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

February 20, 2017

Can Teachers Speak the Truth about Donald Trump?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Consider this statement: Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, is a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot who constantly tells lies and makes wildly misleading claims.

I offer this statement not as an accusation against the President but as an assertion. It is not based on what Trump’s advisors call “alternative facts” but is based on actual verifiable facts. And it is not the subjective opinion of a left-leaning professor but is an objective truth that can be unequivocally demonstrated and proven.

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February 17, 2017

Telling True Stories

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Story telling is not just about fiction and fabrication. Good scholars are gifted at telling compelling true stories using data from research findings.

If you think about a book or article that you have read or a class you have taken that made a big impact, chances are good that the author or instructor had a knack for telling a story that you were interested in hearing. They draw you in, convincing you that their story is important, and encourage you to stick with them to learn what they have learned.

Sociology at its best is good storytelling: researchers who are skilled at convincing us why the issues they investigate are important, how their findings can inform us more about this issue and walk us through the complexities and even contradictions of their research produce work that is exciting to read. They bring to life the cliché that truth is stranger than fiction, or at least more interesting.

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February 10, 2017

How Do You Study?

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Are you studying smarter, or spending lots of time that accomplishes relatively little? Do you have those oh-so-familiar moments of reading your text and waking up to realize you have stared at the same page or paragraph for way too long without really seeing it? Or do you skip the readings, thinking you can get by without them?

Well, of course, from my perspective as a professor, your notes, textbook, and other readings are important for the learning process to occur. We choose those readings carefully, so that once you read them, digest them, and can apply whatever gems of knowledge are in them, you have gone a long way towards developing an effective sociological imagination.

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January 30, 2017

Meet Four “Lazy” Millennials

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Millennials are not getting much love these days. If you do a Google search for the phrase “millennials are” the top five autofill suggestions are: lazy, having less sex, dumb, poor, and stupid. In all fairness, if you do a similar search for baby boomers or generation X you get similar disparaging suggestions. Still, it seems as if millennials, more than their predecessors, have been branded as being the laziest of generations.

Most of the news reports and assertions that criticize the work ethic of millennials are based on anecdotal and unscientific data. For example, I recently did a search with the prompt, “millennials are lazy,” and one of the first links that appeared was based on statements from lifestyle businesswoman Martha Stewart. Although some might seek Martha Stewart’s advice on recipes and home décor, her social scientific insight is not what she is known for.

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January 23, 2017

What’s the Difference Between Growth and Local Development?

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

In my Community (Economic) Development course, students are often confused by the differences between economic growth, local economic development, and community economic development. Because these terms help to explain similar process of development, they can seem like the same thing. As with most things, these terms are in flux and scholars often disagree about the definitions, adding to the confusion. Understanding the differences between these terms helps us analyze the impact of various economic development plans on residents and the environment.

Early definitions of economic development focus on growth as the standard. According to Malizia & Feser, and Wolman & Spitzley, we can understand growth as an increase to outputs (per capita income, jobs, a country’s gross domestic product, et cetera). This form of economic development focuses on increasing national wealth through improvements to the local business climate. Some examples of this approach include tax subsidies to keep or attract businesses to a certain locale. The idea is that a friendly business climate will lead to more jobs, increase competition, attract more businesses, and in turn yield greater wealth for the area. Some examples include the Boeing deal in Chicago, and the more recent Carrier deal in Indiana.

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January 09, 2017

Sociology and the Culture of Sex on Campus

Thumbnail_Press - Lisa Wade (c) Babs Evangelista_300dpiBy Lisa Wade

Associate Professor of Sociology, Occidental College

When new students move into their residence halls to start their first year of college, they become a part of an institution. In many ways, it is a “total institution” in the tradition of the sociologist Erving Goffman: an organization that collects large numbers of like individuals, cuts them off from the wider society, and provides for all their needs. Prisons, mental hospitals, army barracks, and nursing homes are total institutions. So are cruise ships, cults, convents, and summer camps. Behemoths of order, they swallow up their constituents and structure their lives.

Many colleges are total institutions, too. Being a part of the institution means that students’ educational options are dictated, of course, but colleges also have a substantial amount of control over when students eat, where they sleep, how they exercise, with whom they socialize and, pertinent to our topic today, whether and under what conditions they have sex.

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November 14, 2016

Institutional Discrimination: An Inadequate Concept

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

This post is based on a sociological riddle: How is it possible that we live in a country full of racism and sexism, and yet very few people are willing to admit that they are racist or sexist? In other words, how can racism and sexism be so pervasive in a country devoid of racists and sexists?

This sociological riddle has been gnawing on my mind for many years. And my preoccupation with it has gotten much worse with the election of Donald Trump. Trump ran on a campaign of open and unabashed racism, sexism, and xenophobia, among other forms of intolerance. He was even endorsed by white nationalist groups like the Klu Klux Klan. And yet, during his campaign and after his victory many of his supporters denied that they harbored racist or sexist sentiments. Donald Trump himself even proclaimed on many occasions that “I am the least racist person” and “there’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do.”

It is certainly troubling that the president-elect of the United States is now the poster child for a society of racist and sexist deniers; however, the deeper problem is that if no one is willing to admit to holding these views then the possibility of ever ridding ourselves of these forms of oppression is remote to nil. And to make matters worse, the situation is unintentionally exacerbated by the one answer that is often given to this sociological riddle: institutional discrimination.

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October 19, 2016

Tips on Successfully Taking Exams in Sociology

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Nobody really likes exams—professors don’t particularly like grading them, and obviously given the choice most students would opt out of taking them. But they are typically a requirement of educational social institutions that want to remain accredited institutions of higher learning.

Instructors create different types of exams, so there really aren’t one-size-fits all instructions on how to take them. Keep your instructor’s suggestions in mind as you prepare for exams in each class. But the following tips will likely apply more often than not.

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October 17, 2016

Where Young Adults Live and Why

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you want to move out of your parent(s)’ home, go to college. And be sure graduate.

A recent report by the Pew Research Center found that living with parents is now the most common living arrangement for young adults aged 18 to 34. Using census data going as far back as 1880, young adults in this age group are less likely to be living with a marital or romantic partner than in the past. They are also more likely to be living alone, with roommates, or heading a single parent household today than in previous years for which we have data.

In 2014, 32 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds lived with their parent(s). Living with parents in early adulthood had been common until the middle of the twentieth century; in 1940, 35 percent of people in this age group lived with parents, but by 1960 just 20 percent did. Why did the percent dip, and why has it risen since?

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October 04, 2016

Risk-Taking and the Celebration of Failure

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

I teach at a small liberal arts institution. As part of the college’s ethos, we believe in working with students to focus on a holistic education that fosters creativity, critical thinking, civic engagement, and social justice. In order to facilitate a greater and deeper education, several faculty members (including me) have talked about ways to encourage risk-taking among our students. This is difficult for a variety of reasons that include the possibility for failure. As a society, we have socialized ourselves into celebrating success and admonishing failure as, well, a failure. It is something to be ashamed of, feared, and avoided. This ideology frames everything from education policy to the design of social safety nets to promotion practices to how we answer well-meaning family members’ nosy questions about our lives.

But what if we flipped the narrative on failing? What if we instead viewed failure as part of the learning process and celebrated thoughtful failure? This is something we think we inherently know; how often do we tell children to try, try again. Or how many of us have seen inspirational quotes where successful people talk about all the times they failed, before they succeeded. Yet, when put into practice the idea of failing is still very scary.

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