This course introduces students to the foundations of sociological thought, research, and subject matter. Every day we make sense of our world by formulating simple theories about why people do the things they do, about the forces that hold our society together, and about its major problems. This course seeks to nurture the amateur sociologist lurking inside all of us, to allow us to make clearer judgements, predictions, decisions, and, ultimately, to build better societies.
To do this, we will examine the human condition from the standpoint of sociological research. Students will learn to engage issues facing the world today by asking classic sociological questions. Ultimately, the course material constructs “the individual” as a product and constituent of large scale structural forces and historical developments—modernity, capitalism, the state, rationality, classes, families, races, genders, etc. It will orient students to the grounding ideas in the field, but also pique their interest by recent analysis of real social problems. How do race, class and gender relate to each other? What is capitalism? Why is there so much inequality in America? What can be done to respond to social crises? The sociological imagination offers an emancipatory vision of how one might reconceptualize their place in society—and change history. This class should ignite that analytical spark and fan the burning flame. Students should come away inspired to study sociology further, and/or to employ its critical lens in whatever field they choose to pursue.
You are expected to attend every class and out-of-class event. Come fully caffeinated, prepared to discuss readings and join group discussions. Class participation means you regularly attend class and take part in meaningful ways. Since critical dialogue is probably where most learning happens anyway, this should be in our mutual interests. Learning is a conspiracy, a group activity where we work, play, plot, and debate together. Students should be prepared to take notes without laptops. Cell phones, laptops, and all other non-airplane-approved devices must be switched off. You are strictly prohibited from recording any student, faculty, or guest without their consent in our classroom. At the end of this syllabus is an addendum that describes helpful communication tips between professors and students when you have questions outside of class.
During our discussions, set yourself goals to participate in ways that challenge your habits and usual modus operandi. You are encouraged to have an opinion, be audacious, act out, and risk your pride (what you risk shows what you value). Please bring a written question for each class period. We will use those questions as the basis for our discussions in your sections.
You will complete two short analytic projects in response to particular readings and take one in- class written exam. There will also be a final project where you will create your own exam. You will have the option to do one analytic project in a non-traditional format. Talk to me well in advance if this option interests you. I will give you more specific information on the details of each of these assignments when the time comes.
A Note on Written Work
Written work is the primary way you will be evaluated, and your writing will be graded according to its readability, grammatical accuracy, and creativity, in addition to the substantive ideas it conveys.
We will discuss the challenges posed by sociological writing, but if you have any concerns about your writing ability, please see me and consider visiting the CTLR: http://www.middlebur y.edu/ academics/resources/ctlr
Your grades come from the assignments stated above, plus class participation. Class participation is derived from a combination of attendance, frequency of participation in class discussions, and observed struggle to engage the material. Late work is lowered half a grade for the first week late, and then a full grade the week after. My overall philosophy on grading emphasizes struggle, not mastery. The breakdown is as follows:
Two Papers 60 %
One In-Class Exam 25 %
One Final 10 %
Class Participation 10 %
A – Outstanding: Expectations exceeded.
B – Excellent: All expectations met with excellence.
C – Good: All expectations met with moderate success. D – Poor: Expectations inconsistently met.
F – Failure: Work incomplete by culmination of the course.
Most students can expect to receive a grade in the B range, as A ;s at Middlebury are generally reserved for outstanding work above and beyond high expectations. If you object to a grade you receive, email me a detailed explanation as to why you think the grade should be changed. In that email, also include a few times when you can meet me as soon as possible to discuss the matter further.
Assignments on the date and time indicated on the syllabus or assignment sheet itself. Requests for extensions beyond the submission date should be made well before the due date. Grades on non-approved late submissions will be penalized one half a grade for the day it is late, and a full letter grade if it is two weeks late. After two weeks late, the paper will no longer be accepted and you’ll receive a zero for that assignment.
Engaged Listening Project
This semester I have tied this course to the Engaged Listening Project. The ELP was formed to help students and faculty navigate especially difficult and sometimes painful questions more gracefully in the classroom. But it also hopefully provides models for how we can do that in our personal lives too. Though this class is large enough to be a lecture, I anticipate using lots of discussion tools and small group exercises throughout the semester. As I experiment with some of these new modes of engaging us in discussion, I appreciate your participation, enthusiasm, and thoughtful feedback.
Honor Code and Academic Integrity
The Middlebury Honor Code forbids cheating and plagiarism. For details on what constitutes these breaches of conduct, please see Middlebury policy here: http://www.middlebur y.edu/ academics/administration/newfaculty/handbook/honorcode
Failure to abide such regulations will result in my notifying the proper college authorities. The
academy is not known for its sense of humor, but plagiarism is truly no joke. For information on how to avoid plagiarizing, see Ear Babbie’s article: http://www.csub.edu/ssric-trd/howto/ plagiarism.htm