Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Constructing a teenager

HW:  For tomorrow, please read Gladwell's Outliers excerpt in your packet.

For today, please answer the following questions as class begins:

1.  From yesterday’s lesson, what is the social construction of reality?

2.  I made the claim that Coontz’s essay can be used to demonstrate that the Teenager is a social construction.  What do you think Coontz’s claim/thesis is?  Find a passage from the text that summarizes her claim.

3. What evidence does Coontz provide for her claim?

4.  Can you think of examples from your own life that support Coontz’s thesis?  If you can’t think of examples that apply directly to you, perhaps you can think of examples that apply to siblings, relatives, or friends?


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?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day 2: seats, info sheet, remind

1.  As you walk in, please choose what seat you would like to be in for the beginning of the semester.


2.  Please take out the student info sheet and finish it while we wait.

3. Homework for tomorrow:  Parent-Teen conflict reading (pages 13-16).

4.  If you would like text reminders using the remind ap, please see the instructions below:

You can click here to sign up or use the following:

Are you going to eat that? The Social Construction of Reality

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.

Think about your religion, sports, fashion.  How can social construction of reality apply to them?

What does the sociological theory “social construction of reality” mean?
Who first coined it?
What is the Thomas Theorem?

How does SCR and TT apply to your life?

Monday, August 14, 2017


We started day one with silence. Sitting in silence was awkward and unusual for most of us. Some students felt the need to fill the silence with a comment or a joke. I use this to show that most students already think sociologically; they have already learned to analyze groups and their behaviors. That is sociology. Nearly every class you have been in has started with the teacher standing in front of you and saying this is what you should or shouldn't do, etc... From participating in all of these first classes, you have begun to expect certain things from them. That is, loosely, what sociologists do; analyze people in groups and look for patterns of behavior and then analyze how those patterns affect people.
Although the silence experience is an example of how sociologists think, I also use it as a critique of modern education. Much of this critique came to me from Bernard McGrane's Book The Un-TV and the 10MPH Car. McGrane makes the case that students have been trained to follow and become good at school - but not at learning. Their curiosity and excitement for learning has been squashed by a system that rewards docility and conformity. Rather than taking initiative for their own learning, students expect the teacher to provide them with exactly what they need - "Just tell me what to do," is the attitude.
Although I am a part of this modern institutional creation, I have worked hard to counter these forces. My class will ask students to engage in the learning; take part in the process. Sometimes we will do experiential lessons like the silence experience where students will be active participants in the class. Our class will also ask students to share their own experiences and relate them to sociology.  We all learn from each other. We are all both teacher and student.

Finally, checkout teacher Clint Smith speaking at a TED Talk about silence.  It is often our own silences that speak louder than our words.  This is especially true in a culture that teaches you to be a follower; to sit down and shut up and conform.  Watch that video. 
Think about the speaker's message.  I want you to find your voice.  To learn who you are as a person and to learn to speak up for what you believe in in an educated and meaningful way.

What do you think about the awkward silence? Do you see how we set expectations based on our experiences? Did you know what sociologists studied before taking this class? Do you realize that students expect the teacher to tell them what to do? Can you see how this crushes a love for learning?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What would I do if I majored in sociology?

There are lots of ways you can use a sociology major and of course, many people end up working in an area that has nothing to do with their major anyway. Sociology is great for anything having to do with people and statistics or different groups of people. Here are some resources.

For majoring in sociology:
This is from the American Sociology Association's website:

The 21st century labor market is fast changing, increasingly global and technology-driven, the jobs that you may apply for as a graduate may not even exist yet. To navigate the 21st century means being able to keep up with the changing world.
As society evolves, you as a sociology major will have the tools to critically analyze the world and your place within it.

This page from Huffington Post will help allow you to explore why some students majored in sociology, what skill sets sociology students learn.

Here's a post from Everyday Sociology Blog about majoring in sociology.

Also, for finding jobs in sociology:
This is a link to the ASA page on jobs.  Here is a brief overview of where sociology majors end up after they complete their bachelor's degree.

Here is a downloadable pamphlet on careers for sociology majors.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Qualitative Study of American Culture

Here is a set of responses from the NY Times from people who are saying what being American means to them.  Click on the link below and conduct a qualitative study of what it means to be American.  What patterns emerge?

Friday, May 12, 2017


1.  What are three ideas from the reading that either surprised you or that you want to keep in mind as you get older?

2.  For you or your parents,  how is your life currently structure to not let you "thrive"?  What specifically will you do differently in your life?

3. Contrast these values to the movie and to the values from Kohl's Values Americans Live by.  How do Americans (and Mitch) structure their lives differently?

Checkout this review of the book Thrive. Here is the Thrive website. And you can read an excerpt and also take a happiness test. Try the happiness test - it will measure your satisfaction and make recommendations. Here is link to an interview with the author on the radio. In class, we did this with a partner: 1. Older person: Lookover your Thrive reading. Explain three ways that you would like to live your life that would help you “thrive”. Be specific about what you would do and how that is different from either how you live now or what you thought before the reading. Younger person: Lookover the list of values that make Americans unique (page 17). Review the values from the Kohl reading if necessary. 2. Older person: Share your ways of thriving with a younger partner. Be specific about what you would do and how that is different from either how you live now or what you thought before the reading. Younger partner: Open up to the list of American values (page17) and make a note about what American values will make it difficult for the other person to “thrive.” If you are not sure, ask follow up questions, like “Why do you think this will be hard? Or, “How were you planning to live your life differently before reading this reading?” 3. Switch roles and repeat.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Post 10: American Culture

This post is due next Wednesday May 17, 2017.

For Post 10, please post about American culture.  Using your sociological imagination, you can explain how living in the United States might affect someone.  We especially focused on cultural values.  Then using your sociological mindfulness you can post about how you might be affected by American cultural values and how you might want to make changes or fight against certain values that our culture promotes.  The nothing experiment is also a way to apply the concept to your own experience.

Don't forget to explain the connection of some sources to sociology.  We have looked at Kohl's The Values Americans Live By, Stefan Schirmer's Bemused in America, the video I Am or  Thrive by Dan Buettner.

Remember to write properly.

Monday, May 8, 2017

I Am

We are watching the documentary called I Am.  You can watch it here on mediacast.  Below are my movie notes about the most important parts of the movie and in parentheses are the parts of our class that relate to the movie.  I think this movie is a great inspirational way to sum up our class and apply to your life.  But, come back and revisit it, rewatch it and remind yourself of the lessons of our class. They will mean different things to you as you get older and more experienced.  This is true for all of the lessons of our class, so I hope you will stay one of my students and one of my teachers.  Peace and love to you,

This documentary was created by Tom Shadyac a writer/director of many Hollywood blockbuster films: Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, Accepted , and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. After a serious injury, Shadyac confronts the truth in front of him and sets out to find more meaning in his life and in our world. The film displays a number of ideas and themes that we have discussed throughout our class. Shadyac asks, “What’s wrong with the world? And what can we do about it?”
“Humanity is going to require a new way of thinking if it is to survive” – Albert Einstein
Science is a story. It changes over time. Part of the story of science, since the Enlightenment, is that people are like machines; we are made from materials and we are mechanistic. We operate in the world under that assumption. We compartmentalize each other and our world this way.

This way of thinking creates a separateness (individuality & cultural values), a competitiveness and a materialism that pervade Western society, especially the United States. (Culture and US values)
“Be suspicious of what you want.” -Rumi
Native Americans noticed this way of thinking when Europeans first came to the Americas. They have a word called “wetico” which means a sort of cannibalism where one culture eats or destroys another culture’s way of life.

What we now know is that we are more than the sum of all of our parts and we are connected to much more than ourselves. Each individual is connected to all other humans, not just in the United States, but in the world. And each human in the world is connected to all living things. And all living things are connected to the non-living.

One myth that has been promoted that prevents us from realizing this interconnectedness is the belief that essential nature of humans is to be competitive, instead of cooperative to dominate instead of subordinate, to seek kingdom over democracy. This is a myth promoted inaccurately by supporters of Darwin. Instead, the basis of nature is egalitarian, cooperative and democratic. Darwin mentioned, “survival of the fittest” twice and “love” 95 times. Humans evolved to cooperate. Sympathy is the strongest human emotion. We have mirrored neurons that help us have sympathy. Our vagus nerve helps us to elevate us to compassion. Desmond Tutu says, “We belong because we need other to make us human.” (Socialization) When we serve others with empathy, love and compassion, it creates deep contentment that literally makes us healthier and nourishes our mind and body. (Community Service) Anger makes us stupid. It inhibits our thinking. Our heart is our primary access point to our higher self. “Do something that makes your heart sing.”
“What was said to the rose to make it open was said here to me in my chest.” – Rumi
“There is only one way to eat an elephant; one piece at a time.” “The sea is only drops of water that have come together.” We can’t solve global poverty, but we can do something about that guy over there. Each of us should do something and because we are all connected it all makes a difference. (Sociological Mindfulness)

Bemused in America and in Sociology...

Today we talked about Bemused in America.  The article shows how someone from a country relatively similar to the United States, Germany(Western, industrialized, Democratic) can find many cultural differences that are quizzical and strange to him. These differences can be attributed to the different values that Americans have. For example, think about the Supermarket article. We like 24 hr stores because it is practical and efficient to have stores open all night and it allows us to control our time and shop whenever we want.  Here is the list of values (once again) that we compared to what the German author finds strange:

Kohl's "Values Americans Live By" is a really succinct explanation of American values.

American Values                                        vs.Other Cultures’ Values
Personal control/responsibility                   vs Fate/destiny
Change seen as natural/positive/Progress  vs. Stability/tradition
Time and its control                                     vs. Human Interaction
Equality/fairness                                          vs. Hierarchy/rank/status
Individualism/independence/freedom   vs. Group welfare/dependence
Self-Help/initiative                                    vs. Birthright/inheritance
Competition                                               vs. Cooperation
Future orientation                                     vs. Past orientation
Action/work                                                vs. “Being”
Informality                                                 vs. Formality
Directness/openness/Honesty                    vs. Indirectness/ritual/”face”
Practicality/efficiency                                 vs. Idealism/theory
Materialism/Acquisitiveness                        vs. Spiritualism/detachment
Achievement/Success                                   vs. Acceptance/Status Quo
Morality/judgement                        vs.Consequentialism/situational ethics

And here is how other cultures view American culture. Many cultures have "American" themed parties based on their perception of American culture.

And here is an Australian's perspective of strange things Americans do.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

God Grew Tired of US, Cultural values & Local Refugees

“Your calling is found where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederich Buechner

Recently I facilitated a sociology conference where we had a keynote speaker discuss refugees. 

James Hardan from the World Relief Fund discussed them for us:

Immigrants choose to leave but refugees are forced.
The road to refugee:
Flee homeland, leave everything behind, find temporary shelter (avg stay is 5 years) sometimes living in forest for extended time
Interview with UNHCR; often involves reliving the events
Wait for acceptance and nation to accept you
US resettles 50-60% of worldwide refugees
If accepted, go wherever you are sent and be prepared to pay back airfare costs!

26 million refugees worldwide.
50-80,000 refugees accepted to US each year

$900 given to each refugee to make it through first 3 months!
IL is 7th largest recipient of refugees

UNHCR – US Dept state – IOM Travel logistics – Resettlement Services

Worldrelief Services:
Initial resettlement
Employment Services
Education Services/ESL
Refugee Counseling Services
Youth Services
Volunteer and Church Relations
Citizenship and immigration Legal Service

Educational factors: ESL and lagging academics

Family and Cultural Dynamics:
Parent child role reversal
Lack of parental involvement in students’ lives
Lack of parental involvement in school
Different parenting styles and discipline

Past and Current Trauma/stress:
Past trauma and identity crisis

IL refugees:
Ethnic Lhotsampa
108,000 people displaced
Imprisoned, abused, denial of human rights

Very different from Bhutanese
Recent refugees, short term
Kids have seen and experienced more turmoil than Bhutanese
Here is a video showing you the life in a refugee camp in South Asia:


I want to examine the refugees for cultural differences, especially cultural values.  Often, we are so surrounded by our own culture that we cannot see that it is a social construction and there are other realities that exist.  So, after watching the movie God Grew Tired of Us and reading The Values Americans Live By written by Kohl, reflect on these questions:

1.  Individually, react to the Kohl reading.  What are some of the values that Kohl mentions that you easily agree Americans have?  What are some specific examples that you can cite from your own life that show these values shaping either you or your parents or another example?


2.  Pick your best example of how these values are at play in The United States or at SHS or in your own life.  Take turns sharing each person’s best example.  Oldest person in the group goes first.  Write down the values that others share and their example:

3.  As a group, identify values that are contradictory to U.S. values from the film God Grew Tired of Us.

4.  Look at the list of values that Americans hold.  Identify American values that might compliment each other.  These are called value clusters.  List them here:

Value Cluster: ­­­­­­­­­­­________________________________________________________________________________

Now look for American values that might contradict the other American values.  These are called value contradictions.  List them here:

Value Contradiction: ________________________________________________________________________

5.  Do you think Americans value happiness?  Why? How?