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Beyond the Headlines

Class allows veteran professor and students to discuss biggest issues of the day

As Kim MacInnis gears up for her 30th year teaching at Bridgewater State University, she looks forward to getting students to think about some of the biggest issues facing society today.

“I think right now we have some pretty serious social problems that are not discussed enough,” said the professor and chairperson of the sociology department.

Over the summer, MacInnis used the time to work on a book covering mass murders. With the uptick of mass shootings in the U.S., she felt it was an important issue to cover.

“The goal is to write about it from a perspective to try and understand why the U.S. perpetuates this type of violence,” she said. The goal is to go beyond theory and try to understand how deeply gun culture is woven into America’s fabric of life.

In her research, MacInnis compares the U.S. to other countries such as Canada.

“We both have issues surrounding mental illness, there are very similar issues to the U.S., yet they rarely have mass murders,” she said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What is it about the U.S. that creates this type of violence?’”

These are the types of questions she hopes will encourage a dialogue in her Social Problems course.

Over the years, in the class, MacInnis has had some eye-opening conversations with students.

“It’s the most exciting class I teach,” she said. “Every day I can’t wait to get there. We have the best discussions about whatever topic we are covering that day.”

To get students talking, MacInnis often references a book she edited, Social Problems: Societal Crisis, Capitalism and Democracy. The book features 17 articles including one that MacInnis wrote on community policing.

Media literacy is a major theme throughout the book and encourages students to take a second look at the news outlets from which they get their information.

“It helps teach students to think about what they are reading, not just what matches their ideals,” MacInnis said.

Getting students to also think about how things directly impact them is also important.

“I’ve had students tell me they never would have thought about some of these issues...that they sometimes take things for granted,” she said.

More than anything, MacInnis hopes the class conversations inspire action.

“Social problems don’t really change,” she said, “they get bigger unless they are addressed properly and with consistency.”

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