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October 19, 2020

2020: The Ultimate Example of Emotional Labor

Todd Schoepflin author photoBy Todd Schoepflin

At 7:50 each weekday morning, my wife heads out the door, off to work at the elementary school where she is a social worker. This year is unlike any of the first ten years she’s worked at the school. There are no children in the building. Our local public school district is currently doing remote learning.

Teachers report to the building and conduct classes from empty classrooms. Staff members continue their daily work to make sure regular functions run smoothly. Social workers and psychologists go to their offices and do the best they can to contribute to the academic and social development of students. “Sad” is the word my wife most commonly uses to describe what it feels like to walk into a quiet school without the hustle and bustle of hundreds of children.

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October 12, 2020

Sampling: Who do You Want to Learn More About?

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

These days, if we want to know more about someone we often need look no further than social media sites or do a basic Google search. But what if we want to know more about a group or a population?

Let’s say you were interested in learning about the student body of a school to find out how they are managing the COVID-19 crisis. We decide an internet-based survey is the way to go. How do we go about doing this?

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October 05, 2020

Merton’s Role Set: Chairing a Sociology Department

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Have you met the chair of the sociology department? What do they do, anyway?

When I was an undergraduate at a large public university, I didn’t know who the chair was, let alone what they did. Heck, I am the chair of a sociology department right now, and I’m still figuring it out! But, I think it’s important for you to know what chairs do, particularly in our current, historical moment.

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September 28, 2020

Informal Social Control and Pandemic Behavior

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

A few months ago I wrote about what the pandemic-related stay at home orders can teach us about formal social control, the use of rules, laws, and sanctions to try and shape people’s behavior. What can the pandemic teach us about informal social control?

While formal social control involves large-scale institutional actions, informal social control involves the influence of the people closest to us. Our primary groups, which include our family members and friends, have the most influence on us for several reasons.

We often seek their approval, even if we are not conscious of doing so, and thus our behavior may be influenced in order to maintain these close ties. We typically spend the most time with people in our primary groups, so we also tend to view social issues similarly due to our influence on one another and self-selection of friends and mates whose perspectives our compatible with our own.

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September 21, 2020

Health, Racial Inequality, and Residential Segregation

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos, Sociology Doctoral Student at Rutgers University – New Brunswick

We often talk about health as a strictly biological concept. After all, poor health outcomes such as heart disease and cancer are heavily dependent on biological factors such as our genetic makeup and our age. Public discourse is also rife with notions that viruses, such as COVID-19, “do not discriminate” and affect all of us equally – regardless of the vastly different social circumstances under which people in the U.S. are living.

Sociologists, however, have long emphasized that health outcomes are far from strictly biological. In fact, the subfield of medical sociology – one of the American Sociological Association’s largest sections – is entirely devoted to the study of how social contexts and structures influence health, illness, and healthcare. Although certain poor health outcomes are indeed influenced by factors outside of the social world, medical sociologists stress the importance of social influence in examining e.g. who gets sick and why.

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September 14, 2020

Antiracism as a Process

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I stumbled upon a celebrity story that actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds recently apologized for getting married at a former plantation where people were held as slaves.

My initial response was, well, confusion. How do people who think that a plantation is a fine location for a wedding (and there are apparently many that do) decide a few years later that it is something to apologize for? Isn’t one’s wedding location something that one gives a great deal of thought and consideration in advance? Why didn’t the idea of getting married on a plantation bother them in 2012, but it does now?

This post is not about bashing or praising the actors, who have since donated large sums of money to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. It is instead about understanding that becoming more aware of the tangled web of racism in the United States is a process, one that we all stumble through imperfectly. This is a learning process, especially for people who do not regularly experience the negative effects of racism.

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September 07, 2020

Connecting the Dots II: Linking Theory with Research, Revisited

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last year, I wrote about the connections between theory and research. It’s very tempting for the first-time student researcher to come up with a research topic and either ignore theories about the topic, or have difficulty integrating theories with their research question or their findings. Theories may seem abstract and sometimes difficult to grasp, while research is concrete and its results sometimes easier to digest. Connecting the two takes practice.

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