By Jonathan Wynn
first day of class gambit is a framing
story or activity that lightens the mood, avoids jumping right into the
material and yet still provides a window into the key ideas for the class.
I’ve started my Sociological Theory courses with all sorts of
odd topics: “overdosing” on homeopathic medicine (which you cannot
actually overdose on, since it is little more than sugar tablets in fancy packaging), the numerology
of September 11th,
horoscopes, and the Lincoln/Kennedy conspiracy.
I also bought some dowsing rods (two metal bars that supposedly locate water or
whatever they are “attuned” to) for students to test their ability at finding
Continue reading "Bananas, Nessy, The Secret, and Social Theory " »
I am in the process of moving to a new home. The move has
been planned for over a year, so I have been preparing to pack and get rid of
things for a while. Coincidentally, our department recently moved to a new
building and a family member is in the process of moving too, so I have had
many chances to pack, unpack, and reflect.
Moving reminds me of the meanings we assign to our stuff.
According to sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, we socially
construct meaning of reality. We don’t just construct these meanings
individually, but socially as well. These meanings become habitual and part of
our social institutions, reinforcing the meanings that we collectively create
about our social world and ultimately our realities.
Continue reading "The Social Construction of Stuff" »
By Peter Kaufman
Apathetic. Apolitical. Indifferent.
Insensitive. Self Absorbed. Self-Obsessed. Selfish. Uncaring. Uncompassionate.
Have you heard these words thrown about?
They are often used these days to describe today’s youth. Some call them the Me
Generation or Generation Me.
Whatever order you prefer, the meaning is
unmistakable: young people today are a generation of individuals who are more
focused on themselves than others. This sentiment is summed up quite succinctly
by Christian Smith and his colleagues in their book, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of
Emerging Adulthood. Based on 230 interviews with a cross section of
young people between the ages of 18-23 the authors argue that:
The vast majority
of the emerging adults interviewed remain highly civically and politically
disengaged, uninformed, and distrustful. Most in fact in this study claim to
feel disempowered, apathetic, and sometimes even despairing when it comes to
the larger social, civic, and political world beyond their own private lives.
your own experiences and observations of young people do you feel this analysis
rings true? I tend to have a different perspective than the authors of this
study. My sense is that today’s young people are not all disengaged, consumer-driven
individualists. I am more inclined to believe a recent study that found 56% of young
adults around the world consider themselves activists and 69% of youth in the
U.S. self identify as such.
Continue reading "Youth Power" »
By Sally Raskoff
Much has been said about the Sandy
Hook murders and other mass shootings in the United States. Some blame
media or the accessibility of weapons, others cite gender, and others our
medical infrastructure or even the killer’s parents.
What makes people do such horrible things? If there were a
simple answer or one source of such behavior, we would have figured that out by
now and made a simple solution!
Seeking answers is a natural part of healing after a
terrible event such as this. However, seeking such answers through speculation
can add to our misery since it may lead us to institute solutions that are not
really solving the problems.
Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically about Mass Shootings" »
Did you or anyone you know find this last holiday season
stressful? Sociology can help us understand some of the reasons why holiday
celebrations might be difficult—and why people keep doing things the same way
each year nonetheless.
As you begin to get back in your non-holiday routine, now is
a great time to use our sociological imaginations to think about the many
sociological concepts that help us understand end-of-the year routines.
Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically About Holidays" »