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Help me instill the sociological imagination
August 24, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I need to find interesting things for incoming freshmen to read in a social sciences seminar.

At the last possible second, I have been enjoined to teach a large section of Sociology 101. We have also discovered that the scheduled instructor didn't order a textbook or leave behind any course materials. My plan is to scan course materials to PDF and scour the web for interesting readings. I have a few things in mind for them, but I'd like to tap your collective brilliance to find cool things that 18 year olds should be reading about their society, and about other societies. I'm looking for book chapters, articles in smart magazines, accessible articles in journals and periodicals, even well crafted blog posts would be a consideration. Obviously I want credible readings that back their claims with sources. What have you read recently that is relevant to sociology that you think 18 year olds should read? Some topics I'd like to hit:

* The problems associated with the drug war, particularly how the drug war fuels violence in Mexico and links between drug profits and terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

* A clear eyed examination of American immigration policy, and a nice actuarial analysis of what undocumented immigrants contribute to society, as well as their costs.

* Articles that discuss the difference between scientific inquiry and common sense, or other articles that talk about how conventional wisdom (particularly about things relevant to sociology) is often wrong.

* Anything about how and why evolution has gifted (cursed?) us with our big brains, and other interesting articles on the traits that set us apart from other animals. Things that touch on how our biology still orders our social arrangements (i.e. with respect to mate selection, etc.) would be awesome.

* Discussions of how we transformed from hunting and gathering bands into state level societies.

* Any discussion of how quantum technological shifts (i.e. the invention of agriculture, microprocessors, or the internet) have impacted human societies. (Including glimpses of how future technology might affect us.)

* Essays about how political agendas and interest groups have hijacked or compromised the social sciences. (I'm not saying I believe this [necessarily], but students believe it, so I'd like to examine it.)

Your help would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Crotalus to Education (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains? Via Slate.com

This is one issue that I think is very relevant and something young people can relate to.
posted by Fizz at 12:51 PM on August 24, 2010


regarding undocumented immigrants, I have this book and it's great at discussing the myths of illegal immigrants. Google Book of the book.
this is another good book about the same subject.

The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle
posted by KogeLiz at 1:22 PM on August 24, 2010


Is this fun add-on reading for Large Intro Survey Course? Do you want these more to be on the side of rigorous-methods-qualified-conclusions or intriguing-look-at-society? For example re:immigration you seem to be looking for some fairly serious economics and demographics (which can be inaccessible), but re:ev psych there are many accessable completely made up stories. You could go with the articles cited by Gelman, or more recent work by Satoshi Kanazawa, which I generally disagree with (except for "Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent").
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:27 PM on August 24, 2010


When I taught General Sociology we had a good time with the blog Everyday Sociology.
posted by Pineapplicious at 1:39 PM on August 24, 2010


One much-celebrated Nicholas Carr essay that preceded The Shallows: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Michael Specter's work on science, technology and public health should be pretty interesting, and he has a TED talk as well. Book: Denialism. Article: Big Foot

You could do worse than scouring the Best American Magazine Writing series, both the main one and the Science and Nature one. The 2009 edition contained articles by both of these writers.
posted by Madamina at 1:45 PM on August 24, 2010


For scientific inquiry vs common assumptions (I can't use sense here) - Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I use it in my social science-y course on Leadership. Students liked it because it took common assumptions (ex - people get ahead because they work hard) and turned them on its head.
posted by quodlibet at 3:14 PM on August 24, 2010


For the influence of technology on their generation, essays / articles by Danah Boyd.

When I was in undergrad soc classes, my favorite authors were dealing with contemporary issues of consumer and pop culture — Malcolm Gladwell, Paco Underhill, and Douglas Rushkoff.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:01 PM on August 24, 2010


Freakonomics (the first book, at least. I haven't read the second) actually nails down a few of your criteria, including some interesting stuff on the economics of crack cocaine and a definite focus on using actual statistical analysis to tear down conventional wisdom. It's also written in a way that would certainly appeal to freshmen.
posted by hamandcheese at 7:14 PM on August 24, 2010


Well, I was going to suggest C. Wright Mills, but from your question title you've already got a handle on that one.
posted by col_pogo at 8:27 AM on August 25, 2010


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