from these figures.

Secondly, male students are approximately twice as likely to commit suicide than female students

male female student suicide rates england.png

Between the years of 2001 and 2017, a total 1,330 students died from suicide, of which 878 (66%) were male and 452 (34%) were female.

Thirdly, older students are more likely to kill themselves than younger students

student suicide rate age.png

This actually surprised me a little (note to self about ‘stereotypes’ of suicidal students): higher education students aged 30 or over are twice as likely to commit suicide compared to students aged 20 and under.

Some limitations of the above data

I recommend checking out the publication (link above and below at the end) by the ONS, they mention several limitations with this data: for example, the low overall numbers make it hard to draw any conclusions about the suicide rate with any degree of confidence (statistical significance); and the year on year on year data might not be accurate given delays in recording a death as a suicide, due to inquests taking a long time in some instances (e.g. a suicide which happened in 2016 might appear as a recorded suicide in 2017).

What are the underlying ’causes’ of the ‘increase’ in student suicides?

The mainstream media narrative pretty much took the increase in student suicides at face value, and offered up some of the following possible reasons to explain the increase:

  1. The suicide stats are the ‘extreme ‘tip’ of something of a ‘mental health crisis’ in universities – higher number of students are making use of mental health services, which are under-resourced: universities aren’t giving enough support to vulnerable students who are suicidal.
  2. The increase in mental health problems/ suicide could be due to the fact that university life has become more stressful: there’s more pressure to succeed and get at least a 2.1, and students no longer go to university to have ‘three years off’ (like I did ;)).
  3. Related to the above, mental health problems could be related to the ‘double adjustment’ (my invention that!) students have to go through: they have to adjust not only to the fact that university life isn’t as much fun as its been made out to be (at yer glossy open day), and they have to adjust to the fact that they are just not ‘that clever’ (the later probably applies more to hot-housed privately schooled students, and to those students who are more likely to have had their predicted grades inflated).

A broadly Interpretivist approach to understanding these stats… 

Interpretivists would be much more likely to question the validity of these stats, and thus the validity of the view that there is an increase in higher education student suicides, and the opinion that this is something which we should be concerned about.

There are certainly sufficient grounds to be sceptical about these stats:

  • If you were to compare the three year average for 2002/03 to 2004/05 with the three year average for 2014/15 to 20016/17 the ‘increase’ is much less significant.
  • The ONS itself says you cannot draw any significant conclusions from the small numbers used to derive these stats. And again, they even explicitly refer to them as ‘experimental stats’!
  • The overall number of student suicides is half that of the suicide rate in the general population: surely the headlines should be: ‘”great news, going to university helps lower suicide risk”?

There might also be an argument to made that this is something of a moral panic: it seems to me that the media perpetuate the idea that the typical suicidal student is a 19 year old female, when actually this is atypical – a 30+ year old male student is about 4 times more likely to kill himself.

I also think ‘class’ might come into this: Bristol University (A Russel Group, and thus a very middle class  university) has been in the news recently due to its high suicide rates:

bristol university suicides.png

So, might this uncritical news reporting just really be about stoking a moral panic not so much about the ‘increase’ in higher education student suicides (of which there appears to be no significant evidence), but really about the increase in suicide among our ‘precious’ middle class male students? 

Sources 

 

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From cognition to communication and co-operation: An analysis of the increasing sociality of social media

According to Fuchs (2017) Media are not technologies, but techno-social systems which comprise the social processes of cognition, communication and co-operation, and that any analysis of the changing social significance of new social media should distinguish between the extent to which they ‘allow’ these three aspects of sociality to be ‘acted out’ by users.

Fuchs argues that the distinction between these three dimensions of sociality is a logical one: each layer forms the foundation for the next, which has new qualities.

  • Cognition refers to the knowledge process of a single individual –  in terms of the Web, this involves the individual user simply using a search engine to find information as well as them producing content about themselves.
  • Communication – is based on and requires cognition – this is behaviour based on reciprocal interaction – in which an individual externalises their knowledge and then adapts in response to feedback (at its simplest level). In terms of the Web, commenting and responding to people’s posts is the most obvious example of this.
  • Co-operation – is based on communication and requires communication. This involves interacting as a community based on feelings of togetherness, mutual dependence and shared values. Web platforms which enable collaborative production are an example of this level of sociality.

As far as Fuchs is concerned, any analysis of the significance of social media needs to distinguish between 3 levels of analysis. In fact, he goes as far to say that:

‘The task of empirical studies that are based on theoretical conceptions of the social is to analyse the presence or absence of the three types of sociality in a certain medium.’ (P46)

An Empirical Analysis of the changes to the Web using three dimensions of sociality

Fuchs now presents a comparison the top 20 platforms of 2002 to the top 20 platforms of 2015 in terms of their ‘primary information functions’: whether they allow for only cognition, cognition and communication, or all three: the previous two plus communication. The findings are as follows:

  • In 2002 there were 20 information functions, 13 communication functions and one co-operation function.
  • In 2015  there were 20 information functions, 17 communication functions and six co-operation.

This shows that the technological foundations for communication and cooperation have increased quantitatively, mainly driven by the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and blogs such as WordPress.

It appears that the web really has become a more ‘truly social’ space… as social media enable the convergence of these three modes of sociality in one space. For example, Facebook allows an individual to create multimedia content at the cognitive level, publish it so that other users can comment on it (the communicative level) and all others to manipulate and remix that content (the co-operative level).

HOWEVER, what the above analysis also demonstrates is that Capital has remained very dominant in the background of the vast majority of the platforms above. Only one website operating in 2015  – Wikipedia – is a non-profit platform, all of the rest seek to manipulate users in order to extract as much money as they can out of them!

 

 

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How to get an A* in A-level Sociology (Crime and Deviance)

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/3: Crime and Deviance with demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – The later links below will only become operational later this week! (Everything by Weds!)

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 1. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to max out the short answer (4-6) mark questions, and then sneak into the top mark bands for every other question. If you did that you’d end up with a total score of 67/80, made up of the marks as below

  • Q01 – 4/4 marks
  • Q02 – 6/6 marks
  • Q03 – 8/10 marks
  • Q04 – 25/30 marks
  • Q05 – 17/20 marks
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 68/70, which is still COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get full marks in the first two short answer ‘outline and explain’ (4 and 6 mark) questions and then examines the ‘top band’s of the mark schemes for the other 10 mark and essay questions, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/3)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

Q03: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: the question below is a full mark answer taken from the AQA’s 2017 A-level paper 7192/3.

Question 04: the big, 30 mark, pure education essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understanding, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Below is a link to a response taken from the AQA’s 2015 specimen material which achieved 25/30 – so just into the top band!

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This question can ask you about any method, or any theory (perspective) or any combination of both! Below is an example of a full mark response to the 2017 paper:

Q06: Outline and Explain Two…(10)

This final question will ask you to outline and explain two reasons, arguments, ways, criticisms etc…. there is no item, and unlike the other 10 mark question, there are no marks for evaluation!

Below are links to two marked exemplars, both of which achieved 10/10.

Remember that this exact question could appear on either paper 1, or paper 3!

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.

Crime and Deviance Revision Notes for Sale 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Crime and Deviance Revision Notes  – 31 pages of revision notes covering the following topics:

  1. Consensus based theories part 1 – Functionalism; Social control’ theory; Strain theory
  2. Consensus based theories part 2 – Sub cultural theories
  3. The Traditional Marxist and Neo-Marxist perspective on crime
  4. Labeling Theory
  5. Left- Realist and Right-Realist Criminology (including situational, environmental and community crime prevention)
  6. Post-Modernism, Late-Modernism and Crime (Social change and crime)
  7. Sociological Perspectives on  controlling crime – the role of the community and policing in preventing crime
  8. Sociological Perspectives on Surveillance
  9. Sociological Perspectives on Punishment
  10. Social Class and Crime
  11. Ethnicity and Crime
  12. Gender and crime  (including Girl gangs and Rape and domestic violence)
  13. Victimology – Why are some people more likely to be criminals than others
  14. Global crime, State crime and Environmental crime (Green crime)
  15. The Media and Crime, including moral panics

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2015 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017
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How to get an A* in A-level Sociology

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/1: Education with Theory and Methods to demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – The later links below will only become operational later this week! (Everything by Friday!)

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 1. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to max out the short answer (4-6) mark questions, and then sneak into the top mark bands for every other question. If you did that you’d end up with a total score of 67/80, made up of the marks as below

  • Q01 – 4/4 marks
  • Q02 – 6/6 marks
  • Q03 – 8/10 marks
  • Q04 – 25/30 marks
  • Q05 – 16/20 marks (because top-banding is HIGHLY unlikely
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 67/70, which is still COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get full marks in the first two short answer ‘outline and explain’ (4 and 6 mark) questions and then examines the ‘top band’s of the mark schemes for the other 10 mark and essay questions, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/2)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

I’ve covered this in this post: how to answer 4 and 6 mark questions in A-level sociology. This post outlines the ‘1+1’ technique to answering these questions as well as containing a few examples

You might also like the following post:

A 4/6 mark answer from June 2017Outline three ways in which factors within school may affect gender differences in subject choice (06) – link takes you to a 4/6 marked response, but includes the mark scheme which shows you how you could have got 6//6.

Q03: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: this link will take you to a full mark answer modified from the AQA’s 2017 A-level education paper.

You might also like this post, which outlines a 5/10 marked response, with good indicators of how to do it, and how not to do it!

Question 04: the big, 30 mark, pure education essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understand, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Click here for example of a 28/30 mark answer from the June 2017 Paper…. the question is on ‘the role of education in transmitting values’.

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This is the question which asks you to evaluate the usefulness of using any method to research any topic within education.

The AQA marks these questions in band, let’s forget about bands 1 and 2, your’re way better than that:

  • Band 3 = good knowledge of methods
  • Band 4 = method applied to researching education in general
  • Band 5 = method applied to researching the topic in particular.

This is an example of a 20/20 methods in context answer, marked by the AQA (taken from an AS exemplar paper, but the format of question is the same for the A-level). The specific question is ‘Applying material from [the item], and your own knowledge, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using structured interviews to investigate the influence of the family on pupils’ education (20).

Q06: Outline and Explain Two…(10)

This final question will ask you to outline and explain two reasons, arguments, ways, criticisms etc…. there is no item, and unlike the other 10 mark question, there are no marks for evaluation!

Click here for an example of a full mark, 10/10 answer to to the question: ‘outline and explain two arguments against the view that sociology is a science (10). This is taken from the AQA’s 2015 Specimen material.

Remember that this exact question could appear on either paper 1, or paper 3!

Education Revision Bundle! 

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2015 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017
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Is social media toxic for teenagers?

Writing in The Atlantic, psychologist Jean Twenge calls children born between 1995 and 2012 the iGen – they have grown up with a smartphone in their hands and this has changed every aspect of their lives: they do much less face to face socialising that previous generations: the number of teenagers who see their friends frequently has dropped by more than 40% since 2000. In 2015 only 56% of 17 year olds went on a date, compared to 85% of generation Xers. Modern teenagers are slower to learn to drive, earn money and spend more time in the parental home.

Instead of having fun and becoming independent, they are on their phone, in the room, alone and often distressed.

Allison Pearson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, argues that there is clear evidence that social media provides none of the benefits of real human contact, but has serious consequences. Studies in the US show that teens who spend more than three hours a day online are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide. The suicide rate among girls aged 12-14 -some of the heaviest users of social media has trebled in a decade.

However, this could all be something of a moral panic: and maybe the ‘hysteria’ over the ‘harms social media are doing to our teens’ is more a reflection of the concerns of the older generation, and their inability to keep up with recent technological changes.  

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Contemporary Sociology: The poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal by the Russian State

The recent poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, allegedly by the Russian State, is relevant to many areas of the A-level sociology specification.

Details of the poisoning 

On 4th March 2018 Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33 were poisoned by a nerve agent called Novichok. The pair were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury in the late afternoon, following what seems to have been a pretty ordinary ‘afternoon of leisure’ involving a trip to a pub and lunch in Zizzi’s. Four weeks later, they remain in a critical condition. 

Sergie Skripal.png
Sergie and Yulia Skripal

Much of the news has focused on just how deadly the nerve agent ‘Novichok’ is – basically a tiny, practically invisible amount was sufficient to render two people seriously ill, and even the police officer who first attended Sergei and Yulia Skripal was taken seriously ill just from secondary contact with what must have been trace elements of the nerve agent.

Pretty much everywhere the pair had visited that afternoon was shut down, and any vehicles that they had been in contact with were quarantined while they were cleared of any trace of the nerve agent and total of 250 counter-terrorism officers are at work investigating the case.

Theresa May has accused the Russian State as being complicit in this attempted murder, which seems plausible as Colonel Sergie Skripal is a retired Russian military intelligence officer who was convicted of passing the identities of Russian intelligence agents working undercover in Europe to the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. He was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006. In July 2010, he was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 Russian spies arrested by the FBI. He was later flown to the UK. It seems that the poisoning is the Russian State passing its ‘final sentence’ on this poor guy.

HOWEVER, Russia strongly denies these allegations, so this might just be a hypothetical state-crime!

The international reaction to the poisoning has also been dramatic: to date 26 countries have expelled Russian diplomats, and Russia, which of course denies any involvement in the poisoning, has done the same as a counter-response.

Links to the A-level sociology specification

sociological perspectives russia.png

Probably the most obvious link to the A-level sociology specification is that this is a primary example of a state crime – it seems extremely likely that the poisoning was carried out by an agent of the Russian state – The UK condemned Russia at the United Nations Human Rights Council as being in breach of international law and the UK’s national sovereignty.

Secondly, this case study reminds of us that nation states are still among the most powerful actors in the world – nation states are the only institutions which can ‘legitimately’ manufacture chemical weapons such as Novichock.

Thirdly, you could use this as an example of how ‘consensus’ and ‘conflict’ exist side by side. he existence of global values allows various nations to show ‘solidarity’ against Russia and express ‘value consensus’ but it also reminds us that there are conflicting interests in the world.

Fourthly, media coverage aside, it’s hardly a post-modern event is it! Having said that, we don’t know for certain who did the poisoning, so all of this could be a good example of ‘hypperreality’.

There’s lots of other links you could make across various modules – for example, the way the media has dealt with the event (it’s very news worthy!) and the ‘panic’ surrounding it, it fits with our ‘risk conscious society’ very nicely!

Sources 

Spy poisoning: Highest amount of nerve agent was on door (BBC News)

UK slam Russia over spy poisoning (Washington Post)

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Hijabs in Schools: Fostering Division?

In 2017, St Stephen’s School in Newham banned the wearing of the Hijab for girls under 8. The Head Teacher, Neena Lall, did so because she hoped the ban would help pupils better integrate into society.

However, following a backlash from parents and Muslim community leaders,she reversed the decision last week. She apparently received a ‘barrage of abuse’ and was accused by some of being Islamophobic.

Writing in The Guardian, Iman Amrani says that she use to hate being made to wear the headscarf by her parents at weekends when she studied at Saturday Madrasa, and would tear it off as soon as she left because she didn’t want any kids from her regular school seeing her in it and asking questions, however she also says she understood that her parents made her wear it to instill in her a sense of her identity, and can understand why Muslim parents would feel affronted by a headscarf ban.

Possibly the strongest arguments against the Muslim critics of Neena Lall is that Islam doesn’t require women to wear the hijab until they reach puberty, and there are plenty of Muslims themselves who campaign against girls being ‘forced’ to wear the headscarf, so why avoid creating unnecessary divisions at a young age and just girls be free from this dress code until then?

 

It may be (following labelling theory to an extent here) that what the backlash against Neena Lall was really about was against OFSTED’s divisive words recently when Amanda Spielman gave a speech defending Lall’s decision in which she warned of people using schools to ‘narrow young people’s horizons… and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology.’

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The legalisation of Pot in California

California has become (in January 2018) the 6th state in America to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use, following a 2016 referendum of Californian residents.

legalisation pot

This has clearly been a popular change in the law for some: In Berkeley, queues of people snaked around the block from 6 a.m. (odd time to be buying weed?) to late into the evening as one the first dispensaries to open struggled to cope with demand, suggesting that there are eventually going to be many licensed venues selling legal weed.

However, there are those that are opposed to the legalization of marijuana movement, the most powerful being the entire Trump administration, who are looking for ways to derail those 6 states which have legalized the drug.

Comments/m relevance to A level Sociology

This whole issue is a great example of how ‘crime is socially constructed‘ – you can quite literally hope over from California into the state of Arizona while smoking a joint and tada: you’re a criminal!

From a Functionalist point of view, it might be worth thinking about whether this is happening as a sort of ‘safety valve’ mechanism – there’s so much strain in America, and so many people already using drugs to cope with it, we may as well legalize it because it’s easier for the system to cope with it, and focus more on the ‘real criminals’.