Category Archives: lectures

Teaching about Whiteness, Part 1: Whiteness as a Visa

Teaching about whiteness is a sensitive subject that requires tact, humility, and patience.  While learning about whiteness is critical for all students, regardless of race, the subjective connections many white students have to whiteness itself can stir up intense emotions we must be ready to wrestle with.  Learning about white privilege forces white students to grapple with the ubiquity of unquestioned worldviews and assumptions about their biographies.  It also forces white students to interrogate their experiences as beneficiaries of a set of social, economic and political advantages.  In short, confronting whiteness necessitates a self-imposed threat to one’s integrity and achievements attributed to individual will.

I.  You can begin your lecture by presenting students with a couple of scenarios.

Active learning exercises

  • Imagine a scenario in which a black woman and a white woman are both shopping in the same grocery store.  After collecting all of their items, both women enter the same checkout line.  The white woman is before the black woman in line.  When the white woman is checking out, she presents the cashier with a check.  The cashier accepts the check and completes the transaction.  When the black woman is checking out, she also presents the cashier with a check.  However, the cashier says “I’m going to have to see some identification.”   The cashier also makes clear that the ID must be a state/government-issued ID (e.g. Driver’s license, passport).  Student ID’s or employee badges are unacceptable.  How did whiteness function (or not) for each woman?
  • Kareem is a 23-year old African-American male.  He’s applied for several jobs without receiving a call back from prospective employers.  After several fruitless attempts to find work, Kareem decides to deliberately use his middle name, John, on all subsequent job applications.  Within two days of submitting an application, Kareem receives a call from a prospective employer asking him to come in for an interview.  How do you see Kareem’s interview unfolding?

II.   Here are some questions to orient class discussion.

  • How is a commitment to whiteness also a commitment to white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, and heteropatriarchy?
  • Whose whiteness is accepted/declined?  What social contexts promote one outcome over the other?
  • How will your students become more responsible or achieve what some describe as “color consciousness”?

III.  Next, introduce the image below.

whiteness visa

It’s everywhere you want to be.

IV.   Ask students what they think this image implies.
 
V.   Here are four metaphorical meanings to consider.

    1. Visa as the credit card.  “It’s everywhere you want to be.”  The issue is that it’s also everywhere I (and other people of color) want to be too.
    2. Visa (as a travel authorization document).  I see whiteness operating as a sort of passport for some, as well as a pass-port for certain others (i.e. mixed-race or racially-ambiguous folk).
    3. Visa as a form of currency constantly being exchanged between all racial/ethnic groups within the interpersonal marketplaces of society.  This means that whiteness is not solely exercised by whites, but also appropriated by nonwhites.
    4. Similar to an actual Visa credit card, whiteness is a transnational form of currency accepted worldwide and often wielded as a means of legitimating imperialist aims.

To learn more about whiteness and other un-interrogated cognitive frames, feel free to check out the following literature:

References

Feagin, Joe R.  2010.  The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Lipsitz, George. 2006.  The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics.  Philadelphia, PA: Temple             University Press.

Mills, Charles W. 1997.  The Racial Contract. New York, NY: Cornell University Press.

Teaching about Racism in the Here & Now

 

Below is the last (for now) post from our guest blogger, Nathan Palmer.  Nathan’s work can be followed at www.sociologysource.com

Does race still matter? This is my day one question for students in my race & ethnicity courses. Many students walk into my class on the first day thinking that racism, prejudice, and discrimination are issues that were solved in the 1960s. Frequently I hear, “”well things aren’t perfect, but they sure are getting better all the time.”  Countless students have said to me, “How much racism can there be if we have a Black president?” While I see this line of thinking more often from my white students, I have had many students of color share this mindset. Using very recent current events can convince students that racism is not a thing of the past but a very real part of our present.

Even students who believe and know that racism is alive and well are typically unaware of the numerous current events that many feel are clear examples of racism. Students are surprised to hear that just this August a Mississippi middle school barred students of color from running for class president. Most students have not heard about the controversy surrounding the firing of Shirley Sherrod over claims of racism. Students are unaware that two ROTC students spread cotton in front of the Black Culture Center at the University of Missouri in February. They are shocked to learn that, also during this past February, a student hung a noose in the UC San Diego library and shortly thereafter a UCSD fraternity put on a “ghetto themed” party called the “Compton Cookout” where guests were invited to dress like thugs and “Nappy Headed Hoes.” I tell my students that this is by no means an exhaustive list. You could also discuss the recent Arizona Immigration laws, or the recent controversy over “Dr. Laura” using the N-Word multiple times on air.

As we go through each of these news events and facts I say over and over again that I am not saying each of these events is evidence of racism. I am simply showing them examples of what others have called racism. This is crucial, because it avoids any debate about the incidents and it keeps students from feeling bullied or steamrolled. Also, students are savvy enough to draw their own conclusions.

I wrap up the discussion by asking my class, “If racism is a thing of the past, why is it in the news so frequently?” “If we have civil rights laws on the books and a Black president, why do we continue to talk about the dead issue of racism?” Needless to say, my students always seem to see the ridiculousness of these questions.



NYC Pro-Muslim Rally Marching On Sept. 11th, 2010

Hero Making

Below Nathan Palmer, faculty in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Georgia Southern University, shares some great ideas on how to teach students about making heroes, the social construction of reality, and rituals.

DC Hero Minifigs - Wave 11

Students are filing into a large lecture hall. An empty stage in front of them with a simple black text on white background powerpoint slide reads, “What if we treated sociologists as celebrities or sports heroes?” At 9:00 am exactly the lights dim and a hyped up song begins to play. Students are looking around the room for answers when over the speakers they hear, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please as we announce tonight’
s starting lineup for your very own Georgia Southern Eagles! Starting at teacher hailing from the University of Nebraska, it’s NAAATHAAAAN PAAALMEEER!!!” The music reaches a crescendo as I storm in from the back of the auditorium, slapping high fives with students as I make my way to the stage. Once on the stage I pour baby powder in my hands and throw it in the air mimicking LeBron James’s pre-game ritual. Then I point both my fingers to one side of the room just like the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt does.

Heroes, Celebrities, and Constructing Reality
The music stops. When the students stop laughing hysterically I start a discussion about how we “make sports heroes.” We talk about the lights, music, the announcer’s tone of voice, the crowd participation and all the other rituals we do across the country at sporting events. This is a great way to discuss the social construction of reality in a way that students really connect with. I also bring in Durkheim’s insights about rituals and community building. Nowhere in the United States is there a more naked concerted effort to clearly define an “us” and a “them” as there is at sporting events.

Typically my students want to take the conversation beyond sports and look at pop-culture celebrity making. This is an easy transition given that the way we make pop-culture celebrities is very similar to sports hero making. Students talk about movie trailers with quick cuts and a dramatic voice over. They talk about TMZ, Extra!, and other celebrity news magazines that prop up the most mundane behaviors as being amazing and trend setting.

Inevitably, one student will say, “I hate celebrities and sports heroes. The real heroes of the world are Pat Tillman and the men and women who serve our country.” This is a excellent opportunity to talk about the rhetorical frames we use to describe soldiers. I will ask the class, “How do we talk about soldiers and the military in the United States when we want to honor them?” The class is quick to use words like sacrifice, bravery, courage, and honor. This demonstrates to the class that even when talk about people who do more than score a touchdown or star in a movie, we still use symbols and rhetorical devices to socially construct a heroic reality for them.

Making Your Intro Music
Creating your audio introduction is fairly easy. I buy a high energy top 40 song off of iTunes each semester so that my students will immediately recognize the song. iTunes is great because you can buy a “clean” or censored version of the song and it will only cost you $1.29. Most recently I used the song “Winner” by Jamie Foxx. After you pick a song you can use free programs like Audacity on a PC or GarageBand on a Mac to record your “announcer intro” and then mix the track with the song you’ve chosen.

Teaching symbolic interaction is typically something we all do during the first weeks of a introduction to sociology course. This activity is especially good because it affords us an opportunity to break student expectations early. As I am sure is apparent by now, this activity takes a fair amount of courage on your part. However, by putting yourself out there, so to speak, you can shatter student preconceptions about professors and college classes. You can also rest assured that your students will leave class and tell all their friends about what they learned in sociology today.

Teaching as Theater
The reality is, if you are teaching 100+ students in a large lecture hall you are doing performance theater like it or not. When students walk into a theater sized classroom and when you stand on a stage with a microphone, it should surprise no one that students expect to be entertained. As sociologists we have a unique opportunity to play with student expectations and violate norms in a way that both makes for good pedagogy and good theater.

Survey Methods

Please welcome Guest Blogger, Nathan Palmer. Nathan is faculty in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Georgia Southern University, where he teaches Introduction to Sociology, Social Problems, and Environmental Sociology. Nathan’s research interests are focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning, inequality, education, and environmental sociology.

Nathan is also the editor of the teaching sociology focused blog SociologySource.com.  The post below is the first in a series of 3 posts by Nathan.

2010 Census

Teaching students how to design a survey can be tricky because the process is deceptively easy. Students think, “Hey, I have taken tons of surveys before. How hard can it be?” They then proceed to break every rule of good design that you discussed in class.

A simple, quick, yet effective activity to teach good survey design is to have your students take a survey that is horribly designed. I tell my students that I want no talking and then pass out a survey about internet usage (download it here). Every question on the survey is either double barreled, leading, biased, or has response options that make no sense or overlap. After a few minutes I tell them to stop and ask what they think of the survey. They uniformly say it’s awful.

Students really like this activity. Typically they laugh out loud when reading the questions. I have them pair up and identify everything that is wrong with the questions. As a class we go through each question picking it apart. We then formulate new questions that don’t violate any of the basic survey design rules.

The activity is also beneficial because students get to take home an example of what not to do that they can compare their work against when creating their own survey. Pedagogically I really like this activity because it has the students playing an active role in their education. Also, the “bad survey” is formatted well so you can tell your students that their survey should look like the example you gave them, but with much better questions.

Download the Survey (pdf Version)

article on integrating multimedia into coursework and classrooms

YouTube website screenshotThe June issue of the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (Volume 5, Number 2) has a great article on multimedia options for the classroom by sociologist Michael Miller at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The article, entitled “Integrating Online Multimedia into College Course and Classroom: With Application to the Social Sciences,” describes “an approach for efficiently incorporating online media resources into course and classroom.”

The article discusses pedagogical rationale for making use of online media resources, as well as types of materials that can and should be used, locating and delivering programs and clips, as well as technical issues, like copyright obligations. The piece also deals with some of the most common problems that instructors and students have when using online materials.

Read the article.

films on social movements

negative textureAs always, we at Teaching the Social World advocate the use of technology and multimedia materials to spice up any course, and including films during class time is a great way to keep students engaged in the material.

On her website, University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Pamela Oliver posts a list of great films and clips to show for sociology instructors teaching about social movements. [Note: Oliver replicates this collection of films from a social movements listserv, unnamed on the page.]

  • There is a BBC documentary on the Tienanmen movement which illustrates very well many collective action problems and is substantively gripping and emotional. Its title is “The Gates of the Heavenly Place” and should be available from www.bbc.co.uk
  • There are a number of videos about the anti-corporate globalization movement. Most of them have been made by the movement themselves, and thus have a fair amount of boosterism. One of the better ones is “This is What Democracy Looks Like” about the protests in Seattle. Its available from Big Noise Productions http://www.thisisdemocracy.org/order.html Another one is Breaking the Bank – about the protests against the World Bank/IMF in Washington http://www.whisperedmedia.org/btheb.html
  • There’s an interesting documentary on Stonewall and the gay/lesbian rights movement that is available through PBS. There is also “Making Sense of the Sixties” that is useful in tracking various movements. I’ve also used the series “Chicano!: History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement” and the series “Eyes on the Prize I” and “Eyes on the Prize II” (civil rights movement) because they are both useful in showing the rifts, grassroots involvement, and government involvement/infiltration in their respective movements.
  • Beyond the many good suggestions already offered for videos to teach about social movements, another rich video series is “A Force More Powerful: Nonviolent Action in the 20th Century.” This new PBS series is six 30 minute stand-alone sessions describing and analyzing six different campaigns: Nashville student sit-ins of 60s with Jim Lawson; Indian independence with Gandhi; South African transition to democracy; Philippines people power revolution in mid-80s; Solidarity in Poland in the 80s; and a sixth that escapes me at the moment. All are excellent, and just the right length for classroom use, followed by discussion. There is also a companion book by Peter Ackerman, with same title.
  • A great film that I always use in teaching social movements is: “Freedom On My Mind” which documents Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. What really makes the film great is the juxtoposition of clips from 64 and interviews with participants 30 years later, including Bob Moses, Heather Booth, and grassroots Black leaders from Mississippi.
  • Another excellent film is “The War At Home” about the movement against the Vietnam War on the Madison campus of the U. of Wisconsin. I also recommend With God On Our Side, an excellent multi-part documentary series made for PBS about the rise of the Christian Right. The documentary series is a supplement to William Martin’s book of the same name. It would be a useful contrast with Eyes on the Prize to show how religion influences social movement activists in very different ways.
  • In my class on the Civil Rights Movement, in addition to segments from the extraordinary “Eyes on the Prize” series and “Freedom on My Mind” already mentioned, I also show as background “A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom,” which connects the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the person of E.D. Nixon, Randolph’s connection to the March on Washington movement, and much more. The segment on the Child Development Group of Mississippi from the 5-part “America’s War on Poverty” series is a useful follow-up to what happened in 1965 after the Freedom Summer of 1964.
  • For my class on Gender and Social Movements I show the excellent two-hour “One Woman, One Vote” program on the Woman Suffrage Movement. I also show between the “One Woman, One Vote” segments program 5, “Outrage,” from the British “Shoulder to Shoulder” series, on the Pankhurst family, to add some excitement and a bit of international perspective.
  • “Before Stonewall” is excellent on the origins of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movements; the sequel “After Stonewall” is good but more difuse and scattered (I don’t show it). I do use “The Times of Harvey Milk” as a wonderful introduction to the politics of the GLBT movement, as well as an essential part of local (northern California) history — it shocks and grips our 20-year-old students who weren’t born when Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated, and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s career was relaunched.
  • On women in the labor movement, there is a very moving segment on the “revolt of the 6000,” the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, and its consequences in part 4 of the “New York” series. And finally there is the old standby, “Union Maids,” on women in labor and the left in the 1930s and 40s, now available in video to replace your university’s tattlered celluloid film.
  • I’ve also taught a class on the Conservation and Environmental Movement, which has been less systematically documented in videos than the movements above. “Battle for the Wilderness” is good on the early conflict between John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, between preservationism and utilitarianism in conservation. “For Earth’s Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower,” is a little too much a personal tribute, but it introduces this remarkable leader and his involvement with the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and Earth Island Institute. On the 30-year struggle against strip-mining in eastern Kentucky, I’d recommend “To Save the Land and People, ” a video from Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY. I also use “Butterfly” on Julia Butterfly Hill, which is problematic but involves young students and is a jumping off point for a good discussion.
  • On the student movement of the 1960s, I’ve found “Berkeley in the Sixties” to be most useful; good cuts from past to present, the activists are reflective and often self-critical, and it gives a good feel for the importance of the civil rights movement boosting student protest, the Vietnam War, the rise of Black Power, and the beginnings of the women’s movement. Better in several of these respects than the recent film on SDS (IMHO). Of course again we gain student interest from the local history aspect of Berkeley.
  • Women Make Movies in NYC has some excellent films on the women’s movements in the US, the Beijing Conference, and one on cultural feminism focusing on punk music artists.
  • “Ballot Measure 9″ — on activism surrounding the Oregon anti-gay ballot measures. And the PBS documentary, “Mean Things Happening” (part of the Great Depression series), about labor organizing in the 1930s.

Read more.

how to recognize plagiarism

Day 317 and Pencil Me In!Indiana University has a fantastic web-based tutorial that outlines how to recognize plagiarism, and even includes an ‘identifying plagiarism’ quiz that provides writing samples and outlines the right and wrong way to cite primary or secondary source material.

The Basics:

  • You use another person’s ideas, opinions, or theories.
  • You use facts, statistics, graphics, drawings, music, etc., or any other type of information that does not comprise common knowledge.
  • You use quotations from another person’s spoken or written word.
  • You paraphrase another person’s spoken or written word.

Recommendations:

  • Begin the writing process by stating your ideas; then go back to the author’s original work.
  • Use quotation marks and credit the source (author) when you copy exact wording.
  • Use your own words (paraphrase) instead of copying directly when possible.
  • Even when you paraphrase another author’s writings, you must give credit to that author.
  • If the form of citation and reference are not correct, the attribution to the original author is likely to be incomplete. Therefore, improper use of style can result in plagiarism. Get a style manual and use it.

Head to the tutorial page…

Identifying plagiarism — 10 items

Take the plagiarism test and print out a certificate…

Podcasting in the Classroom

Is a recording of a lecture a substitute for the real thing? A new study by psychologist Dani McKinney suggests that the answer may be “Yes.” (via New Scientist).

In fact, a podcast of a lecture may be better. Students watching a podcast can pause and rewind through missed points, they can pick their strongest time of the day to focus, and they can wear headphones to tune out distractions.

Just as students can stumble into a lecture hall and nap in the back row, simply listening to a podcast isn’t as important as how the students use the podcast: students who listened to the podcast one or more times and took notes while listening actually scored better on the test than students attending the lecture.

All the usual disclaimers apply: this was just one study of only 64 students, in one lecture, with one test. However, it does encourage us to take a closer look at podcasts as a powerful tool for teaching.

about podcasts

Podcasts are like radio or television shows you can download to your computer and listen to or watch wherever and whenever you want, on your computer or on a portable player such as an iPod. All you need to start podcasting is a podcasting client, such as iTunes.

contexts has a podcast!

If you want to hear an example, I’ll shamelessly plug our very own Contexts Podcast. We release episodes every other week and each episode features an interview with leading scholars—frequently authors from our magazine—and discussions of our favorite discoveries. Each episode is about 20-25 minutes long and are great to listen to on your daily commute or even to assign to your students to compliment your own course material.

On our podcast homepage we have links to many other podcasts listed in the sidebar that you may find interesting. If you find other good ones: let us know & we can recommend those too!

teaching with podcasts

But this post started with a study of podcasting lectures themselves, not just using them as supplementary course material. But podcasting your own lecture isn’t that hard, and some sociologists are doing it already, such as Gianpaolo Baiocchi’s Sociology of Race Relations (iTunes link), and Tina Fetner’s Intro to Sociology (iTunes Link).

If your university participates in iTunes U (for example, our home, The University of Minnesota, does), then it’s easy to get your podcast put online where others can find it. With the rise in online distance education, universities are increasingly well-equipped to handle this sort of thing, so ask around on your campus. Hopefully, you’ll find IT support people excited you’re trying something new & willing to help. (I know we benefited greatly from help from our college’s IT unit when we got started.)

Remember the study’s findings though! Encourage your students to listen to each lecture twice, or at least go back to the parts they struggled with later. Also, the students who did the best had printouts of slides to follow along with as well. And they still took notes, even though they weren’t in the physical class room.

constructing the syllabus

Still not bright enoughFor many instructors, putting together a syllabus is the first (and often daunting) step toward a new teaching experience. A few years ago, at the American Sociological Association’s annual meetings, a panel on ‘Teaching Sociology for Beginners’ dealt with syllabus construction, among a number of other topics aimed to provide more resources for first-time instructors of introductory-level courses. The sociology department at the University of Buffalo has made some of these materials available electronically. 

Check out the links below.

managing conflict

Managing conflict with students in the classroom is something that many instructors struggle with. Both new teachers and those with years of experience often express anxiety and frustration about how to address some of these issues. The following tutorials are provided by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

Why is it important to address these issues?

Managing a classroom well–balancing your instructional authority with your students’ concerns–comes with experience. Sometimes painful experience! Small problems poorly handled can distract you from teaching well and cast a pall on the semester. And while many are ready to complain about situations, we don’t often engage in constructive talk about how to manage and minimize the troublesome issues when they arise.

These scenarios help instructors think about what to do when a student complains about a great, doesn’t think s/he will ever ‘get’ the concept, misses work because of a sick child, disputes classroom or assignment directions, or asks you to meet off campus.

How to use the tutorial:

Select a scene (see below) and you’ll have a chance to view an encounter between a student and an instructor.

Following the clip, you’ll likely want to think about how you might have handled the situation—there’s no single correct approach. After you’ve formulated an opinion, you can choose to listen to several teaching consultants to see how they might have worked with the student to resolve the conflict.

Transcripts of both the scene and the advice are available on every page and further resources can be found on the workshop’s resources page.

Take a look at the scenes below…

Scene 1 – Why Did You Take Points Off?
Scene 2 – I’ll Never Get It!
Scene 3 – Could You Talk to the Professor for Us?
Scene 4 – It’s a Zoo in Here!
Scene 5 – Let’s Meet for Coffee
Scene 6 – I Had to Go to a Funeral
Scene 7 – Sorry, but I Don’t Always Understand You
Scene 8 – Do the Problem for Me!
Scene 9 – I Had a Sick Child!
Scene 10 – You Never Told Us That!