By Yamaguchi Yoshiaki from Japan [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This year marks one century of commercial flying. On New Year’s Day in 1914, a large crowd gathered in St.Petersburg, Florida, as an airboat named ‘Benoist’ (after its creator, Thomas Benoist), took to the sky for a 23-minute flight over the Tampa Bay, carrying a single passenger (Abram Pheil, who won his $400 ticket in an auction). This maiden flight soon became a regular route, thus marking aviation’s birth as a viable industry. In the following decades, transnational routes, jet engines and global airlines became fixtures of modern life.
What a difference a century makes. Today, 52 aircraft take off every minute, and an incredible half a million people are in the air above us at any one time. Flying now facilitates family visits, holidays, business and academic conferences, and freight trade; it’s made the world smaller, and the global economy bigger. (more…)
By movie studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
In January, President Obama became the latest in a long list of politicians and high profile public figures in taking a shot at academic disciplines perceived to be ‘useless’ from a labor market perspective. Talking about manufacturing and job training, Obama (who has since apologized
for his remarks) said
: “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”
This attack on disciplines, fields and degrees that do not tie in directly to what is perceived to be the workplace of today and tomorrow are nothing new. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made similar, albeit much more explicit and vicious, remarks
about higher education just last year, lashing out against the (inter)discipline of women’s and gender studies: “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
These and similar remarks point to two related notions that dominate in the debate about (higher) education: 1. The idea of a “skills gap” – that is the idea that workers and college graduates do not possess the right skills to fill vacant jobs in growing economic sectors. And 2. The idea that some academic disciplines are simply useless pursuits, as they do not help graduates secure employment. But do these ideas have empirical ground?
Genderqueer Pride Flag (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Last year, as I completed my fieldwork, I was unexpectedly reminded of the continuing contention around gender identity. Interviewing dozens of people involved in social movement actions around austerity and economic inequality, I anticipated that there would be some emotional responses, moments of hesitation, perhaps even discomfort around some of my inquiries. I did not expect to elicit these reactions during the demographics section of the interviews. Yet, about a third of the time, when I asked the respondent to disclose a gender identity, there would be silence. Sometimes after the long pause the respondent would cautiously clarify whether I was seeking to categorize them as either male or female (I wasn’t). Other times the interviewee would go into a longer explanation of their opposition to the gender binary before identifying with a gender non-conforming label or declaring gender irrelevant and declining to provide an identity at all. (more…)
The Unist’ot’en Action Camp. (Source: http://unistotencamp.com/?cat=6)
As the Midwest and Northeastern United States thaw out from our early January “Polar Vortex,” I can’t help but wish governments and corporations would make self-improvement resolutions like so many people do during this time of year. Corporations are, after all, afforded the rights of “personhood,” so why not? What would their lists include? In my dream scenario these bodies would resolve to abolish themselves but, assuming this won’t happen any time soon, I significantly lower the bar. Perhaps something like, “This year, I resolve to stop exacerbating climate change. I will try really hard to protect the earth and respect the people who live on it.” Sadly, such self-initiatives are also unlikely. Fortunately, collective action has a history of forcing governments and corporations to halt their rampant destruction. (more…)
Despite writing in an era that predated many of the digital communication technologies that have become important to us, Erving Goffman’s analyses of social behaviour and interaction may be useful for understanding digital phenomena. Recently there has been a resurgence of Goffman’s ideas within web and digital communication research, notably from the Presentation of self in everyday life (1959). This article draws on recent work which has applied Goffman’s ideas to the digital field to suggest how his work is still influential today. (more…)
Source: Luiz Carlos Cappellano (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
In the first part
of this series, I asked whether the sociology classroom can be a space of critical or radical pedagogy and discussed the theories behind Freirean
learner-centered approaches to radical pedagogy. In my second article
, I laid out some critiques of these models brought forward by scholars equally committed to critical sociology and radical analyses. Despite these critical voices though, there is certainly good reason for radical scholars to have their pedagogy reflect their intellectual commitments. Today’s article will discuss examples of radical pedagogy in practice as well as ways of dealing with the contradictions between pedagogical philosophy and institutional constraints.
[This article is the third and last in a series that explores theories behind critical/ radical/ transformative education in the sociology classroom, as well as its practice, problems and limits. The first article introduced some theories behind critical pedagogy, and its overall framework; the second article addressed some radical critiques of certain versions of radical pedagogy.]
Art by Carlos Latuff via Wikimedia Commons
A few weeks ago, I went to see The Punk Singer, a new documentary about Kathleen Hanna – a force within the Riot Grrrl movement. I was mentally and emotionally transported back to the 1990s, reflecting on my late-teens-and-early-20s self. I became nostalgic for that raw anger at injustice channeled into high energy and creative expression, carried along by a sense of excitement and hope, and the supportive feeling of community that, at times, largely consisted of the feminist music and poetry that gave me strength to speak out and served as a reminder that there were other women out there like me. I was struck by the powerful feelings I still experienced thinking about that subculture, and how much that period of time positively shaped who I am today. (more…)
Source: Brandizzi (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.
I have previously
written about whether the sociology classroom can be a space of critical or radical pedagogy and how critical research agendas should be reflected in sociological pedagogy. Most authors experimenting with critical pedagogy rely on Freirean
conceptions of student-centered learning that seek to eliminate teacher-student hierarchies and offer students the change to take ownership of their education by involving them in peer-grading, course design and instruction. However, scholars equally committed to critical sociology and radical analyses have critique these models as problematic and actually not coherent with sociological understandings of the world.
[This article is the second in a series that explores theories behind critical/ radical/ transformative education in the sociology classroom, as well as its practice, problems and limits. The first article introduced some theories behind critical pedagogy, and its overall framework.]
Black Friday shoppers at WalMart
The holiday season is officially upon us as thousands of individuals woke up early on this Black Friday to score the best deals of the season. This time of year brings joy to the hearts of many, but also exposes one of the greatest contradictions in American society. Along with the excitement of holiday shopping and purchasing a 50 inch TV for half-price, this time of year is also supposed to be about giving. From Thanksgiving through Christmas more people volunteer and donate food and/or money than any other time of year. In 2012, to combat the popularity of consumption during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more and more people are participating in Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday), a day to give to those in need. While we can certainly see the merits and benefits of giving a toy to a child who has none or a coat to someone who is cold, we should also ask ourselves why charity is needed in the first place and why charity is so intimately linked with consumption. (more…)
Source: Luiz Carlos Cappellano (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
A number of sociologists understand their work as being part of a radical or transformative project: They are committed to empowering the marginalized or are engaged in challenging hegemony, they work within the tradition of radical theoretical approaches such as Marxist, feminist, or critical race theory, and understand their work as a contribution to laying foundations for a more just, equal and democratic society. However, it is not often not clear what role the commitment to radical social thought – and ultimately radical social change – can play in the sociology classroom. A number of scholars have asked whether there is a unique radical, critical or transformative pedagogical approach to the teaching of sociology, how to theorize radical pedagogy, how to implement radical approaches in the undergraduate classroom and how radical educators might deal with institutional constraints.
[This article is the first in a series that explores theories behind critical/ radical/ transformative education in the sociology classroom, as well as its practice, problems, limits, and the constraints faced by sociology teachers committed to critical pedagogies. This first article introduces some theories behind critical pedagogy, and its overall framework.]