One of TSP’s newer additions is The Reading List, which is (the start of) a compilation of both classic and new research that can help inform our understanding of current events. Soon, it will be organized by theme, so don’t forget to check it out as you plan your courses!
The Office Hours Team recently sat down with Dr. David Garland, professor of sociology and law at New York University. He spoke with the team about his most recent book, Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in the Age of Abolition. The podcast, found here, would be a great assignment, as it provides a concise review of key arguments he makes in the book. Below are a few discussion questions you could use in class or assign with the podcast.
1) In Garland’s eyes, why is the death penalty a peculiar U.S. institution?
2) What reasons are usually given in favor of the death penalty in the U.S., and what does Garland think about them?
3) Are there patterns found among defendants on death row?
4) Do you have an opinion about the use of the death penalty in the U.S.? If so, what is it?
5) What is one thing you learned from this podcast?
If the questions are assigned as homework:
6) Conduct some quick online research. When did states start outlawing the death penalty? How many states allow it?
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:
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?
I posted last month about The Society Pages’ Roundtable entitled Laughter and the Political Landscape but realized I didn’t link to the Office Hours interview with Heather LaMarre. The interview is a great addition to the Roundtable because it addresses two main points that I think are crucial for using this in the classroom:
1. that political humor is not made or consumed exclusively by political liberals (11:15), and
2. she asks what effect this type of political humor may have on the way young people participate in politics? (17:52)
“The big question is going to be whether people under 30, since they’ve sort of grown up in this era of political satire and entertainment…are themselves as a generation developing a sense of humor about politics that’s good for democracy or a disgust about politics that’s bad for democracy? And that remains to be seen.”
What do your students think??
TSP’s Sarah Lageson recently sat down with Megan Comfort to talk about her research on women in relationships with incarcerated men. You can read a summary of the fascinating interview here and listen to the entire interview here.
This interview would be particularly useful to demonstrate the effects of prisons beyond the incarcerated individual. Below are a few discussion questions that can be used with the interview.
1. Briefly explain “presence creation” in your own words and provide an example.
2. What were some of the key things that women in Comfort’s study valued about their relationships with incarcerated men? Did any surprise you? Why or why not?
3. Can you think of any examples of secondary prisonalization that you’ve seen first-hand or heard about through friends or family?
Earlier this week, a guest on NPR noted that Abraham Lincoln took second (to Jesus) in the number of books written about a modern historical figure. Wow!! It’s clear that he is one of the most remembered U.S. Presidents.
The TSP Reading List suggestion for Presidents’ Day, “History, Commemoration, and Belief: Abraham Lincoln in American Memory, 1945-2001,” explores how Abraham Lincoln is remembered in the U.S. This would be a great article to assign during a unit on collective memory. Before the students read the article, have them each quickly write about how/why they remember Abraham Lincoln. Afterward, survey the class to see if they remember him as the Great Emancipator (the primary memory found in the article), the Savior of the Union, the Man of the People, the Self-Made Man, or the First Frontier American. This article would go well with Gary Alan Fine’s “Reputational Entrepreneurs and the Memory of Incompetence: Melting Supporters, Partisan Warriors, and Images of President Harding.”
The Society Pages’ first White Paper, published earlier this month, focuses on the intersections of politics and sport. White Papers are in-depth explorations of relevant topics in the social sciences and will be an ongoing part of The Society Pages. We recommend using this White Paper, “Politics and Sports: Strange, Secret Bedfellows” by Kyle Green and Doug Hartmann, in your classroom as a great overview of the politics of sports…and the sport of politics.
This easy-to-read and informative paper explores many topics relevant to your students. Here are a few:
The Society Pages’ second Roundtable, Laughter and the Political Landscape, asked media and communication scholars to reflect on political humor and satire. The Roundtable would be a great resource in any class or section on media and politics. I may be outing myself here as a complete addict of The Daily Show, but how can you not use The Daily Show for a section on political humor?!
The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are very lefty (even though Stephen Colbert’s bit is as a staunch conservative), but wherever your students are politically, these shows serve as a great example of using satire in a surface way (focusing on a politician’s physical characteristics, for example), as well as a tool to criticize their character and politics.
The Roundtable poses the question of how political humor works to engage young people in politics. You could use the Roundtable discussion to get a conversation going in your class about how students understand and digest political humor as well as their perceptions of its potential for encouraging political engagement.
In need of some last minute ideas for your sociology 101 course? Nathan Palmer has compiled a great set of lecture slides, activities, syllabi, and assignments that you can download for free! Here is the link.