By Wayne Mellinger
Instructor, Antioch University
ideology” is a way of looking at and
understanding the social world that reflects the perspectives of the rich and
powerful. British sociologist John B.
Thompson aptly describes ideology as
“meaning in the service of power.”
Because dominant ideologies are meaning-laden events, social
scientists have developed approaches to studying them that are highly attuned
to the details of discourse and the interpretation of texts—that is, how
ordinary people make sense of these symbolic events in everyday life.
Continue reading "Ideologies in the News: How Powerful Ideas Become Common Sense" »
By Peter Kaufman
do the alleged Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have in
common with Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Jimi Hendrix, and Ben
The answer: All of these individuals are said to have become who they
are by their own individual means.
Continue reading "The Myth of the Self-Made Person" »
Ask just about anyone about how to improve public education
and they’ll likely give you an answer: Hire better teachers. Fire bad teachers.
Instill more discipline. Include more art and music in the curriculum. Go back
to the basics. Involve multicultural lesson plans. Allow students to use
vouchers to attend private schools. Create more public charter schools.
All of these ideas have been implemented somewhere, each
with fans and critics. None has been proven to be a cure-all, but for
supporters, they seem like simple solutions that should be put in place as soon
Education is a great example of the multifaceted nature of
social issues. And while single solutions are easy for us to understand and
form an opinion about, they are not necessarily helpful in the long run.
Applying core concepts can help us understand why and move us towards a more
complete understanding of education as a social institution.
Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically About Education" »
By Peter Kaufman
I often tell students that I hope
they leave my classes with more questions than answers. This statement may seem
counterintuitive. Our typical model of education is based on the idea that
students’ heads should be filled with knowledge such as definitions, dates, and
all sorts of data. The idea that students would finish their coursework with
more question marks than periods goes against the conventional wisdom of
By making this statement I am
suggesting that if students want to take what they’ve learned in class and
extend it into their social worlds then they will need to know how to ask
questions. If they are merely satisfied with the knowledge that has been
instilled in them then they have probably not been challenged intellectually.
More important, or more troubling, leaving a class without any lingering
questions is likely to inhibit their ability to be life-long learners.
Continue reading "Asking Sociological Questions" »
My office hours have been getting busy as students get the
results from midterms and term papers. People who seldom come to class suddenly
appear at my door, as do highly motivated students who want to make sure they
can get an A. Several sociological concepts can help us understand why grades
matter on a number of levels.
Continue reading "Sociology and Your Grades" »
Have you noticed that almost everything
these days is reviewed and rated? No matter what goods or services you use it
is likely that it will be judged by other consumers on some 4 or 5 star rating
system or with a simple thumbs up and thumbs down.
For example, this morning at the sound of my watch
alarm I took my head off my pillow,
pushed my body off my mattress,
stepped onto the bedroom carpet, and opened the blinds to let
in the morning sunlight. I walked into the bathroom to shower using my daily facial
I dried off with a towel
while the ceiling
fan in the bathroom pulled the moisture out of the air. I got dressed in my
typical fashion: underwear
(don’t worry, that’s not a picture of me wearing them), socks,
For breakfast I used a small pot
to cook my oatmeal,
poured a glass of orange
juice, and got some filtered
water for tea. After breakfast I cleaned my teeth using my toothbrush, toothpaste,
I put my books in my backpack,
grabbed my water
bottle and went off to work. You get the idea!
Continue reading "Overrated " »
If you are a student, and even if you are not, chances are
this time of year means you are very busy. Whether it’s the upcoming holidays,
exams, term papers, or other obligations, for some reason the end of the year can mean
a lot of busyness.
I recently had a student come to my office hours to talk
about his progress, and the student admitted that he was overcommitted to many
campus activities and that it had affected his coursework. I’m sure he is not
alone; students regularly struggle with their workload and find that it is
virtually impossible to devote the amount of time to each of their classes as
they would like to.
I can relate, as I have been busy grading and juggling my
own deadlines and workload. What can sociology add to our understanding of
Continue reading "The Sociology of Busyness" »
Are you now, or have you ever, participated in a group
project for a class? If so, you have been learning more about sociology, even
if you weren’t taking a sociology class.
Group projects are also a good way to learn about the
process of conducting research. Many large-scale projects involve collaboration
and teamwork. For researchers who work with surveys, writing the survey,
distributing it to respondents, and analyzing data is something frequently done
with others. The large data sets that sociologists often use, like census
data or the FBI’s
Uniform Crime Reports are create by large teams of researchers who must
work together to discover major social trends.
Continue reading " Group Projects and Sociology" »
By Karen Sternheimer
Now and then, a student will come into my office and ask why I chose to become a sociologist. Like many people new to sociology, they often wonder what my process was in deciding to study sociology.
They are often surprised to learn that I came to sociology accidentally, due to a bureaucratic dilemma most college students can relate to: the class I had wanted to take was full, and a sociology course was open and fit my schedule.
I came to my first sociology class, Sex and Gender in Society, a week or two into the drop/add period, so I started off a bit behind and the class was already engaging in lively conversation. It was as if I had entered into a new world, surprised to find that issues pertaining to my everyday life could actually be part of the college curriculum.
Continue reading "Why Sociology?" »