Thinking Sociologically, Seeing Sociologically

Introduction to Sociology Spring 2008 Prof. Steve Zavestoski

Goals for Class Today
Housekeeping: the syllabus, assignments, the wiki, attendance, etc. Create guidelines for ensuring broad participation in class discussions Collaboratively define goals for the semester (i.e., learning outcomes) The Sociological Imagination

What’s this class about?
We’re all participants in society And if you make observations about what goes on around you, you’re also a sociologist (just not a very good one, yet) Intro to Sociology should give you:
a new way of thinking about the observations you make, a way of making them more systematically and critically, and some concepts and tools to make your observations more carefully

Why all the emphasis on discussion?
It forces each of us to develop our own ideas and reactions to the topics and issues raised in the readings everyone’s interpretation of (and reaction to) the readings and topics of discussion is different Through discussion: our own ideas are challenged, expanded, and refined

expressing your own ideas during discussion allows you to hear those ideas verbalized rather than simply holding them in your mind, and
hearing your own ideas initiates a self-discovery process in which you come to see yourself in a new way (a form of “self-learning”); because no one will ever know how what goes unspoken during a discussion might have taken the discussion in another direction, changed others’ viewpoints, or changed one’s own viewpoints.

How can we create an environment in the classroom that allows everyone to feel comfortable with participating in discussions?
Everybody has something valuable to say; silence following someone’s comment or question is not an indication of the quality of the comment; in discussing/debating a topic we address issues and ideas, not people; it is not necessary to sound academic or intellectual; if a comment is made or a question is asked that is not understood, an attempt should be made to understand the question before moving on.

Learning Outcomes

See wiki

The Sociological Imagination
Who’s in charge: Society or the individual? Are problems in society the result of personal troubles or public issues?

Suicide: Personal Trouble or Public Issue?
Durkheim found higher suicide rates in Protestant regions of France than in Catholic regions. Why? The social organization of Catholicism resulted in greater integration of its followers Society shapes suicide patterns through the integration and regulation of its members

Skepticism
Always questioning common explanations for things by identifying both the manifest and latent functions of social things
Why don’t we make eye contact with strangers when walking down the street? Why are tatoos so popular recently?