I’m having to be very careful not to use the P word today because I don’t want Google bringing forth all sorts of undesirable adverts. But you will all know what I’m talking about. But what about the sociology of the matter?read more...»
Answers to Quick Quiz 4 I’m sure this won’t have been too difficult. If you’re unsure of any of the terms, check them up. Make sure you know and can use the terms appropriately.read more...»
Quick Quiz 4 - Marxism and The Family Here you are, a very quick quiz on the Marxist view of the family; or at least, a bit of it. Fill in the gaps, answers will follow in a later posting - probably tomorrow - with an obvious heading so you can find it. It’s important in sociology to learn the technical vocabulary and use it; it makes life easier for you - believe it or not - and helps convince examiners that you actually know what you’re talking about. Don’t read too much into the length of the gaps - that just reflects the practical difficulties in producing a test like this.
Good luck.read more...»
It’s worth dropping by Laurie Taylor’s Thinking Aloud radio programme every now and then for interesting snippets of sociological interest. Taylor used to be Professor of Sociology at York University and he is a great populariser for sociology and the social sciences. Today he is discussing the changing nature of work with Professor Kevin Doogan and the politics and sociology of climate change with Prof. Tony Giddens.read more...»
How to Stand Out in a Crowd It just so happens that I was booking up a flight for my summer holiday yesterday. I’m not surprised to be asked to give a ‘Title’, amongst the requests for credit card numbers and so on. But I was surprised by the range of titles available.read more...»
Jade, the Underclass and the Media Following my blog yesterday, I’ve found a rather interesting article on Goody by Johann Hari in The Independent.read more...»
Jade, Class, Health and the Media Today the opinion and leader columns are full of the news of Jade Goody’s death. So, what more can sociology say about this, stranger than fiction episode?read more...»
Answers to Quick Quiz 3 The answers to Quick Quiz 3 are below.read more...»
A Few Questions about Research Methods
Here’s a quick quiz on research methods. Questions below, answers in a separate posting.
Ethnicity, Language and National Identity Yesterday’s leader from The Daily Mail gives a lot of food for thought on this topic. Our national identity may often be considered to be something ‘natural’ and inevitable, and even something which transcends politics. In fact, I’d argue it’s all about politics- in the sense of power and conflict between different social groups.read more...»
Here’s an answer to my question from yesterday:read more...»
Ownership and Control of the Media In the news today is discussion of Tory plans to freeze the BBC licence fee for one year. Now, I may just be talking about my own inadequacies, but I always get the feeling that the textbooks and the way we teach the media topic are slightly detached from the way the issue is discussed in the papers and on TV. And certainly, I’m forever hearing people - students and teachers it has to be said - moaning about how out of date the texts, and indeed the discipline itself can be on this topic. So how can we relate the licence fee debates to what we learn about mass media in sociology?read more...»
The Sun’s Take on the Latest Crime Stats The Sun says we can’t trust the latest crime stats - statistics alone cannot reveal the truth about crime. Which begs the question, what can?read more...»
Quiz 2 Answers Quiz 2 answers are below. Don’t look until you have done as much as you can.read more...»
Quiz 2 The Family and Households Students need quizzes. Here’s my latest. They are just very simple, quick, messy stuff - no proper marks. Just use it to help remind you of some basics.
1. What is structural differentiation and who talks about it?
2. What are the names of the two sociologists who criticised Parson’s views on the isolated nuclear family on the basis of historical accuracy?
3. What is the name of the 1960s psychiatrist who criticised the family?
4. What are LATs?
5. What is a nuclear family?
6. What is the difference between a family and a household?
7. What is polygamy?
8. What is assortative mating?
9. Name one matriarchal society.
10. Who wrote ‘The Sociology of Housework’?
Media Effects - Does Advertising Work There’s a nice piece of anecdotal evidence in Mark Lawson’s column in The Guardian today which should be useful for any student studying the Media option at AS level.read more...»
Shift Happens Today lets take a look at an incredibly powerful and provocative online presentation on education and social change. It was made by some American high school teachers a couple of years ago and its become quite well known in some educational circles. Dig in.read more...»
Who Pays for Sociology, Who Wants Sociological Research? Students are often a bit perplexed about who the hell sociologists are anyway, and who pays them. So - a few remarks on this.read more...»
The downside of Family Life Like Libby Purves in The Times I’ve been trying to avoid mentioning the Myerson’s, but as everyone else is, well, why not? Whatever your views on the rights and wrongs of the case, for the sociology student it does at least offer a fresh example to put alongside all that rather tired stuff in the textbooks about R.D. Laing, and what the texts and specifications love to call ‘the dark side’ of the family.read more...»
Sociology should take you around the World I heard about this website called Breathing Earth on the BBC’s Click programme. OK, the AS/A2 specs don’t have much about demography, but not everything worth learning is always on the syllabus or comes up in an exam.read more...»
Is Age a Natural Phenomenon I’ve always had trouble convincing students that age is -at least in part - a social construction. Now at last, here’s a bit of evidence to help me in my battle against the forces of darkness (students - whoops, no, only joking). The Independent reports a judgement from the European Court which rejected claims that the UK policy on retirement amounted to age discrimination. Look in The Guardian and you’ll see their leader certain thinks it’s about time we changed our laws about retirement. And ‘Motty’- football commentator John Motson - thinks he’s better than ever, age 63.read more...»
School Admissions I’ve always said, only half jokingly, to anyone who would listen - If you want a successful school, choose your pupils carefully. So it’s nice to see Peter Wilby agreeing with me.
The surest way to turn a bad school into a good one is to change the pupils who attend it, according to Peter Wilby in The Guardian. Wilby argues thus:
The government tries to make allowances for differing intakes by publishing ‘value-added’ scores. If parents took this seriously they would clamour to send their children into Islington and Lambeth, and away from Kent, but they don’t. In effect, then, schools are judged on their intake. If one school achieves a better intake, the less able children blight another nearby school. The latest big idea to overcome this is to introduce random allocation (crudely, lotteries). But the idea is fraught with practical difficulties. The truth is that Britain has a problem with school admissions because it is a grossly unequal society. Schools wouldn’t have such grossly dissimilar intakes if extremes of wealth and disadvantage were not so great.We need to face the truth. Britain has a problem with school admissions because it is a grossly unequal society, in which rich and poor are segregated. Schools wouldn’t have such grossly dissimilar intakes - and such dramatically contrasting results - if extremes of wealth and disadvantage, which Labour has reduced only marginally if at all since 1997, were not so great. The never-ending debate about pupil admissions and bad schools is a diversion. We have a social and economic problem, and we have to tackle that before we have a hope of curing educational problems.
No marks for guessing which sociological perspectives that comes from. As I’ve indicated, Wilby’s point of view also reflects my own viewpoint. But let’s exercise the sociological imagination; how would opposing theoretical perspectives counter this argument?
The Fear of Crime and Zero Tolerance You might not expect a sociology teacher to be directing you to articles by ex-Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe in The Express but teachers need to challenge stereotypes and point out sociological ideas wherever they may be lurking. By the way, The Express website is not right up to date so it may take a day or two for the article to turn up on line. Anyway, to cut to the chase, in today’s paper, Widdecombe bemoans the spread of the fear of crime throughout the UK - and indeed, its a problem which has been noted by those from many different positions in the political and sociological spectrum.
Widdecombe argues that the way to reduce fear of crime is to rekindle trust and a key element in doing that, she says, is to take a zero tolerance approach to crime. Zero tolerance is a policy approach but it has roots in several sociological theories: right realism, communitarianism, and control theory. The weaknesses of an approach like zero tolerance are that it operates with a highly selective view of crime, usually focusing on street crime, theft and violence. Important as these are, they are only one element of crime. Zero tolerance also tends to share the assumption of the right realists that crime starts small and inevitably gets worse - which may not always be the case. It also tends to assume that there is a consensus in society about what crime is - or in Widdecombe’s case - that there is a consensus about what people are frightened of. It would be interesting to consider whether different social groups are frightened of different things.
Sociology Makes the City Pages OK, my title is a bending it a bit, but still, its good to see a bit of sociology appearing in the financial pages, even if you argue that you might expect that in The Independent. The first seven paragraphs or so of Stephen King’s article in yesterday’s Independent provide a useful piece of stimulus material which can help sociology students evaluate Marxist theory. It does nicely illustrate the point that the theories of society prevalent at any particular time tend to reflect the dominant assumptions and conditions. Can we expect Marxism, after a lull since the heady days of the late 70s and early 80s, to suddenly become more fashionable? And if the Chief Economist of HSBC thinks its worth knowing a bit of sociology, its worth taking a note. Mind you, the reader comment/s underneath King’s article show that not everyone is so impressed. Indeed, critics of HSBC might say this explains everything - see elsewhere in the business pages and todays’ Independent for more on HSBC’s troubles.
Scotland v Italy Call me a bitter Englishman if you must, but during a tough weekend’s couch spectating, I couldn’t help noting a brief sociological point during the Scotland/Italy match.
McLean makes a try-stopping tackle on Danielli.
But who is playing for who? Well, obviously, as soon as I say that, you’ll guess. Luke McLean was playing for Italy and Danielli for Scotland. And of course only a year or two back there was Dallaglio of England and Marsh (I think?) of France. And doubtless you can find or know of others.
Luke McLean is a Kiwi (New Zealander) who gets Italian eligibility from his grandmother. Danielli - I don’t know about for sure. I may be wrong - and apologies if so - but it sounds like there’s some Italian ancestry somewhere in the family with a name like that.
So what’s all this about? What’s the sociology?
Discuss - can you think of any more examples?
Mickey Mouse Degrees There was a provocative little package on BBC 24 yesterday, warning that there are too many graduates chasing too few jobs; there will apparently be around 300,000 graduates this year and only about 30,000 graduate jobs. Unfortunately the package doesn’t seem to have been posted up on the BBC website. Maybe it will turn up soon, but nonetheless it is certainly food for thought for all sociology students. Check out this article in The Guardian which shows one reason why the package was newsworthy. John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, wants more vocational degree courses. Predictably the BBC dragged on Chris Woodhead, former Chief Inspector of Ofsted, to slate what he called ‘Mickey Mouse Degrees’. Woodhead says there are too many bad degree courses, and students are simply taking on a lot of debt to do courses which won’t guarantee them a job and which employers do not value.
Time to apply some sociological skills. Which perspective best explains the expansion of higher education in the UK over the last few years? Is it the Marxist or the Functionalist account? For a Weberian take on the ‘Mickey Mouse’ charge, see below.read more...»
Quick Quiz 1 OK, here’s a very brief, and I’m afraid today, a rather messy quiz. In future I’ll aim to make this available as loadable documents, but today, well, needs must. Today the quiz has questions mainly focussing on a couple of AS topics. It’s hard to know exactly what readers are teaching/studying at the moment, but I hope this will be a useful ten or fifteen minute filler for all. If you’d like to comment on the format, types of questions, please do so.
So, here we go. 1. What’s the term for using a variety of research methods? 2. Name two functionalist sociologists. 3. Who wrote the book, ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’? 4. How many ‘aptitudes’ were identified in the 1944 Education Act and what were they? 5. What sort of theoretical perspective does the sociologist Howard Becker adhere to? 6. What is the means of production? 7. Which Spanish sociologist wrote ‘The Information Age’? 8. How many universities are there in the UK? 9. Who recently said that institutional racism was no longer a problem in the Metropolitan Police Force? 10. Which American sociologist developed the concept of an underclass? Answers below - don’t cheat!read more...»
Teenage Pregnancy - Are we having a moral panic? Well well, who says the family is a boring topic? The case of Alfie Patten the other week seems to have provoked quite a bit more coverage on the topic. As The Guardian reported last week, such reports aren’t always quite so simple as they seem.
It’s all kicking off, but before your class erupts into debate lets try to tie down a few sociological issues. Are we in the midst of a (nother) moral panic about teenage pregnancy? Stan Cohen, who developed the concept, said that moral panics always involved several stages. First there was the identification of a social problem. It is reported in a sensationalised and distorted fashion leading to further reports and a spiral of official action. All of these stages act only to ‘amplify’ and distort the original problem.
Another useful concept which can be applied here is Howard Becker’s notion of moral entrepreneurs. These are people who have the power to create or enforce rules, and they can in effect ‘profit’ by drawing attention to deviance and infractions of society’s rules.
Are we seeing a moral panic about teenage pregnancy? Who, if anyone, do you think is acting in the role of moral entrepreneur in the current round of reporting.