What is Sociology? What’s this class about? Why are we here?

Introduction to Sociology Spring 2008 Prof. Steve Zavestoski

Goals for Class Today
Housekeeping: the syllabus, assignments, the wiki, attendance, etc. Finish defining/discussing what “society” is Discuss what sociology is and introduce founding thinkers and their concepts Discuss “Student Participation in the College Classroom” and create guidelines for ensuring broad participation in class discussions Collaboratively define goals for the semester (i.e., learning outcomes)

What is “Society”?
infrastructure that develops around humans interactions, who we interact with (and how) hierarchy, social norms, rules, institutions
These were definitions brainstormed in class. We will revisit them throughout the semester.

Why society?

We increase our survival chances by coordinating our activities with others

What is “Sociology”?
Sociology is the scientific study of interactions and relations among human beings Sociology is a way of looking at our social world, a way of thinking, and a set of concepts that facilitate critical and informed answers to questions like:
Why are we here? Why do people do what they do? Why are things the way they are?

Why did sociology emerge?
Enlightenment, scientific and industrial revolutions led to Belief in logical explanations for things (not religious ones) Rapid social change Confusion, anomie about people’s place in the world

Sociology’s founders
Émile Durkheim Mechanical Solidarity-society held together by sameness (shared interests and similar circumstances lead to shared ideas, values and goals) Organic Solidarity-modern, diverse societies lack shared values, but are held together by interdependence

More concepts
Ferdinand Tönnies Gemeinschaft-relationships that are ends in themselves, emotion-based Gesellschaft-relationships that are a means to an end

More concepts
Max Weber rational behavior-calculating, meansto-end nonrational behavior-no goal in mind, aimed at appreciating the experience

More concepts
Karl Marx All of society and all social behavior can be explained in economic terms: the bourgeoisie own the means of production and the proletariat who have nothing but their labor to sell

“Student Participation in the College Classroom”
More interactions between students and professor in smaller than in large classes Regardless of size about the same # of students participate small # of students account for most of interactions

Students don’t talk because: They determine whether a teacher really wants participation consolidation of responsibility teachers rarely call directly on someone

Students’ previous history predisposes them to view the college classroom as a place where professor dispenses knowledge and students acquire knowledge When challenged to think critically, students take critiques of their ideas as criticisms of themselves

The value of thinking sociologically...
Student participation, or the lack thereof, in college classrooms does not just happen. Rather, A combination of factors--including different definitions of the situation by teachers and students, prior experiences, infrequency of exams, gender of teacher-shape the patterns of participation

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