March 18, 2024

Let’s Talk Parental Engagement in Schools: Parental Engagement as a Social Construct

Alyssa Lyons author photoBy Alyssa Lyons

What does it mean to be an engaged parent in schools?

As both a sociologist and the mother of an eleven-year-old in the New York City public school system, I’ve often wrestled with this question. Whenever I attend school-based events, principals, teachers, and staff tell me, along with other parents, that being engaged in the school and in my child’s education is instrumental to their academic success. 

And it isn’t just educators and social science researchers singing the praises of parental engagement. Politicians and policymakers suggest that parental engagement can function as either a buffer or mitigator in addressing educational inequality on both a state and federal level.  In March 2022, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona implored schools to reconsider their relationship with parents and families, suggesting “parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers.”

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March 14, 2024

"Fast Car" and Country Music

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Perhaps the highlight of the 2024 Grammys was Luke Combs’ duet with famously limelight-averse Tracy Chapman, singing Chapman’s “Fast Car.” While I had been pondering this song for over a year, it took the Grammy performance to really get a sense of what was going on here, especially with Beyoncé’s new songs promising to spark new controversy over what “country music” should be.

Combs’ version of the song is likely the one that most college-aged Everyday Sociology Blog readers know, but when most of your older professors (like me) were of a similar age, Chapman’s song was a big deal. These days, most hit songs come and go but, in 1988, the song was in heavy rotation. It was on the radio; it was in the mall.

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March 11, 2024

Embracing the Icon, Debating the Message

Bossick Headshot

By Mike Bossick, Professor of Sociology, Central Piedmont Community College

I was asked to give a presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about racism and poverty. The more I thought about Dr. King’s message of racial and economic justice in the context of recent backlash to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I wondered whether most people support the sanitized folk hero version of MLK, or his message of radical racial and economic justice? Keep in mind that anyone under the age of 55 wasn’t even alive when MLK was assassinated in April, 1968; much of our culture’s collective memory comes from soundbites, summaries, or short excerpts of his work.

While MLK, the famous Morehouse alumni and sociology major is revered today, that wasn’t always the case. The Pew Research Center compiled public opinion data originally collected by Gallup showing MLK’s favorability rating between 1963-1966 as ranging between 33-45%. In addition, National Public Radio (NPR) discusses evidence in the MLK/FBI documentary stating that the FBI under director J Edgar Hoover feverishly sought to discredit King. Keeping him under heavy surveillance, they sent him compromising tapes they recorded and even created and sent an anonymous letter suggesting he should kill himself. Clearly, the former sentiment from the public and the FBI does not align with MLK’s 2011 favorability rating of 94% when the MLK Memorial opened in Washington, DC.

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March 04, 2024

Sharing Popular Culture: From Syndication to Streaming

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Although I grew up in the era before streaming video was possible, let alone the dominant way that most consumers and I now watch content. (We used to call it “watching television” or “watching TV,” but that’s not always the device of choice to watch video now.) Canceling our cable was freeing a few years ago, and we realized that between YouTube and PBS Passport we were all set (we’ve had Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ over the years too). This appeals to my minimalist sensibility.

I was a child when cable television became widely available in the 1980s, and I had to convince my parents to subscribe after most of my friends’ families already had. My siblings and I had to pay for the installation and do extra chores as part of the agreement to subscribe. I think they wanted to be sure we wouldn’t spent too much time sitting in front of the TV.

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February 26, 2024

Here’s a Tip: It’s about Inequality

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Many news stories about inflation have focused on tipping—sometimes called “tip-flation.” If you haven’t read any of these stories, you’ve probably paid for something when a tip screen came up, recommending a certain percentage for gratuity in addition to the amount due.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of nearly 12,000 Americans, respondents perceive that the pressure to tip has increased in recent years. Nearly half of respondents said that whether to tip depends on the situation, and 40 percent said that they didn’t like when tip amounts are suggested. The most common times when more than half said they left a tip included servers at sit-down restaurants, a hairdresser, and food delivery. Respondents were less likely to tip taxi or ride share drivers, or at fast casual restaurants or coffee shops.

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February 19, 2024

Professor Period to the Rescue!

Thumbnail_Picture - Lisa SmithBy Lisa Smith, Douglas College, Department of Sociology and Menstrual Cycle Research Group

“Does anyone have a pad? A tampon!? 50 cents?”

I was sitting in the stall of a women’s restroom during the intermission for a concert, when I heard the familiar refrain. As a menstruator (because not all people who have periods are women and not all women have periods), I could relate to the urgency in my fellow menstruators’ voice.

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February 12, 2024

Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis

Wayne mellinger author photoBy Wayne Martin Mellinger

Everyday talk-in-interaction is the medium through which our identities are enacted and our relationships are negotiated. It is often through situated activities such as talk that the practical problems of our lives get resolved, the tasks of our workplaces get completed, and the business of society gets managed. Talk-in-interaction is a fundamental mechanism through which culture is enacted, providing the very infrastructure of social institutions. Everyday talk-in-interaction is indeed the fundamental site of human sociality.

Conversation Analysis (CA) is an approach to studying everyday social interactions which focuses on how participants in a conversation collaboratively build meaning and organize their interactions through verbal and non-verbal behaviors. It closely analyses the moment-by-moment unfolding of social life through close examination of ordinary social interactions. These fine-grained studies, now done in a wide variety of social situations and institutional settings, are revealing the basic structures of interaction as experienced in concrete instances of social life.

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February 05, 2024

Community Development Studies in Sociology, and What Sociology Offers Students

CKing headshot 1 4.3 Calvin-odhiambo IMG_5518

By Colby King, Calvin Odhiambo, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Lizabeth Zack, Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, University of South Carolina Upstate

The recent decision by the Florida Board of Governors to exclude Introductory sociology from the list of courses that fulfill the social science general education requirements for Florida public college students has sparked discussions highlighting the vital role of sociology in academic curriculum. Stacy Torres wrote here about the life-changing role sociology course can play in students’ lives.

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January 29, 2024

Gender, Sexuality, and Social Exclusion

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Recently politicians have continued attempts to police gender and sexuality through the passage of laws that seek to exclude and punish. It is important to consider why the attention to other people’s gender and sexual practices are part of public and political discourses, and why some people are the target of social exclusion.

For context: while laws attempting to limit transgender rights have dominated the last decade, criminalizing same-sex relationships is not by any means new, although new laws have been passed around the world in the past few years. Human Rights Watch maintains a list of criminal codes outlawing same-sex relations around the world dating back to the nineteenth century. Many laws criminalizing LGBTQ people were passed in the middle of the twentieth century. Why?

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January 24, 2024

AI and Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

My inbox received two very kind and curious emails from students this semester. One was to our listserv, expressing remorse and solidarity for someone who had a death in the family. The second was a note of gratitude for my teaching this semester. The instincts behind were kind. Both students wanted to share meaningful feelings with our community in the first case, and with me in the second. They were interesting because they were both written entirely by AI.

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