Study Questions: Chapter 5
1. Differentiate between status and role.
Answer: A status is a recognized social position that an individual occupies. It contributes to the individual’s social identity by imposing responsibilities and expectations that establish the individual’s relationships to others. A role is a set of behaviours and attitudes associated with a particular status. Roles attached to a status may differ across cultures. For example, people holding the status of elder in traditionally minded cultures of China, Africa, and certain Aboriginal communities in North America are expected to have acquired a certain level of wisdom that is then shared with younger people. (pp. 119, 124, 125)
2. Describe and provide examples of ascribed status.
Answer: An ascribed status is one that you were born into (“female” or “male,” “daughter” or “son,” “sister” or “brother,” etc.) or one you have entered into involuntarily (“teenager,” “elderly person,” “cancer survivor,” “paraplegic”). Circumstances trump choice in ascribed statuses. (p. 119)
3. Explain why a woman who is a mother and student would experience role conflict.
Answer: Role conflict occurs when a person is forced to reconcile incompatible expectations generated from two or more statuses he or she holds. If you are both a mother and a student, then you know all about role conflict. Imagine: it’s the night before the big exam and you need to study—part of the set of behaviour expectations attached to being a college or university student; however, your daughter needs help with her homework. These clashing sets of expectations illustrate role conflict. (p. 126)
4. Compare Aboriginal and Judeo-Christian cosmologies.
Answer: Aboriginal cosmologies are rooted in the belief that all matter, both inanimate and animate, is interdependent: everything is connected. They emphasize the interdependence of humans and nature. Judeo-Christian-Islamic cosmology emphasizes human dominion over nature as decreed by God. This cosmology, together with the emergence of modern science beginning in the Enlightenment, has helped control over nature to become an important organizing principle of Western culture. (p. 128)
5. Describe the principles of McDonaldization and apply these to an organization with which you are familiar.
Answer: The principles of McDonaldization—efficiency, quantification, predictability, and control—applied to the world of post-secondary education: Efficiency relates to the streamlined movement in time and effort of people and things. This efficiency is achieved largely by breaking up larger organizational tasks into smaller, repeated tasks performed by individuals who are separated from each other by a division of labour. At college and university, the multiple-choice test is a classic example of bureaucratic efficiency—questions are often provided with the textbook, and they can be marked quickly using a computer. Formal rationality in bureaucracy involves the quantification of as many elements as possible. When educational administrators pressure instructors to quantify the type and exact percentage of tests on a course syllabus, this is a type of formal rationality—the logic being that if courses are equally quantified, then students are equally served. Predictability means that administrators, workers, and clients all know what to expect from employees, underlings, colleagues, and companies; this is the “uniformity of rules.” With the advent of rationalized, bureaucratic education, teachers are replaceable in the delivery of predictable, prepackaged courses, and creative, innovative input is minimal. Bureaucracies emphasize control over people through the replacement of human judgment with the dictates of rules, regulations, and structures. Students experiencing today’s increasingly bureaucratized education might become less able to judge the quality of what they are receiving. (pp. 134-137)