Welcome to realworldsociology.com. This website is an answer to a common complaint I’ve been hearing for some time now from countless students; that sociology was losing its way. And that grumbling is turning into a roar. Unfortunately, I must agree with the detractors; sociology is losing its way. Part of the problem is that sociology is slowly becoming “corporatized.” The giant publishing corporations have presented sociology as a set of interesting” facts & figures,” and have lost the main focus of explaining the processes of group behavior. In short, sociology has gotten away from teaching about the social PROCESSES that underlie social interaction.
Sociology has also become muted. Sociology began as a discipline critical of the way society was changing. The issue of morality seems to have faded from the discipline (feminists seem to be a notable exception). Lately, however, it has become a discipline mainly taught out of textbooks and journals. These texts and journals are too sterile in the fact that they are esoteric and rarely help the student when they enter the real world. The real world is full of unethical behaviors and social undercurrents that are virtually ignored by assistant professors, who seem more worried about getting tenure than teaching about life beyond the classroom.
At one department I was teaching in, I was told to quit teaching “conspiracy theories.” I was teaching about the Cocaine – Contra affair; a program that emerged out of the fact that the US Congress passed a law (The Boland Amendment) forbidding the Reagan administration from using US funds to support the right-wing Nicaragua Contras during the early 1980s. After the Democratic-dominated Congress cut off the Contra’s funding, the CIA began importing cocaine into the US, dealing it as “crack” in US cities, and then using the drug profits to fund the Contras.
This “war” led to a disproportionate number of minorities being arrested. These people then served time in prison; disrupting their families’ lives and rendering them ineligible to vote once they had served their sentences. While incarcerated, these inmates would work for pennies in the emerging prison-industrial complex; which effectively killed the unions as prisons usurped cheap labor in a form of modern slavery.
I have earned a PhD., a research degree, and because I know my way around a library, I found most of this information in government documents. This isn’t classified information if one knows where to look (and how to look it up).
I was using this type of information as part of my course on race relations. It’s not a “conspiracy,” it actually happened and should be discussed in a course on race relations. Because academic journals tend to shy away from (or more like run away from) these types of issues, I purposely use this type of information about what is really happening in social life. In fact, I would be remiss in my teaching duties if I DID NOT teach about these types of activities.
A report on these activities: The Kerry Commission.
If the tax-payer’s money is used for a HEARING, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) will issue a REPORT.
Here is an except from the table of contents of the Kerry Commission Report.
It’s all there in black and white if you know where to look. This isn’t classified information.
As I alluded to above, sociology has become benign as a discipline of change. Instead, we read a plethora of rather interesting facts and figures that are only marginally useful in the real world. If I had a dime for every student who returned after graduation and complained about the fact that sociology isn’t exactly a marketable degree, I’d be able to support the march of dimes indefinitely. This website was designed to help facilitate learning about “real world” sociology.
It is my experience that many sociology instructors incorrectly believe that their courses need to be “difficult” so that they will feel like the student suffered in order to learn. After all, they were educated under the “difficult = learning” paradigm. This stems from the fact that many colleges and universities want to make their courses difficult in order to have “bragging rights” as to how prestigious their institution is in the hierarchy of colleges and universities.
This phenomenon is also a result of sociology instructors letting their egos get the best of them. I’m not saying that college courses should be easy for the sake of being easy, however making them “difficult” to gain some sort of ego satisfaction and social status is missing the point. Courses shouldn’t be any more “difficult” that they have to be naturally. So what if sociology isn’t inherently as difficult as say medicine, chemistry, or mathematics? It doesn’t necessarily have to be “difficult” for the sake of being difficult. Sociology should be relevant and translate into the real world after students graduate.
Sociology should be relevant, accessible, and more importantly, it should be useful. So what’s the point if sociology courses are “difficult” and are not useful outside of the classroom? So you attended a mid-level university and studied your behind off! If the information you learned has no relevance in the “real world,” then what?
Students leaving these courses are doubly pissed off! Not only did they struggle with the information (often esoteric and full of jargon), but then the information isn’t very useful in their everyday lives. Plus, after these dissatisfied students leave college (and sometimes while still enrolled) and then use social media to let other potential students know not to take these irrelevant courses. The result is that enrollments suffer. Let’s not fool ourselves, many sociology students are enrolled in our courses because they are “required.”
“In fact, sociology students should be sad that they have to leave the classroom.”
Sociology should be so relevant that students leave EVERY lecture excited to have sat through an hour of learning about what we do. In fact, sociology students should be sad that they have to leave the classroom.
Instead of making sociology “accessible” to students, sociology departments have “made it” about the professors and their elevated status; their recognition, and have thus made the student and teaching their least priority. I’m not saying every instructor fits this description, yet enough do that it is having a negative effect on our enrollments. Think of it this way, happy students become happy majors/minors (and sociology minors still get butts-in-the-seats). Plus, happy students use social media to recommend these interesting courses to others.
Sociology instructors need to take a lesson from business and branding experts. The first pillar of branding is relevancy. If material is not relevant, then what is the point of learning it? Not to mention that irrelevant information is a waste of time and energy. Perhaps that money and those resources could be better used learning something relevant? I feel that many sociology instructors are afraid of “applied sociology” (to read relevant to the real world beyond the classroom) because they are unable to use real world examples that aren’t provided by the text books and journals. As I mentioned earlier, many of the sociology textbooks have become a bundle of interesting facts and figures. Yet they don’t provide the students with any useful knowledge of understanding social INTERACTION and how social life is socially constructed and used in real-life situations.
The goal of this website then, is to make sociology accessible and not just “difficult” to satisfy some instructor’s ego. Thus, I hope this website is useful and will make sociology accessible as well as relevant (and a bit fun too!)
Another issue I see is how sociologists verbally preach how they should “break down barriers” (e.g. more minorities in relevant social positions etc), yet at the same time, they throw up barriers. This logic doesn’t make sense. Professors often make students call them “Dr.” and treat undergraduates as though they are below them. If students see us interact in this manner, why would they want to become sociologists? Erecting barriers while simultaneously preaching against them is a foolhardy activity. In the last sociology department I taught in, the sociology majors had decreased by nearly 25% in one semester. Their graduate program was on the verge of folding because of lack of applicants. The department had to extend the deadline twice and still struggled to attract interest. Yet they insisted on looking down their noses at undergraduates, and were puzzled why few of them had any desire to apply to their graduate program. How did Einstein define insanity? “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –
Another measure of the unattractiveness of sociology as a major/minor is the number of used sociology books donated to used book stores and thrift stores. They are full of used sociology books; especially introductory textbooks. Those numbers speak volumes! The previous owners of those texts had no interest in staying in sociology. Perhaps they were forced to take the course because of university “requirements.” What a waste of potential sociology “recruits.” I was making a photo of the “Sociological Ivory Tower” and only had to look in three thrift stores to purchase enough texts to configure my project.
Another problem is that sociology textbooks have traditionally been somewhat boring. So in order to make them more appealing to students, especially at the intro-level, publishers began making them resemble pop-culture magazines. This may have made some students become more engaged, but then they started complaining that they had to pay over $100 for a “magazine.” Sociology textbooks should have an engaging image that says something about what social interaction entails; not some catchy image that is supplemented by marginal content. The content of such texts should be the driving force and not the cover. Anyway, that is my spiel, and I hope that you can learn about the wonders of sociology from this website. Learning can be fun and interesting; especially sociology!
Again, welcome and happy learning. Let the sociologist in you emerge!
I promise that his website will “keep it real” AND will have relevance once you leave the computer and interact in the real world. So, keep this in mind while you’re perusing the website. Also, this website is intended to serve as supplemental and / or complementary component of sociology courses. I hope the information on this website helps you better understand your social world. Please feel free to interact with the website, and leave relevant comments for other to learn from. Enjoy.
“Everywhere I go, I see sociology.”
– Annie (101 student-ASU)
Dr Pete A. Padilla
pete padilla real world sociology