Social and cultural environments shape our beliefs and behaviors in ways that are not always consciously apparent to us. We think, feel, and behave in ways these environments have taught us to and we seldom consider the reasons that underlie them. Our goal is to gain insight into how we shape — and are shaped by — the multiple forces and environments that surround us in 21st-century America. These include social, economic, cultural, and political environments. We will consider classic findings of sociology, anthropology, biology, and psychology and learn about classic studies that have impacted our understanding of why we think and behave as we do. We will learn how we develop our personal sense of morality and see how race, gender, economic status, and social class affect our views of others. We will also see how these beliefs inevitably shape our views of right and wrong, justice, crime, criminals, and punishment. Finally, we will discuss the concept of free will as it relates to our behavior and individual responsibility for our own actions.
Instructor Joel Shapiro, Ed.D., retired as Chair and full professor of education and psychology from Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT. He won a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at the University of Presov, Slovak Republic and wrote a book for college professors on ways to successfully integrate international students into American classrooms. Additionally, he wrote numerous articles for American and European professional journals and lectured at universities and conferences throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Joel has won teaching awards at several colleges. Prior to beginning his academic career, he was a school psychologist working with children who have special needs. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Colgate University, his Master’s degree from Temple University, and his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.