This is a handout for an in-class activity to be used in Sociology or an Introduction to Sociology course. Students should already be familiar with the theory of Functionalism. If they are not, take some time at the beginning of class to discuss the theory (a brief definition is included in the handout).
Students will work in pairs or small groups to brainstorm ideas about how the poor and impoverished benefit and provide structure to our society as a whole. They will then congregate with the class and contribute to a larger discussion. Page one explains what is expected in the activity, and the rest of the document provides 15 ways (according to Sociologist Herbert Gans) that impoverished communities serve a functionalist purpose. These are Gans' ideas, and students may or may not agree with them. I'm sure they will come up with their own ideas about the subject as well. This makes for a fun and enriching in-class activity, and usually sparks up some interesting and worthwhile discussions.