Our friends over at Norton have created several animations that highlight sociological concepts, like the paradoxes of race and worldwide inequality (posted below). They will be posting new ones every couple of weeks on Norton’s youtube page. These would be great to show in class to help illustrate concepts for students!
Today we have a guest post from our fellow TSP board member, Kyle Green. Kyle is teaching Sociological Research Methods and wanted to share this activity that he is having his students complete while watching the presidential debates. Thanks Kyle!
I believe that one of the most important skills that a sociology major learns is how to recognize a good/bad argument, how to recognize when someone is using the right/wrong data to support their view, and to think about how the effectiveness of different types of argument varies by both topic and situation.
The presidential and vice-presidential debates present a great opportunity to put these skills into use. And it gets the students to think critically about politics, which is never a bad thing.
I require that the students in my research methods class watch any two of the four debates. They are asked to take detailed notes about the types of arguments the participants on each side made and the data they used to support their claims. The notes should also include:
Self-reflection (How closely do they follow politics? Are they a strong supporter of a particular political party or involved in particular issues? Did watching the debate change their view?)
What arguments did they find the most or least convincing? Why?
What type of information was the most or least effective in this format?
How did the format of the debates affect the arguments used and supporting information presented?
Did you spot any of the common research errors or logical fallacies we discussed in class?
I have the students bring their notes to the first class after the final debate. I then divide them into groups of three where they have a chance to discuss their observations before have a larger class discussion about the lessons we learned.
As you make the family tree, make note of social trends, such as: # of children (or remaining childless), marriage, divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, single parenthood, and living alone/remaining single. Other things to pay attention to: age of marriage and childbearing, educational attainment, women in workforce, social class (intergenerational mobility), interracial families, and gay/lesbian families. (You can make this as detailed or simple as you would like)
If you plan on having students write papers or reflect on their own families throughout the course, this is good way for them to visualize patterns within their own families and compare them to trends in the U.S.
Yesterday in my Sociology of Gender class, we had a discussion on the Contexts article “Is Hooking Up Bad for Young Women?” by Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Laura Hamilton and Paula England (full text free on contexts.org). To get the discussion going, I showed clips of three journalists that the authors mention in the article–each with different perspectives on the sexual cultures of teen and young adult women.
As we watched, I had the students record the main arguments of the authors.
Then, after each video, I gave them 3-5 minutes to brainstorm about how the arguments relate to class material (especially the “Hooking Up” article, but anything from class) AND to brainstorm about personal observations (or “evidence”) that would either support or refute that argument.
After watching all three, I had them get into groups of 2 or 3 and share their observations with the group. Then, as group, they were instructed to decide on three arguments total that they feel their group has the strongest “evidence” to support or refute. (This worked really well and when I cut them off after 10 minutes, many groups were still discussing). Give them a handout like this to record their group’s decisions:
This podcast or feature article (check if your university library has access to Contexts) would work well on its own in any criminal justice or deviance course. But what really struck me while listening to this podcast is how similar their findings are to the show Breaking Bad.
For those not familiar with the show, Breaking Bad tells the story of a square high school chemistry teacher who, when diagnosed with lung cancer, turns to a life of crime and begins to cook and sell meth to ensure his family’s financial security after he dies.
The authors of Home Cooking: Marketing Meth set up an interesting sociological question of why meth markets are so different from other drug markets. You could show an episode of the Breaking Bad in class and have a discussion about the social worlds of meth users and sellers compared to other drug markets. Or have students watch it at home and do their own analysis for a course paper.
For a comparison, check out “The wire goes to college” from the Summer 2011 issue of Contexts, an exchange between graduate students on the Contexts board and four scholars about the HBO crime drama The Wire, which examined Baltimore’s drug trade.
Doing some last minute planning for my Sociology of Gender course this summer, and happened upon a Toddlers and Tiaras episode (which I know is old news for most people!) but I had never actually watched it. Very interesting. And would be great for discussion in the classroom on the sexualization of children.
Lee is responding to Yale Law professor Amy Chua’s highly controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother(2011). In advance of the book, The Wall Street Journal published “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” In the article and the book, Chua argues that Western parents do their children a disservice by not raising them with strict and demanding expectations for achievement.
Lee’s is another piece that is definitely going on my Sociology of Families syllabus in the fall, but it would fit well in any Intro to Sociology class or any class on education, culture, or youth. I would assign both Amy Chua’s WSJ article and Lee’s Tiger Kids and the Success Frame. What I love about Lee’s piece is that it does not reject Chua’s argument outright, but explores it from a sociological perspective. She asks (and answers):
How do we explain the academic achievement of Asians, especially when the patterns defy traditional status attainment models?
This topic is especially suited for most undergrads (18-22 year olds) in that they have only recently left their parents home and generally do not have families of their own. This life stage puts them in a unique position to compare how they were raised with how they want to raise their own (hypothetical) children when it comes to educational achievement.
I’m planning a Sociology of Families course, and I am definitely putting Eric Klinenberg‘s New York Times article One’s a Crowd and Office Hours interview with him–Eric Klinenberg on Going Solo–on the syllabus. He cites many sociologists and sociological research in the NYT article. This article and the interview would be great for a Soc of Families class or any Intro class on the subject of families or individualism in Western culture.
In any discussion of families in the United States, we cannot forget about all the people (40-50% in prosperous American cities) who choose to live alone. He points out that, because of new technologies–cell phones, internet, social networking, etc.–people who live alone are not alienated or isolated in ways that they may have been twenty years ago. I love the counterintuitive finding that people who live alone are actually more social than those with families.
This article and interview would be great for use in the classroom because many young people today view living alone as somewhat of a ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood, but do not envision themselves living along in middle-age. It would be very interesting to get students’ perspectives on this topic. Some discussion questions to get to conversation going or to have them answer at home:
1. Have you ever lived alone? Do you see yourself living alone at any time in the future? What are the advantages to living alone in your opinion? What are the disadvantages?
2. How is privilege related to living alone? Who gets to live alone and who doesn’t?
3. What do you think of Klinenberg’s point that people who live alone are actually more social than people who live with families?
4. Klinenberg discusses the internet and cellphones as tools that allow people to feel connected to others even when they live alone. How often do you communicate with people through text or on social networking sites like Facebook? How do you think this compares to face-to-face interaction? Do you think the rise in digital communication is a positive or negative development? Why?