Class Calendar

Monday, September 15, 2014

In-n-out is not just for burgers!

In and out is not just for burgers, it is also for groups! Sociologists use the terms ingroup and outgroup to refer to groups that you are either a member of or not a member of. It is much easier to feel attached to the groups you are a part of and feel judgmental about your outgroups.

To illustrate this, today we separated the class into two different groups. Each group made a list of reasons why the other group was wearing what they were wearing. Every time I do this lesson, the reasons break down into judgments against the other group. This was a lesson about in-groups and out-groups. In discussing the different groups that makeup society, we see that there are in-groups and out-groups. An in-group is a group that you are a part of. You have membership in it, and because of that, you feel aligned to the group and you have ownership in it. By contrast, it becomes easier to judge the out-groups, or the groups you are not a part of. As this semester goes on, be mindful of the groups that we talk about that you are not a part of. You must make a conscious effort to understand these groups. Try to become conscious of your judgments so that you can also consciously work against them. Watch this video clip about the famous "Angry Eye" classroom lesson done in the 1960s by teacher Jane Elliot. Think about how you may have judged out-groups in your own life. Also, think about how you become allied and bonded with your in-groups. Can you see how this happens in society? Can you think of examples in your own life? video You can watch the whole video at Frontline's website.
I think that the point of sociological mindfulness is becoming more aware of others and part of that awareness is an understanding of how we may have portrayed that group in our own minds.  So understanding the idea of in-group/out-group dynamics is easy but applying it to ourselves is the challenging part.  In this TED talk by Sam Richards, he explains how understanding outgroups might lead to a radical experiment in  empathy.  Check it out:

Now think about your own life.  What are your in groups?  What are the outgroups that you could become more aware of, more empathetic to?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Complex You: Social Statuses & Roles

Today, we listed all of the groups that make each one of us who we are. A group can be as few as two but as many as millions of people.  Students listed groups like family, friends, clubs, sports, gender, ethnicity, music, sexuality, school, age, and others. And then we listed our position or status(es) within each group. This is the social construction of our own lives-we are made up of socially-constructed groups. These groups provide identity for individuals and they provide a structure for society.
I am always interested by all of the groups that students are influenced by and especially the unexpected groups that surprise me along the way. Sometimes it is someone who I never thought to be religious and they list a religion or sometimes it is someone who I never realized was black who lists her race as an important influence on her. All of these groups we belong to are the complex way we as individuals are made up and that is the way sociologists understand individuals; through their groups. For example, I am part of a family, a school, a group of friends and a neighborhood. In each of these groups I have a status (dad, teacher, friend) and each of these statuses comes with a role that is expected of me (make dinner, show up prepared for class, return a phone call, etc...).

These groups shape my life. For example after becoming a dad I will never be the same. I can't help looking at kids through the eyes of a parent; I think about music lyrics differently; I am overly critical and cognizant of my own behavior and manners etc... These groups can also come into conflict in an individual's daily life. For example, if I have to go home and cook dinner and my daughter demands attention, it is very difficult to get grading and lessons prepared for the next day, and if a friend calls to socialize or to get together, that becomes a third conflict. My roles as a parent, teacher and friend are all conflicting. This is called role conflict. There are also times when I experience what sociologists call role strain. That is when I am having difficulty meeting the expectations of one role. An example of this might be parenting. I have never been a parent before and so when my daughter is challenging me, I am not always certain how to react; do I give in, ignore or punish her? Some statuses we choose (achieved statuses) like those I already mentioned, but sometimes we are not given a choice (ascribed statuses) like that of a balding man. Don't get me wrong - I thank goodness everyday that Michael Jordan
brought baldness back into fashion in the 90s and I hope it stays there, but I am definitely not choosing this 'do :-).

I hope this exercise helps students see that our class might seem homogeneous but really it is quite diverse. The unique diversity comes from each person's membership in different groups. I hope this is another way we can become sociologically mindful of each other in the class; that is, we can appreciate each person's unique membership in different groups.  This way we can be more understanding of each other and more compassionate for each other.
Some ideas for posting on your own blog: Explain more thoroughly about the groups that make up who you are. What is your status in that group? Which statuses are ascribed and which are achieved for you?  Have you experienced role conflict or strain? Which groups memberships were you surprised to learn about in our class?  Can you see how this lesson increases your sociological mindfulness of both yourself and our class?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sociological Imagination v. Mindfulness

He doesn't speak Spanish, but he probably speaks Mexican!

Please answer the following questions on the page after Gang Leader for a Day in your packet:
Review from yesterday:
1.  What does it mean to study macro sociology?
2.  What does it mean to study micro sociology?
3.  How is the Abandon Ship activity an example of the social construction of reality and the sociological imagination?

Questions from the Gang Leader reading:
4.  How was Venkatesh's survey flawed?  What are the limitations of using it?
5.  How does Venkatesh decide to study his subject in the end?  What might that research reveal that he would not have known from the survey?

Sudhir Venkatesh explores so much in his book Gang Leader for a Day. You can read an excerpt from the book and download Venkatesh reading and talking about his book from NPR.   I want to use the excerpt to show you that there are different ways that sociologists do research and each way has its benefits and drawbacks.  In this case, Venkatesh sets out to do a quantitative survey, but then he changes to a qualitative observation.  Can you identify some of the ways sociologists might do research and the advantages and disadvantages of each?  (See your textbook for more info on this.)  If you could design a study to examine something from our school, what would you study and how would you research it?  Can you think of both quantitative and qualitative ways to study it?   Can you see how sociologists need both quantatative data and qualitative data to study their subjects? Which do you feel is better for measuring how much you learn in class, quantitative tests like multiple choice or qualitative testing like essays?
Here is Venkatesh speaking on the Colbert Report and he explains that there are important ways of doing research correctly:

Here is a quiz based on sociological research.  Take the quiz and answer True or False for each.  Answer quickly using common sense.  Then scroll down to the bottom of this post to check your answers and see what the point is.

For more about Venkatesh:
Here is Venkatesh speaking about his book and the research he did.  Lastly, here is an interview at between Venkatesh and Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here).

For more examples of research:
Here is an example of some sociological research from the Pew center.  Notice how the researchers conducted their research.  Choose a study and look for:
1. What were the study's findings?
2.  How did they gather evidence for this finding?
Another example is JSTOR, an online database that you can search by subject.  Click here for the SHS JSTOR Advanced search.  Scroll down to select "sociology" then search any subject you would like.

Answers to the Quiz:
Okay, ready?  All of the answers to this quiz are based on sociological research.  What is important is that research often reveals contradictions to common sense.  That is why sociology is based on research and evidence and not just one person's opinion about society.  So, the answers to the quiz are all false.  That's right!  Go check.  There are reasons that explain each answer.  So, don't be tricked into thinking that sociology is common sense.  Sociology might study everyday life and common issues but the understanding of this might be anything but common sense.

Remembering 9/11

September 11, 2001 was earth shattering for those who were living through it.  Over the years, stories and lessons have emerged from that day.  So, on the anniversary of 9/11, I want to post about it as a way of remembering those who died that day but also to learn something from that day.  My own personal experience was that I was teaching sociology in a room in the 2900 hallway when Mr. Frantonius came into my room in a hurry and said turn on your TV, the pentagon is on fire and the world trade center is on fire.  We turned on the TV to live coverage and we watched the mayhem including live footage of the crash into tower 2 of the World Trade Center.   I remember leaving and trying to figure out what to tell my students in non-western cultures class third period.  Then, I had to travel to the other building and going outside was transformational - it was a beautiful sunny september day and the birds were singing oblivious to the horrors that people were going through.  It was ocmforting to think of creation and nature being so at peace.  Anyway, I had to teach the rest of the day despite the turmoil of emotions that we all experienced.  Looking back, there are some lessons to be learned and I think they all relate in part to sociology, certainly when considering sociological mindfulness.

One of the most direct ways that I think sociologically about 9/11 is in the discussion of stereotypes and categories. I posted about this here too. The attackers on 9/11 fell into the category of Muslim but that should not be turned into a stereotype about Muslims. There is a powerful video that illustrates how Muslims were stereotyped after 9/11 and the video also shows how these stereotypes are shattered when you see the full spectrum of Muslims in America. video
The speech in that video illustrates the same type of racist, intolerance that led to the attacks on 9/11. I think that September 11 can be a day to remember that we are all connected and we all share this world, and this can be done in peace and tolerance, even if we are not all in agreement. Don't let the hurt and anger give way to stereotypes, injustice and hatred.

Another way I think about 9/11 is through all of the love and heroism that was displayed during that traumatic day. There are so many stories of strangers helping each other and displaying unbelievable acts of courage and love - from the Port Authority of NY to the police, fire and other first responders to those who just happened to be at work that day and found themselves in a situation to help others. It was an incredible illustration that when life seems senseless and unbearable, we can ask ourselves, "How can I serve?" In other words, what can I do to help my fellow people and how can I make this world a bit better. That gives meaning to our life just as it did to those people on 9/11. Sociologically, humans were made to need each other. Here is a video displaying some of this heroism and caring in the largest water evacuation in history. video It is our nature to love one another and be cooperative. We often lose sight of that in our individualistic culture. Here is a quote from two survivors of 9/11:
On a personal level, Mel and Lisa learned several lessons from that day. “Be patient, be tolerant and above all tell people you love them every single day,” Lisa said. “Hate drove that day. The lesson is to never hate. Hate does damage. People didn’t need to die that day.”
Here is another example about the people living in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada and how they came to the aid of hundreds of people. video One example from my own life this day was my mom who worked at O'Hare Airport as a ticket agent. After the attacks, O'Hare was closed down and all the employees and passengers were being forced to evacuate. As this was going on, an elderly woman who had trouble seeing approached my mom and asked what she should do. My mom said that the airlines would get a hotel room for her. The woman said that the nearest available rooms were in a far suburb away from the airport. So, my mom said, "You know what? You come home with me." And she did. This total stranger lived with my parents for four days! It was that kind of caring that these horrible events brought out. I hope to be mindful and let that light shine without a horrific switch turning it on.

Read more:

One of the heroes of that day was Rick Rescorla. Rick was a war veteran who was working as head of security for Morgan Stanly Dean Witter. He anticipated the terrible attacks on the Towers and that caused him to force the employees of MSDW to undergo evacuation drills regularly. It is my understanding that these were not popular within the company, but it was his conviction and willingness to take an unpopular stance that prepared so many for the events of that day. What a model Rescorla is for standing up for our beliefs and doing a job the best that we can while thinking of our fellow men.
From the NY Times
HAVING coined the phrase “the banality of evil,” Hannah Arendt went on to suggest that the most heinous crimes have often been committed by morally desensitized ordinary people. The inverse may be equally true: that “ordinary” heroes like Rick Rescorla, who saved almost 2,700 lives on Sept. 11, 2001, only to lose his own, are the yang to Arendt’s yin, demonstrating what you might call the profundity of virtue.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Service Op: Feeding the needy at St. Thomas February 28

October 7, Nov 4, and Dec 9, We can take 5 students from each class to the St. Thomas Soup Kitchen. If there is a large interest, I will have a lottery for students interested. However, you can always reserve a spot for yourself and friends or family on another day.  Usually we meet at 3:10 in the lower east commons.  We take a bus together and return by 8.
There is a church in Chicago called St. Thomas of Canterbury. They generously and humbly serve hundreds of meals to those in need each year. From their website:
Our Soup Kitchen is open every Tuesday and Friday throughout the year, except on Christmas Day. We currently serve 175 to 200 people each time. The doors are open to guests from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Volunteer activities include the preparation of meals, setting the tables, serving the meals to our seated guests and, of course, cleaning up!
Jim Eder has been running the soup kitchen for years and he is a really great guy. If interested in volunteering, call Christine, the volunteer scheduler at 773-878-5507. Be sure to visit their volunteering link here for more info.

Abandon Ship!

We just did an activity based on the real life events that were portrayed in the movie Abandon Ship! (1957). The activity helps to understand the different levels (macrosociology and microsociology) that sociologists study and the Social Construction of Reality. On the macro level, sociologists look for the large-scale groups that people are a part of. For example, students in our class are Americans, teenagers, high-schoolers, from an upper-middle class suburb. All of these groups have an effect on an individual, so that even when an individual makes choices alone, he/she is still being influenced by these groups. On the microsociological level, sociologists study how groups interact in face-to-face conversation. That is who makes eye contact, how loud people speak, where they sit, who is the leader etc...So each class that does this activity is different based on how the group interacts. This activity is a metaphor for any group that you are a part of; all of the groups that shape you are governed by both macrosociological forces and micrsociological forces.  For example, see my example of high school below.

If we examined these two levels in high school, there are certain macrosociological values that one would expect to find no matter where the school is located: grades, learning, homework, rules etc... So as you move from one class to the next, you will see these macrosociological values present. On the other hand, every class is different because of the microsociological dynamics present in that class: some teachers are more casual, some teachers use rows vs. a horseshoe shape, some classes have a few loud boisterous individuals and other classes might be mostly girls or mostly guys etc...

Can you see these two levels at play in your own life? Perhaps in your family, your classes or with a group of friends, or at your job? Think about that lifeboat activity and how it is a metaphor for any of the groups that you are a part of. There are macro forces like culture and social class that affect your group but there are also micro forces at play too such as the dynamic of how the group interacts. For example, because we live in America there are certain things expected of family. Even though we had a child under 2 months of age, my wife and I were expected to be at our jobs working (as opposed to other countries where they give 6 months or more of leave for new parents). But the micro forces are present too - because my wife makes more $ than I do, I work part time and spend the rest of my time being a daddy. Can you see how this plays out with your groups?

And this activity can also be an example of the social construction of reality.  All of those on the boat were shaped by how their character is viewed by the group.  So rather than being seen as an individual, each person's role was viewed a certain way because that's how society has trained us to view that person - such as the elderly couple is old and frail so put them overboard.

As a side note, here is a link to the article in the Daily Herald about the students who met in my class as the football player and cheerleader.   They met in my class and then asked me to marry them!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Constructing a teenager

We read an excerpt from sociologist Stephanie Coontz called "Parent-Teen Conflicts."  Hopefully the article helped you see that the idea of a "teenager" is a social construction.  The idea of a teenager has only been around since the 1940s.  Before that, individuals went more from childhood to adulthood very quickly.  Now, the process of childhood has a long drawn out middle period.  This encompasses the "teenage years" but it also includes what sociologists call "young adulthood."  Sociologists estimate the average age of independence in the United States  to be 27.  That is when (on average) individuals can be self-sustaining financially and emotionally and socially enough to have a family and residence of their own.  So this leaves a long middle period between the age of puberty (10) and independence (27).  And throughout that time, there are many mixed messages being given to young adults.  This results in "rolelessness," or a feeling of not knowing what is expected of you during those years.  One example was the lack of meaningful work.  Teens generally have jobs that society deems as unworthy or meaningless.  This can leave teens feeling like they don't matter.  Can you see how Coontz makes that point?  Do you see how that can be true?  Can you see how being a "teenager" is a social construction?  I wonder if by the end of the year, our community service helps erase that notion?

Blogging info

The first post was due yesterday.  Today we went over how the posts will be graded.  We used the following self assessment.  Note that the italics are the proficiency standards that we expect (3 meets standards). 
Sociology  (concepts and terms)  
__  I completed the assignment
__  I explained at least some of the concepts, terms or ideas of the class.
__  I fully explained the concepts, terms, or ideas from class and I used the terminology from the class.
__  I gave a unique example or application that was my own and not an example from class. 
__  This example/application was used correctly. 
4 Exceeds standards           
3 Meets standards
2 Shows some proficiency               
1 Doesn’t demonstrate any proficiency

Literacy (sources such as readings, videoes, charts, websites)
__  I completed the assignment.
__  I referred to a source from class.
__  I referred properly to a source from class
__  I explained the source’s connection to sociology in the student’s own words.
__  I referred properly to multiple sources from class
__  I explained the connection of an outside source that I found on my own.
4 Exceeds standards           
3 Meets standards
2 Shows some proficiency               
1 Doesn’t demonstrate any proficiency

Academic Expectations                                         
__  I completed the assignment.
__  I completed it on time.
__  I had no misspellings.
__  My grammar was correct.
__  I commented on two other student posts.
__  The comments were meaningful.
__  My writing was clear and understandable.
4 Exceeds standards           
3 Meets standards
2 Shows some proficiency               
1 Doesn’t demonstrate any proficiency

Friday, September 5, 2014

Are you going to eat that?

There is no difference between spit or saliva except for how we think about each. This is called the social construction of reality. Our reality is how we experience the world. The social construction is that our society or the people around us influences how we experience the world. Hence our experiences(reality) are created (constructed) by others (society). Spitting in different cultures or different situations (baseball) can be experienced differently, i.e. more or less acceptably. For example, most of us have been to baseball games and watched players spit all throughout the game. We didn't get repulsed by that. During one World Series, Reggie Jackson averaged 19 spits per at-bat! Another example is when parents or siblings use their saliva to wipe off a baby's face. We don't find that repulsive, but if a teacher drops saliva onto a desk it becomes gross. This can be true for nearly all of our experiences; feelings of happiness, sorrow, stress, worry. Nearly all of these are created within us by the society we are in.
Here is an example that you might not realize. The Japanese would be grossed out by the typical American bathroom. In Japan, toilets are located in a different room than the shower and bath. And the Japanese shower is always separate from the bath. They see the shower for cleaning and the bath for soaking after you have cleaned. What are some moments in your own life where you experience these feelings, but when you stop and think about it, you realize that the feelings have been created for you by society?
Another way social construction can be illustrated is in our symbols and how they shape our reaction. For example, there is a feeling that you should not walk on the Patriot.There is no real reason why, but it is a social construct. Another example is the faculty restrooms. Some of the restrooms are for individual use, that is one person at a time. These rest rooms are exactly the same: one toilet and one sink. However, the rooms are labelled with "Men's" and "Women's" signs. That makes men feel weird if we use the "women's" room, even though the men's room is exactly the same. (and vice versa). The sign is a social construct that elicits that feeling.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Post 2: Posting on your blog to show evidence

Please remember that posting on your blog is the primary way that you provide evidence that you are learning. The posts are what will determine your grade at the end of the semester. Here is a prompt to help you with post number 2:

Explain some of the sociological theory that we have learned thus far: sociological imagination, sociological mindfulness, the three sociological perspectives (founders of sociology) and the social construction of reality. Then give an example from your own life/your own perspective. Also be sure to explain how the sources we looked at relate to the lesson. Remember to write properly using correct spelling and grammar.
Here is the scale that will be used to report your progress:

4 Exceeds Standards
3 Meets Standards
2 Shows some proficiency in the standards, but needs more work.
1 Does not demonstrate any proficiency

Here are the three areas you will graded on:
Sociology Content  - explain the sociology concepts that we learned this week. Demonstrate that individuals are shaped by their social life.
4 application to student’s life and demonstration of sociological mindfulness. Student is able to fully explain the sociological content and apply it to a unique example.
3 Student fully explains the sociological content using relevant terminology from the class.
2 Student somewhat explains the content from class but does not do it in detail and/or uses little or no sociology concepts or terms.
1 Student completed the assignment but did not explain any sociology at all.

Literacy - demonstrate an understanding of the sources used in class (books, movies, websites, etc…) and be able to connect them to sociological concepts/themes.
4 Student refers properly to multiple sources from class and/or explains the connection of an outside source found by the student.
3 Student refers properly to a source from class and explains its connection to sociology in the student’s own words.
2 Student refers to a source from class but it lacks depth, clarity or correctness.
1 Student completed the assignment but was not correct in interpreting the sources from class.

Academic Expectations - be a part of the community of class; being present and on-time, listen, share, respect, and trust other students; participate in class and write properly.
4 Student contributes to the class through commenting, listening and reading. Student uses proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and clear and academic writing. Student meets deadlines and is on time. Student’s work is neat and professional.
3 Student is able to meet almost all of the expectations above.
2 Student meets some of the expectations.
1 Student turns in the assignment or shows up, but does not meet any of the expectations above

Click here to see a student example of post 2.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Founders of Sociology: Freaks and Geeks?

No the founders of sociology were not freaks and geeks, but the series Freaks and Geeks has some great sociological insights in it. In the Pilot episode, (you can watch it here on mediacast)we see that the characters are part of a dynamic that is larger than who they are as individuals. To understand this is dynamic is to have a sociological imagination. Three specific ways of having a sociological imagination are the three founding perspectives of sociology.  These three perspectives were the beginning of sociology.  All three of them were a reaction to the extraordinary changes of the industrial revolution taking place n Europe in the 1800s.  The founder of each of these theories is considered one of the founding fathers of sociology.  Here are the ways that we applied each theory to the tv show:

What are the groups and what functions do they serve? Are there negative influences from any of the groups (dysfunctions)? This is functional theory. It was developed by Emile Durkheim.

Who has power in the episode? How or why do they have power? How do they use it? This is conflict theory. It was first developed by Karl Marx.

What are the important symbols in the episode? Note that the symbols might be an object, but also might be an idea, an event or something else. How do the characters act based on the symbols they find important? This is symbolic interactionism. I like to connect symbolic interactionism to Max Weber.

Can you relate any of these theories to your own life? How can the things you do be interpreted through one of these theories? For example why do you wear what you wear or why are you going to college or why do you stress yourself out to get "good" grades?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Experiencing Sociology...(Community Service)

Hopefully you are willing to try community service with an open mind. I think that most students who have done service experiences before will say that it was rewarding and an overall good experience. Maybe if you have done a service experience before, you can blog about it. Do you see how doing community service might make you sociologically mindful?  What was it like? What went well? What advice would you have for those who have never done it? If you have never done something like that, what do you think about it? What are your concerns and questions?

I think the most challenging aspect of this is to get students to begin thinking about what experience they might want to do without constantly hounding them. I hope you are up for it. This is your homework - find some places that you might be interested and call them! Have at least 2 places in mind by the end of the third week of the semester. Here is the assignment that I call Step 1. Please turn this in by the first progress report.

Some advice that I want to emphasize:
When you call places to volunteer, do NOT say "I have to do community service..." That makes a bad first impression. It sounds like you are being forced. Instead, say "I want to volunteer..." or "I heard it was a really cool experience so I want..." or you can even say, "My teacher told me about this experience so I wanted to try it..."

Be open minded and willing to feel a little uncomfortable. The best learning experiences of my life were when I was willing to put myself in that position.

Some of the more rewarding experiences have been PADS, the Uptown Cafe, and Clearbrook. Try to do these if you are interested, but you may have to do it with a parent or another adult.

Do not wait until the second half of the semester. These experiences take some time to setup. Sometimes the opportunities are filled, so don't wait! The sooner you set this up, the better chance you will have of finding something that is worthwhile and meaningful. If you wait, you will be rushing and you will only find some last-minute, not-so-great opportunity.

Finally, be patient but persistent when contacting these organizations. Many of the organizations are run by unpaid volunteers. Sometimes they do not work regular hours. If they don't get back to you right away, try calling at a different time of day or a different day of the week or try a different number, etc...

Fired up and ready to go!

"Fired up? Ready to go!"

This is a phrase I like to use with my class.  It is a way that I like to check in with students and remind them that they are in my class and I want them to feel fired up about it.  Sometimes, if you are not feeling fired up, all it takes is repeating this and it can make you fired up.

But the phrase is also a fleeting reminder that we all have an influence on our world.  Maybe that influence is just the room we are in, but that influence ripples out.  So that phrase is a reminder to be sociologically mindful.  It is a reminder that we are a participant in society.  Society doesn't just happen to us; we are participants in the process.  That awareness is what Schwalbe talks about as sociological mindfulness.  It can change how we think and act and therefore how we influence the world.

"One voice can change a room. And if it can change a room, it can change a city; and if it can change a city it can change a state and if it can change a state, it can change a nation and if it can change a nation, it can change the world." (see the whole story by clicking on this link)
Regardless of your political affiliation, I think the sentiment here is true. You can change a room and that can change a much larger group. There's no telling where your influence stops. So, what do you want your voice to be? How do you you want to change the world? Think with sociological mindfulness about the impact you have on the world even though it is small.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sociological Mindfulness

Some Questions for reflection on Schwalbe's Sociological Mindfulness:

1) What does Schwalbe mean by "sociological mindfulness?"

2) How is this different from sociological imagination?

3) Why does Schwalbe say we should bother with sociological mindfulness?

4)What are some ways that you might live your life differently or view aspects of your life differently if you live with sociological mindfulness?  (Try to be as specific as possible.  This is a good place to start for your next post.)  One example is from the slam poem Touchscreen poem we watched.  If you realize that people are influenced by living in this age of technology that is sociological imagination.  And if you question the influence of technology on you and make conscious choices about how to let it influence you, that is sociological mindfulness.

Schwalbe's "sociological mindfulness" can be a difficult idea to grasp and Schwalbe admits that.  Mindfulness is a  concept that describes an awareness in world at this moment here and now.  It implies being tuned in to the present moment.  Sociological mindfulness therefore, is being tuned into to both the way in which the present moment is influenced by society and also being tuned into how we are a player in shaping the present moment.  The simple way I look at sociological mindfulness is that it is the mirror image of sociological imagination.  In other words, once we realize that people are influenced by their social setting, we can then realize that influence is happening right now and we are a part of it.  Each of us is both influenced by other people and influencing other people.

So, I think there are 2 critical aspects to sociological mindfulness.

First, in being tuned in to the present moment we can see and appreciate how each individual (including ourselves) is affected by when and where we live and all of the social experiences that entails.  That is, we can think with a sociological imagination about others.  And because we realize that others are impacted by these experiences we can appreciate each person's uniqueness.  This makes us more forgiving of others and of ourselves.

The second part of sociological mindfulness is being tuned into the idea that each of us is a participant in a society.  We all affect the social world, even in little ways.  Each little act we do matters and has an affect on other people.  This aspect has a much longer explanation:

Sociological mindfulness is an awareness that we are being influenced by the world and so we can question that influence and hopefully guide it.  And it is an awareness that we are influencing others and hopefully it makes us question that influence so we can have the impact that we want on our world.  Sociological mindfulness is an awareness that society is dynamic and fluid and we are a part of that. In short, sociological mindfulness is the awareness that how we interact in the world matters!

Another way of thinking about it is in Schwalbe's reading,
Think of the people you love and the kind of life you wish for them...I hope you will consider the possibility that mindfulness may be useful as a way to create better lives for more people.
What kind of life would you wish for those whom you love? How can you affect the world to be more like this way of life? Can you see how humans impact society? How can you make an impact that supports the world you want to live in? I think by answering these questions, students can begin to think with sociological mindfulness.

If you are still having a hard time grasping sociological mindfulness think about the past and all the ways individuals with sociological mindfulness have impacted our world: think about  Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Elenore Roosevelt, Desmond Tutu, Caesar Chavez, Einstein, Mother Theresa, Rabbi Heschel, and think about the movements like the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the women's rights movement, the civil rights movement, the elimination of polio etc... Here is a link to 9 people who changed the world.  And here is 10 acts of courage that changed the world.  All of these people and movements are a product of those who had sociological mindfulness.  Think about Rosa Parks and realize that her actions changed the people on that bus and that changed the people of the city which changed our nation and that has influenced the world's view of human rights and the dignity of all human beings.  Our actions in day to day life, like where we sit on the bus and how we treat others can make a difference.   That awareness is sociological mindfulness.  In my personal life, it might be my parents sending me to college even though they themselves never went there and they didn't have the money.  My grandfather might have had sociological mindfulness when he came alone to America in 1916 at age 15.  He wanted a better life for his future and his family's future.  Both, my parents and my grandparents had an awareness that their choices mattered and that their choices affected the future.  So they made the best decision they could for my future based on that awareness.

The Starfish Parable is another way to think about being sociologically mindful
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, "I'm saving these starfish, Sir".
The old man chuckled aloud, "Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?"
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, "It made a difference to that one!"
 We cannot change the world, but by being aware of how our actions affect those around us, we can make a difference for those who we do come into contact with us.

This reminds me of chaos theory which is a modern theory of science and math that events sometimes seem random but really they are part of a complex system.  Sometimes the butterfly effect is used an example - that the world is so connected and reliant on all processes that the wind from a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico might contribute to a typhoon across the pacific in Japan.  This thinking applied to society might be considered sociological mindfulness.

I like the video from Louis CK about soc imagination. Here is an article that explains if we can be more mindful of the technology, we can be more appreciative of it and thus live a more fulfilled and happier life.

 Here is a video that highlights sociological mindfulness from a radical perspective.

For a further understanding of this idea, you click on the link to "sociological mindfulness" and see some of my posts about it.