• Unit 6: Sociological Institutions 

    Now, let's study our primary sociological institutions: the family, religion, education, government, and the workplace. Sociologists have witnessed dramatic changes in the structure of the American family, with decreases in marriage and childbearing and increases in cohabitation and diverse family forms. What impact do these changes have on society as a whole? What are some of the challenges families face?

    From a sociological perspective, we also look at religious institutions, a second significant social and cultural indicator. Émile Durkheim, the French sociologist, said we use religion for healing and faith, as a communal bond, and to understand "the meaning of life". These social functions affect a community's structure, balance, and social fabric.

    Education is another institution that can be a social solution and challenge. For example, many schools serve as change agents to break poverty and racism. They can also create barriers by fostering large drop-out rates and institutional disorganization. Schools have gained national attention and sowed political discord when community members protest a chosen curriculum, such as sex education or scientific evolution. Sociologists consider all of these trends.

    Finally, we explore government institutions in terms of their political and economic structure from a sociological perspective. How do you define power? Do you inherit your social status at birth or earn it in the workplace? We end the unit by examining how various economic systems affect how societies function. Karl Marx had a lot to say on this topic.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

    • 6.1: Marriage and Family

      First, we examine society's most important primary group, the family. Notice that the definition of family and its functions vary widely by culture. In the United States, families come in many forms – we are seeing an increase in single parents, cohabitation, same-sex couples, and unmarried individuals. Notice that beliefs and values about acceptable family structure differ widely even within American society.

    • 6.2: Religion

      Many assume that religion refers to an individual believer, but it is a social institution and a cultural universal. Notice how religion creates sacred beliefs, symbols, and rituals. How do functionalists, conflict theorists, and symbolic interactionists view religion? Has the declining significance of religion, and increasing secularization, affected your community?

    • 6.3: Education

      While education is a social institution responsible for teaching academic skills such as reading and writing, it also plays a role in instructing children about culture and societal values. The structure and function of educational institutions vary widely. The level of schooling is often linked with economic development, but universal access issues also exist in wealthy countries. Some schools have better funding and resources than others due to their location and population base. What is the difference between the formal and "hidden" curriculum? These are the expectations and norms taught outside of the mandated school curriculum. We also explore the manifest (intended) and latent (unintended) functions of education.

    • 6.4: Government and Politics

      Every society has institutions that deal with power and decision-making. Authority is one type of power that people agree to follow. How the power is organized varies widely from monarchy, oligarchy, and dictatorship to democracy. The world has nearly 200 countries, and each has its own system. Notice that in democratic societies, voter participation is essential. Explore the influence of race, gender, and class issues on the voting process.

    • 6.5: Work and the Economy

      In this section, we study the connection between technological development and economic systems. We explore the theoretical and practical tenets of capitalism. Notice that every system related to producing, distributing, and consuming goods and services has advantages and disadvantages. What are the pros and cons of globalization from an economic standpoint? How have women and immigrants impacted the U.S. workforce? Describe the basic elements of polarization and poverty in the United States.

    • Unit 6 Assessment

      • Receive a grade