183 posts categorized "Social Institutions: Work, Education, and Medicine"

February 05, 2018

The Big Rig and the Sociology of Work

Colby (1)By Colby King

I teach a Sociology of Work course at Bridgewater State University that meets in the evening each fall. At BSU, about half of our students come from working class backgrounds and/or are among the first generation in their family to go to college. One of the reasons I have really enjoyed teaching evening sections of this class is that many of the students typically work off campus and the class is often infused with their work experiences. These students also express a practical interest in the dynamics of labor markets, the shape of organizations, and the quality of jobs in addition to their interest in sociological concepts related to work.

This fall, I added Steve Viscelli’s book The Big Rig to the material we used in this class. I was motivated in part because it is a large and dynamic industry that illustrates many of the concepts and concerns we cover in this class. About 3 million people work as truck drivers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. NPR’s Planet Money has created this interactive map showing how truck driver has been the most common job in many states since at least the 1970s. The American Trucking Associations found that in 2014 more than 7 million people were employed in jobs related to the trucking industry, even after excluding those who were self-employed. They also report that registered trucks drove 279.1 billion miles in 2014.

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January 29, 2018

Food: From Micro to Macro

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

What we eat is deeply personal. It is also connected to our cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. We may seldom think about it, but what we eat has global ramifications.

Sociology teaches us that very few choices we make are only personal. Food literally shapes your personal biology, but the choices we have access to make are shaped by where we live, the groups we are part of, and the policies our lawmakers have made. And all of this cumulatively impacts our environment, locally and globally.

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January 08, 2018

The Sociology of Knowledge and Textbooks

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Sociologists are interested in all things social, even how we come to know what we know. The sociology of knowledge is a fundamental question in sociological thought: how is knowledge produced? We also think critically about the social contexts in which we create what humans define as “knowledge.”

So how do you know what you know? Beyond your personal experience, what you learn as a student informs your depth and breadth of knowledge. As you prepare for exams, there are typically two sources of knowledge that you need to master to earn a good grade: things that your professor said in lectures in conjunction with ideas you read about in your assigned texts.

We often take for granted that these are main sources of knowledge without thinking about how ideas become part of your course work, and your textbooks specifically. The production of textbooks is a good example of how knowledge is produced in a social context.

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December 25, 2017

How Sociology Can Save the World

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

The title of this post comes from the name of a Lifelong Learning Institute class I taught recently. Lifelong Learning Institutes exit throughout the United States offering non-credit courses for adults 55 years and older. The class I volunteered to teach met once a week for four weeks. Here was the description of the course:

How Sociology Can Save the World: Let's face it: The world is pretty screwed up! The gap between the haves and the have-nots is skyrocketing, the earth is imperiled by human-caused climate change, and various acts of intolerance seem to be on the rise in many countries. Although there is no quick and easy remedy to all of the world's ills, we can take steps individually and collectively to get us back on track. In this class we will consider four sociological concepts that, if they were more widely understood and applied, could address many of the problems that threaten our collective existence. Each week, short readings that center around one of the four sociological concepts will be assigned.

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December 18, 2017

“So, What are you doing after you Graduate?”

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Perhaps you know what you are going to do after you graduate. As the fall semester starts to wrap up, there might be a nagging voice in the back of your mind that asks, “What are you doing to do after you graduate?” (Or maybe it’s part of family conversations as you get closer to your graduation date!)

Why do people pick the careers they do? Certainly, some people graduate with a good sense of a career. Some people knew what they were going to do from their first year of college. (That was definitely not me.)

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December 14, 2017

The Problem with Student Course Evaluations

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

It’s the time of year when we start filling out student evaluations. Instructors pass around pencils and leave the room. Some are done online. You might fill out the 1 through 5 quantitative evaluations and write out a few words on the qualitative questions, but don’t know where they go afterward. Where do they go? Do you think about what your instructors think about them? Do you know that they are quite controversial?

I’ll never forget my favorite and least favorite evaluations. My favorite was “Funny like Sesame Street.” (Educational and entertaining!) I don’t think I would be allowed to publish the language in my least favorite evaluation here at Everyday Sociology. Students can get quite inventive with language and, the negative evaluations always stick in our heads more than the positive ones. It’s important to remember that we’re querying students at the most stressful time of the semester: at the end!

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December 04, 2017

#followfirstgenerationacademics

Colby (1)By Colby King

Scrolling through my Twitter feed one day this past summer, I read a tweet from Karra Shimabukuro, a PhD candidate in British and Irish Literary Studies at the University of New Mexico, with the hashtag #followfirstgenerationacademics. The tweet was signal boosting the hashtag, which was originated by Roberta Magnani, a Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at Swansea University.

The idea behind #followfirstgenerationacademics was to create connections between academics and students between academics and students, who are from the first generation in their family to work as an academic. As a first generation academic myself, I was happy to see the hashtag. I replied to a few tweets and followed many of the people participating in the discussion. If you are a student or an academic interested in connecting, you may also be interested in following that hashtag and contributing to the conversation.

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November 13, 2017

Getting a Job: Latent and Manifest Functions of Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The purpose of getting a college degree may seem obvious: the median weekly earnings of those with college degrees are nearly double what those with high school diplomas alone earn, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For those who hope to earn more money, a degree seems like a good idea. It is also likely to reduce the odds of being unemployed; according to BLS data, college graduates’ unemployment rates were about half of the rate for those with high school diplomas alone.

But what is it about a college degree that yields the higher weekly earnings and the greater likelihood of employment? Is it the content of what students learn, or other factors that are a less overt part of the college experience?

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October 23, 2017

Cats, Dogs, and #metoo

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

There seems to be an emerging awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault as more “open secrets” are exposed as some powerful men have recently been fired from their jobs.

The hashtag #metoo has recently been circulating on social media to encourage women to share if they have experienced sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Alyssa Milano’s tweet suggesting it created this current wave of #metoo’s across the Internet. However, the term was first used by Tarana Burke to support and empower African American women and girls who experienced sexual assault and exploitation. The idea of the current Twitter and Facebook firestorm is to show highlight how many people have dealt with this issue.

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October 20, 2017

Be Social When you Study!

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

It’s midterm time! I wrote a blog post a few years ago about how to take notes and the issues surrounding using laptops in the classroom, but in the spirit of the midterm season, I thought I would share some ideas about how to study.

In some way, I am sure that some of you are thinking, “I’ve gotten this far, so I must be doing something right.” In a way, that’s true. If you are a first-year student, however, the collegiate experience is a different magnitude than what you have experienced before. You will no longer just be consuming information like you may have done in high school. You will now be expected to rehearse and use what you know.

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