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TEACHING > INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY

 

This course is an introduction to the study of Sociology that is designed to help students develop their sociological imaginations. It introduces the core concepts and principles sociologists use to understand and evaluate society. It focuses on all aspects of society: culture; social interaction; institutions; group processes; deviance and social control; stratification, diversity, and inequality based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, etc.; and social stability and change.

 

Syllabus

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Differentiate between and apply sociological theories as a framework for understanding and evaluating society;
  • Identify problems we face in modern society and understand some of their complexities and how they affect your life;
  • Learn to think critically and creatively about society and social issues.

To download a sample syllabus with class policies click here.

Introduction to Sociology

  • Week 1: Course Introduction
  • Week 2: The Sociological Imagination and Methods
  • Week 3: Culture and Media
  • Week 4: Socialization
  • Week 5: Groups and Networks
  • Week 6: Social Control and Deviance
  • Week 7: Exam 1
  • Week 8: Stratification and Poverty
  • Week 9: Gender
  • Week 10: Race
  • Week 11: Health and Society
  • Week 12: Exam 2
  • Week 13: Education
  • Week 14: Religion
  • Week 15: Authority and the State & Collective Action and Social Change
  • Finals Week: Exam 3

Required Text

  • Dalton Conley. 2015. You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist. Fourth Edition. New York: W. W. Norton.
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Course Modules

There is a course website with a page for each week that contains links to lecture videos and slides, assignments, exams, and additional resources.

In the first week of class we will:

  • Get acquainted
  • Review the syllabus and course requirements
  • Learn how sociologists approach the study of society

Reading: Conley Chapter 1

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Define the sociological imagination.
  • Construct informed arguments about why they should or should not drop out of college.
  • Identify the key founders of sociology and their contributions.
  • Analyze the social changes that led key founders of sociology to treat society as an object of inquiry.
  • Explain major sociological theoretical frameworks like symbolic interaction theory, conflict theory, and feminist theory.
  • Diagram the overlaps between sociology and other disciplines like anthropology, history, economics, political science, and biology.

Paradox: A successful sociologist makes the familiar strange.

Reading: Conley Chapter 2

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Understand the difference between correlation and causation.
  • Explain why reverse causality makes it hard to tell which of the variables is truly the dependent variable.
  • Contrast the major distinctions and functional advantages and disadvantages of qualitative and quantitative research designs.
  • Create a research question with a clear hypothesis, a dependent variable, and an independent variable (or variables).
  • Explain how researchers meet their ethical responsibilities to their subjects.
  • Discuss why researchers have more power than their subjects.

Paradox: If we successfully answer one question, it only spawns others. There is no moment when a social scientist's work is done.

Assignment: Quiz/Review Questions

Reading: Conley Chapter 3

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Define culture and ethnocentrism.
  • Explain why sociologists try to overcome their ethnocentric beliefs when they study culture.
  • Discuss the relationship between culture and media, including the power dynamics of media and cultural production.
  • Define culture jamming using a real-world example.
  • Describe the consolidation patterns of media in America for broadcast media and the Internet.
  • Explain why it matters how identity categories like race, gender, and sexual orientation are expressed in mainstream media.

Paradox: Do mass media create social norms or merely reflect them? Culture is like two mirrors facing each other: it simultaneously reflects and creates the world we live in.

Assignments:

  • Video Exercises — Sociology in Practice: Class Dismissed and The Amish and Us
  • Photo Journal Entry

Reading: Conley Chapter 4

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Summarize the importance of social interaction in childhood development.
  • Compare and contrast Cooley's "looking glass self" and Mead's discussion of the difference between the "I" and the "me."
  • Explain how the family socializes youngsters.
  • Summarize the types of socialization that happen in conjunction with school, media, and peers and that continue through adult socialization.
  • Discuss the mechanisms total institutions use to resocialize members.
  • Define and understand the relationship between role and status in social interaction.
  • Analyze gender roles, role conflict, and role strain using ascribed status, achieved status, and master status.
  • Discuss the various theories and methodologies associated with the social construction of reality.

Paradox: The most important aspects of sociological life are those concepts we learn without anyone teaching us.

Assignments:

  • Census Data Activity and Questions
  • Photo Journal Entry

Reading: Conley Chapter 5

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • List the key characteristics of dyads and triads and understand the role of politics in these relationships.
  • Identify and distinguish among the different types of social groups.
  • Provide examples of how network characteristics shape commerce and health.
  • Explain how weak ties, embeddedness, and structural holes operate to constrain/enhance social relationships.
  • Describe how social networks shape the flow and exchange of social capital.
  • Describe how network relationships operate at the micro and the macro level.

Paradox: The most important aspects of sociological life are those concepts we learn without anyone teaching us.

Videos:

Assignments:

  • Sociology in Practice Video Exercises
  • Photo Journal Entry

Reading: Conley Chapter 6

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Compare and contrast formal and informal aspects of deviance and social control.
  • Explain how social solidarity has changed from premodern times to modern times.
  • Categorize the four types of suicide based on the level of regulation and integration in a society.
  • Explain how variations in the emphasis on appropriate goals and appropriate means to achieve them can lead to different kinds of social strain, and categorize the responses to strain.
  • Use labeling theory to explain the social processes involved in becoming a deviant.
  • Explain how labels themselves can affect deviant behavior through stigmas.
  • Distinguish between different types of crime.
  • Use different theories of crime reduction to propose and critique policies for crime reduction.

Paradox: It is the deviants among us who hold society together.

Videos:

Assignments:

  • Census Data Activity and Questions
  • Photo Journal Entry

Reading: Conley Chapter 6

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Differentiate between stratification and inequality.
  • Discuss different concepts of inequality, including inequality of opportunity and inequality of condition, using countervailing viewpoints about the functional outcome of inequality in society.
  • Contrast income and wealth.
  • Discuss structural mechanisms underlying wealth disparities, including the estate tax, returns to education, and returns to being in the power elite.
  • Analyze why the overwhelming majority of Americans describe themselves as being middle class.
  • Evaluate how the decline of the manufacturing sector, the link between people's behavior (hard work) and their perceptions of where they stand in the class hierarchy, and the relatively low poverty line are all part of why so many Americans think they are middle class.

Paradox: Inequality is the result of abundance.

Videos:

Assignment:

  • Photo Journal Entry

Reading: Conley Chapter 10

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Define poverty and differentiate between absolute poverty and relative poverty.
  • Compare and contrast inequality in the United States with inequality in other advanced economies.
  • Analyze why sociologists and politicians disagree on the reasons why poor people are poor.
  • Use Marlin Card as a case study to describe the everyday life choices poverty forces people to make.
  • List some of the assets of middle- and upper-class families that impoverished families might find out of their financial reach.
  • Discuss how having middle- and upper-class assets is related to intergenerational transfers of wealth (i.e., inheritance).
  • Discuss the barriers facing children born to poor parents. Include school and parenting impacts, and specifically, the parenting stress hypothesis.

Paradox: How do we help the poor without creating perverse incentives that induce more poverty in the long run?

  • Paradox Video

Videos:

Assignment:

  • Photo Journal Entry

Reading: Conley Chapter 8

Learning Objectives: After completing this module students should be able to:

  • Distinguish between sex and gender, and gender and sexuality.
  • Define feminism.
  • Discuss the impact of feminism on the study of gender.
  • Outline four ways in which women face different life outcomes than men, including graduation rates, wages, achieving top jobs (like law firm partnership positions and C-suite positions), and in the U.S. military.
  • Evaluate how norms around sexuality intersect with politics, especially homosexuality and teen sexuality.

Paradox: The biological categories of sex strongly influence the social dynamics of gender: however, the social categories of gender can sometimes determine the biology of sex.

Videos:

Additional Links and Resources:

Assignment:

  • Discussion of the video and lyrics to Beyoncé's song "Flawless"
  • Photo Journal Entry

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© Yvette Young. All Rights Reserved. Version Date 2016.