The sociological imagination is a complex concept that involves many components to make it whole. One component of the sociological imagination is that it is inspired by a readiness to view the world from the perspective of others. The imagination also includes stepping back from looking at the individual, and instead taking a focus on the social, economic, and historical circumstances that surround the issue that could have caused the problem. Furthermore, the sociological imagination allows for correlations to be made from the micro level to the macro level and back again.
To have the type of mind frame needed to effectively use the sociological imagine, one must be willing to question their structural arrangements that help form the structure of society. Ultimately, in achieving the sociological imagination one views solutions o social problems as changing the social structure rather than the people. (Eitzen 7). This essay will examine a string of suicides that occurred in 2012 through the sociological imagination. Subcultures, folkways and mores, and the demographic make up of the town will be inspected to see if those had any impact on the environment that the kids were living in.
Personal Explanation: In the spring semester of my junior year in high school, 2012, we experienced a chain of suicides that would leave many students scared, sad, and hurt that it appeared the school wasn’t doing anything to help. In January, February, March, and April we lost a student, friend, and child to suicide in the same way, the train right outside of Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest, Illinois. There wasn’t much anyone could see coming for the first one. The boy didn’t have many friends, was bullied by many, and was said to not have a solid home life.
The second one may have been easier to pick up on as he had more friends, was considered a popular kid, and also experienced the classic signs of withdrawal from his life. It was said that he gave away his most prized possessions, took his fathers extremely nice car out for an illegal drive, and stopped showing up to class completely. He also experienced issues in his home life. The third tragedy happened while one of his closest friends was on the school sponsored musical tour of Italy. I remember sitting with her, recalling the last few days with him before we left the country.
She had known he was depressed, but didn’t know it was to this extent, and she was devastated that she wasn’t home and could have possibly prevented it. The third boy identified himself as gay and was bullied because of it. He didn’t have a bad home life, but his school life wasn’t desirable. The fourth one some people don’t consider to be a part of the chain, as it was done away at college, but others, like me, agree that he could have been triggered by the prior three having just recently graduated from the high school and most likely knew one of the decedents or a grieving member of the community.
It was heard that the fourth boy was extremely depressed, and couldn’t get out of a slump at the college he was in, and most likely feeling extremely alone, thought there was only one way out. Individuals and institutions that are also involved in this horrible chain of events include the close friends of the victims, the school district and board, the teachers, the families, the student bodies, the student service staff at the high school, and the surrounding community. My personal relationship with this chain of events is very shocking to some and terrifying to others.
At this time in my life, I was not at a very good place, and like the four other students probably felt, I had nowhere to go and no outlet to figure things out. I had been planning on being number five. Luckily enough, I was able to separate my rational mind and my emotional mind and seek out some help before it was too late. Sociological Perspective: Cultures and subcultures play a role in influencing the social forces on the community and these four boys. None of the four boys were in the same social ranking in the schools hierarchy.
The first young man was a theatre kid who didn’t have many friends and was very studious. The second one was considered very popular, knowing everyone in their grade, and was also a huge partier and was in the drug realm. The third boy was shamed for being gay, but accepted by his close friends and family, and was also known to be very charismatic and outgoing. And the fourth one was an athlete and had very many friends as well as maintained good grades. These four young gentlemen, although they were not all part of the same subcultures in their social environment, they all shared the common subculture of depression.
The culture that all played a role in these four lives was the standards, regulations, and ideas of living in the community that we all grew up in. This community places such high standards on its youth. Most of the time the, if not all the time, the children aren’t even involved in the decisions that control the various factors defining the community. These high standards can also be seen as folkways and mores, as they morphed into the values and beliefs of the culture.
These include that you were expected to be rich, wore designer clothing, were planning on going to an Ivy league school, were extremely athletic, had the perfect body whether you were male or female, and competed in being one of the top academic students of the school. These ideals were placed on the students by the traditions of the community, but were held in place by fellow students and parents. Folkways are unspoken rules and regulations that people follow for the sake of convenience or tradition where as mores are the customs and values of the community.
Although, the personal battles each of the four boys fought with folkways and mores is unknown, there is no doubt that they were dealing with them in some way or another. Even students and peers of the boys where were not on the brink of death felt the pressures and consequences of trying to fit in. These boys were in a heightened sense of personal emotion during the first four months of 2012, so it can be concluded that whether or not social pressures to conform were actually hitting them harder or not, they may have still felt as though it was.
The demographic make up of Lake Forest also might help to explain what was going on at the time of these tragedies. Lake Forest is 48. 5% male leaving the female population to be 51. 5%. The median age of a Lake Forest resident is 46. 3 years, whereas in the state of Illinois it is 37. 2 years. Information from the census that was collected closet to 2012, states that the median household income for Lake Forest was $142,223 which is over half of the Illinois median at $56,210. The ethnic background of the Lake Forest could have also added to the pressures and stigmas found in the community.
The white population was 90. % of the population, the Asian population was 4. 6%, the Hispanic population was at 2. 8%, those who identified as two or more ethnicities were 1. 2%, Black alone was at 1%, and the American Indian population and those who identified as a different race alone were both at . 1% (Lake Forest 2013). Through this information it is clear that there is a hefty amount of social stratification among the social classes in Lake Forest. By looking at the data, it apparent that each family in the community can be considered to be in a higher socioeconomic social class, as they flat out earn more money then the rest of the state in totality.
Even if everyone technically has money, there is still a disparity seen between those who have more and those who have less. The ability to afford certain things that allow individuals to feel as though they are a part of the community is highly important, and this could have been a factor to the four tragedies. The ethnic make up of Lake Forest would also show that it is a predominately white community, which in itself could have been a factor in the cause for one of the boys who was Muslim American. Although the personal finances of the four gentlemen are unknown, this still most likely played a role in their deaths.
In 2012, many people, even in the rich town of Lake Forest, were still getting back on their feet from the most recent housing value crash. Even if these families were not impacted enough to lose a home or to fall under the poverty line, to them the loss of a couple dollars could have been devastating enough to interrupt the dynamics of their family. If the parents were not making as much money as they were used to, they could have been much more on edge than normal, or even felt like they need to have gone to the extreme of conserving as though they were in poverty.
This would have negatively impacted the four boys as they may of felt they could no longer fit in with the rest of the Lake Forest community and all its high standards. This essay examined the subcultures, folkways and mores, and the socioeconomic social stratification for a string of suicides that occurred in the town of Lake Forest, Illinois in 2012. There are many more factors that could have played into the death of these four young men, but what can for sure be determined is that their lives ended too soon.