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Walls and Bridges

Social Justice and Public Policy

Anthony J. Cortese

Publication Year: 2003

This useful classroom resource for professors wishing to incorporate notions of justice into their courses examines a variety of America’s most challenging social issues (education, poverty, homelessness, crime, and health care), interwoven with racial and ethnic themes. Anthony J. Cortese illustrates how the tension between moral relativism on the one hand, and universal ethics on the other, makes concrete policy discussion difficult. He illustrates how, through a synthesis of justice, law, and power, a social ethics approach to public policy could resolve various intergroup conflicts and social problems. Included at the end of each chapter are “What You Can Do” exercises and activities that encourage students to apply what they have learned to their own lives.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. iii


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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

Throughout history, people have been building walls and bridges—for different reasons. The Great Wall of China, for example, was built centuries ago to protect folk from invading hordes. Thus, walls serve as a barrier—to separate. Now it appears this great wall only keeps people in. The Berlin Wall, also known as...

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1. A Social Ethics Approach to Social Problems

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pp. 1-19

This is, perhaps, the age of moral ambiguity. More and more, isolated individuals, disconnected from external moral reference points, have come to view themselves as the sole judge of moral decisions. In fact, 93 percent of all Americans report that they alone determine what is moral in their lives. What has happened to what has...

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2. The Crisis and Denial of Access in Education

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pp. 21-52

Accessibility to quality education is a basic problem for many in the United States. Although it is widely available, it is evolving into a doubletiered system of public and private education. The current policy of providing vouchers for private schools to students who could not otherwise afford to attend such schools has...

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3. Welfare, Poverty, and the Legitimization of Social Inequality

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pp. 53-80

In 1964, the social security administration developed a poverty index, creating a dichotomy for placing people above or below an official and everchanging “poverty line.” This index includes only money income and is equivalent to the level, set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, necessary to purchase basic food and...

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4. Sidewalk Stories: The Forgotten Homeless People

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pp. 81-104

If you take the time or have the courage to look into the faces of homeless people, you will see single mothers and battered women, children and youth, the mentally ill, military veterans, people with disabilities, the elderly, refugees and new immigrant ethnic minorities, and even people who are employed full time but simply...

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5. Medical Apartheid: The Unequal Distribution and Quality of Health Care

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pp. 105-129

The most fundamental social problems regarding health care are ultimately issues of power and justice. The delivery of health care depends on scientifically reliable ways for improving the quality of life and decreasing unnecessary death and premature death. As American medical technology— the best in the world—advances in leaps and bounds, the amount of cases for which potential...

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6. Crime and Prison: The Social Control of Deviance

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pp. 131-156

The United States has more prisons and more people in prison (over 2 million) than any other country. Yet we still have more violent crime than any other postindustrial nation in the world. The data present a very bleak picture of our society and our criminal justice system:....

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7. Social Ethics and Implications for Public Policy

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pp. 157-168

In this book, I have examined some of the social determinants that have led to the development and continuance of social problems related to education, poverty, homelessness, health care, and crime. Critical thinking about these issues reveals...

Appendix: Implications for Social Policy

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pp. 169-171


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pp. 173-188


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pp. 189-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485866
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459072
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459071

Page Count: 206
Illustrations: 1 table, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2003