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Review Questions

Institutions fulfill functions necessary for the society to survive. In today’s technologically oriented society, what would happen if there were no educational institutions? What would be the results for people seeking jobs, for the economy, and for families?

The absence of educational institutions would produce extreme social stratification. Only rich people would be able to afford to train their children for high-paying jobs. Poor people would have to train their children to start working in low-paying jobs as soon as possible. This situation could put enormous strains on the economy. There are fewer rich people than poor people, which means that there would be fewer children available to fill jobs requiring extensive training. Without qualified leadership, the economy would suffer. In addition, segregation would increase without the social interaction and integration provided by schools. Different social groups would have little way of interacting and learning about each other. Families would be more overburdened. Parents would have to find something else to do with their children all day. The children might be put to work or left unsupervised in potentially dangerous situations.

The U.S. government was founded on a belief in the separation of church and state. Yet when a new president takes the oath of office, he places his hand on a Bible. Do you believe we have achieved separation of church and state in the United States?

The U.S. government has succeeded in keeping church and state separate even if keeping the two separate remains a constant struggle. Many governmental decisions must be based on ideas of right and wrong. People’s ideas of right and wrong generally come from religion. Since Christianity is the dominant U.S. religion, Christian beliefs often seep, or threaten to seep, into governmental policy.

Compare and contrast capitalism and socialism. Which economic system do you believe provides a better foundation for a society?

Capitalism and socialism are the dominant economic systems in the world, but they have little else in common. Capitalism is a system under which the resources and means of production are privately owned. Citizens are encouraged to seek profit for themselves, and success or failure of an enterprise is determined by free-market competition. Under socialism, the society as a whole owns the resources and means of production. Rights to private property are limited. The good of the whole society is stressed more than individual profit, and the government maintains control of the economy. In general, the nations operating under capitalist systems have a higher standard of living than those with socialist economic systems. While capitalism does not offer support to all its citizens, it does offer greater opportunity for success than socialism. For that reason, capitalism provides a better foundation for a society.

How are the functions of education and the family similar? Can one take the place of the other? Why or why not?

Family and education are both important agents of socialization for children. These two institutions teach children what they need to know in order to function in a society as adults. They both transmit knowledge of society’s values and culture. The two institutions are not interchangeable, however. From a practical standpoint, schools are not equipped to rear children, to provide for them 24 hours a day, as a family does. A family can provide a sense of identity or belonging to its members, but it does not offer children a chance to encounter different cultural or ethnic groups. Education encourages social integration, especially in countries with diverse populations, such as the United States. Through their schools, students from a variety of cultural backgrounds come into contact with mainstream culture.

Do you think a Hindu would practice holistic medicine or scientific medicine? What about a Christian?

A Hindu would most likely practice holistic medicine. The belief that a patient’s physical environment and mental status are equally important seems similar to a Hindu’s belief in karma. A Hindu may be sick because of bad karma, rather than a diagnosable illness. A holistic medical practitioner would be more likely to look at the big picture and ask questions about a person’s emotional well-being. A Christian, particularly in the United States, would be more likely to turn to medical doctors. Christians’ belief in a single, omnipotent power may reinforce their comfort with authority figures like doctors.