Wednesday, January 4, 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. That is, 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 service experience is another example of this. Students will also be asked to be active as teachers in the class through their blogging. Each student will create a blog that will not only be a source of displaying what a student has learned, it will also be a resource for teaching other students. 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? What do you think about the idea of blogging as a way of teaching others? Here is the handout for Unit 1


  1. Hey Sal,

    I was browsing the internet and came across this- thought it was right up your alley!

    Ariel Rosen

  2. I think that it was a great way to start the first day of school. The silence was a perfect example to show us as students the role that society plays in our lives. In that moment I realized that I think and act the way I do because of all the past experiences in my life. And it is interesting how sometimes people refuse to open their minds and try something new.

  3. I thought this exercise was really interesting on the first day of school! I learned that I expected the teacher to talk right away, and us students had to be quiet. It made me understand that we (as students) already think sociologically from experiences every day at school - and we didn't even realize it until that class in sociology!