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Web · Credit · Sociology (SOCI)

Introduction to Sociology
SOCI-1301

  • Fall 2021
  • Section 903 (CRN: 10964)
  • 3 Credits
  • 08/23/2021 to 12/12/2021
  • Modified 08/19/2021

Meeting Times

Dates:08/23/2021-12/12/2021

Course Description

The scientific study of human society, including ways in which groups, social institutions, and individuals affect each other. Causes of social stability and social change are explored through the application of various theoretical perspectives, key concepts, and related research methods of sociology. Analysis of social issues in their institutional context may include topics such as social stratification, gender, race/ethnicity, and deviance. Prerequisite: Meet TSI college-readiness standard for Reading and Writing; or equivalent. 3 credit hours. (A)

This course will be delivered online with no required face-to-face sessions within the course and no on-campus activity requirements. Additional requirements may include test proctoring with student authentication, a desk top or lap top computer (not a mobile device), webcam, and/or microphone.For up to date information on the College's COVID-19 protocols: https://www.collin.edu/covid19/index.html

Contact Information

Professor Larry Stern

  • Email: [email protected]
  • Office: L207: Plano Campus Library
  • Phone: 972-881-5608
  • Website: faculty.collin.edu/lstern

Office Hours

  • Tuesday and Thursday, 10am - 12pm & 1pm - 2pm & by appointment
  • L207 or Zoom

My "official" office hours during this semester are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00am until 12:00pm and from 1:00pm to 2:00pm and, if more convenient, by appointment. We can talk during those times face-to-face (we will go downstairs to the library to insure social distancing), via phone (my office phone number is 972-881-5608), use zoom, or via email. Please note that if the on-campus structured office hour times - Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00am until 12:00pm and 1:00pm until 2:00pm are not convenient - I understand that many of you might be working during those times - I will make myself available if you'd like to set up an appointment for another time - even in the evening.  The best way to reach me is by email at ls[email protected].  You can contact me directly using that address - making certain that you are using your cougar email account - or you can contact me from within Canvas, the portal/platform that we will be using. To do so, look for the "Inbox" tab located in the Global Navigator Bar (at the extreme left side of the page). If a number appears on the icon, it indicates how many unread messages you have in your inbox. Click on the tab to open your mailbox. To reply to a message, click on the “Reply Arrow” that appears along the top bar. To compose a new message, click on the tab which resembles a page with a pencil diagonally across it – it appears just to the left of the “Reply Arrow.” I check my email multiple times each day and in the evening, too. If your email arrives after my office hours have ended for the day, I will typically respond later that afternoon or evening - at the latest by the next morning.

Course Resources

Web Sites and Videos

You will be asked to visit various web sites to read reports, examine data, take interactive quizzes, and to view various videos. 

Personal Qualities

I hope that you will bring an active, open-minded, critical brain with functioning synapses to the materials presented throughout this course. Perhaps, too, you might bring a sense of humor . . .

Supplies

Society: The Basics (Revel 15 edition)

  • Author: John Macionis
  • Publisher: Pearson Prentice Hall
  • Edition: Revel 15th
  • ISBN: 9780134722979 or 9780134711409
  • Availability: See options listed below
  • Price: Depending on the format of the text that you choose, it will cost either $39.99, $59.99, or $63.99.

The textbook that we will be using for this course - which is required - is John Macionis, Society: The Basics, 15th edition, published by Pearson Prentice Hall. You can use any one of the following three options to get the book.

Option 1: You can purchase a used copy of the textbook either online at a website of your choice or in a half price bookstore. An earlier edition of the textbook – a 14th edition – will be acceptable (and less costly, although some of the page and chapter numbering might be different).

Option 2: You can purchase or rent the text for either $39.99, $59.99, or $63.99 depending upon the format you choose, through the Collin College Bookstore.

To do so, go directly to the bookstore on campus or, if not on campus, to https://collin.bncollege.com/shop/collin/page/find-textbooks  (Links to an external site.) and follow these steps using the drop-down menus:

  1. Select a Campus: Since this is an online web class, choose "Collin Wiley Campus & Web Sections 900 - 999.
  2. Select Term: Fall 2021
  3. Select Department: Soci
  4. Select Course: 1301
  5. Select your course Section: 903
  6. Click on "Find Materials For Course"
  7. You will see Society: Basics - 15th ed. Click on "Select Format" and select one of the three options presented. If you choose to rent a digital copy of the text, the cost is $39.99. If you choose to buy the digital version, it will cost $59.99. If you choose to rent the book - you will need to return it at the end of the semester - it will cost $63.99. 
  8. Add item to Cart and Check out
  9. If you are not on campus, your “access code” will be mailed to you. Do not be concerned if it takes a week or two for it to arrive – I provide extensive lecture notes for the first three weeks of the course so you will not be fully relying upon the textbook until unit 3 which will be covered during the week of September 13th.
  10. Once you receive your access code, click on the following link for your class section:
  11. For section 903: https://console.pearson.com/enrollment/pv9lyh (Links to an external site.)
  12. If you already have a Pearson account, sign in. If not, create a new account with your personal password.

Once you gain access to the course materials through the Pearson website you can, if you choose to, download the materials on your phone and/or tablet by using the Pearson Revel App which can be obtained through the App Store or Google Play. Once you enter your course on either the Pearson web page or the Revel App and select “Contents,” you can access your eText and either choose a chapter from “Contents” to begin reading or select “Continue” to start where you last left off reading.

Whether you use the website or the App, you can read and, if you choose, highlight and take notes as you go through the materials. Revel Audio Playlist, which allows you to listen to your textbook as an audiobook, is available on both the website and the App so, if you prefer, you can “listen” to each chapter while taking a walk, doing laundry, cooking dinner, or while relaxing with headphones. Just select the Audio Playlist icon to do so.

Option 3: you can purchase an “access code” for the ebook version of the text directly from the publisher’s web site using a credit card or PayPal and receive “instant access” to the ebook. It will cost $69.99 which, you should note, is $5 more expensive than buying the code through the bookstore. To purchase an access code for this course from the publisher and have immediate access to the text:

  1. Place this address into your web browser:
  2. For section 903: https://console.pearson.com/enrollment/pv9lyh (Links to an external site.);
  3. If you have a Pearson account, enter your username and password. Otherwise, create a new account. If you create an account, you’ll need to confirm your email address from a message sent to the email address that you specify.
  4. From your “My Courses” page, choose how you would like to access the course. Your choices include: Redeem a pre-purchased access code (if you have already purchased one from the college bookstore), buy access using a credit card or PayPal account, or choose Temporary Access if you’re waiting on financial aid. You have the option of choosing 14-day temporary access when you register for Revel. You can upgrade to full access anytime during those 14 days or even after your temporary access has expired.
  5. If you need help, visit Pearson Support (https://support.pearson.com/getsupport/s/ (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)) or click on the Help topics in your Pearson account.

As mentioned above, once you gain access to the course materials through the Pearson website you can, if you choose to, download the materials on your phone and/or tablet by using the Pearson Revel App which can be obtained through the App Store or Google Play. Once you enter your course on either the Pearson web page or the Revel App and select “Contents,” you can access your eText and either choose a chapter from “Contents” to begin reading or select “Continue” to start where you last left off reading.

Whether you use the website or the App, you can read and, if you choose, highlight and take notes as you go through the materials. Revel Audio Playlist, which allows you to listen to your textbook as an audiobook, is available on both the website and the App so, if you prefer, you can “listen” to each chapter while taking a walk, doing laundry, cooking dinner, or while relaxing with headphones. Just select the Audio Playlist icon to do so.

Course Policies

Web Class Information

This class will be delivered in an online format. A desktop or laptop computer - or an iPad - and a stable internet connection will be essential for you to complete this course. I do not recommend the use of a smart phone mobile device.  Its small screen will make it extremely difficult for you to view all of the reading assignments, download and view power-point lecture notes, view videos, complete quizzes, upload writing assignments, and participate in class discussions that are posted on the discussion board. Since we will not be using Zoom for class meetings, nor will we be using proctors for exams (i.e., Honorlock), no other equipment – for example, a webcam or microphone - will be needed.

We will be using Canvas as our web portal for the course. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Canvas is basically an online environment – a password protected safe place – which allows us to interact with each other. For the most part, you will be using Canvas for five things: (1) retrieving directions to access daily lecture notes, assigned readings, videos and web sites to visit - these will appear in the content section called "Modules," (2) taking quizzes, (3) submitting required writing assignments, (4) participating in class discussions (more later), and (5) monitoring your grade.

Links for all of the assigned readings and web site visits for each unit are listed in the “Modules” section in Canvas (think about modules like "folders" you have on your desk-top that contain files/pages). The first module contains the Welcome Letter and Course Orientation, along with other quick links to important information that you can easily access. Also listed are links for each writing assignment and quiz that you are required to complete during the semester.

To begin this course, please read my Welcome Letter and Course Orientation.

To learn "everything you need to know" about the nuts-and-bolts of this course, go to the Frequently Asked Questions  page.

Course Netiquette

Students are expected to maintain standards of courtesy and respect in our online "classroom." Feel free to respond to classmate's discussion replies, but remember that this is still a “classroom” setting and that respect and consideration are crucial for any intellectual discussion. Name-calling and personal attacks are not permitted. Any violation of the standards of appropriate behavior online will be reported to the Dean of Students and the college will take appropriate disciplinary action.

Late Writing Assignments and Missed Quizzes

Since there are, from time-to-time, extraordinary circumstances that occur - life simply intrudes - I will accept one - and only one - late writing assignment during the course of the semester.  However, I will deduct 5 points for each day that it is late. For example, papers are due on Monday mornings at 10am. I will deduct 5-points if I receive the paper after 10am that day and will deduct 10-points if I receive it after 10am on Tuesday, 15-points if I receive it after 10am on Wednesday. And so on. 

I will only reopen a quiz under extraordinary circumstances, such as computer glitches while taking a particular quiz.

Withdrawal From Course With a Grade of "W."

The last day to withdraw from this course and receive the grade of "W" is Friday, October 15th, 2021.

Students that stop attending class but do not officially withdraw will be assigned a grade of "F."

Grade of Incomplete

Unless there are extreme - and documented - circumstances, it is the College's policy that a grade of "Incomplete" will not be considered unless you have completed at least 80% of the required coursework.

Method of Evaluation

Grading System

Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
Grading System 15% Ten ten-question Quizzes

You are required to complete 10 multiple choice/true-false quizzes - there is one for each unit - that cover definitions of basic sociological concepts and theories as well as the substantive content of the assigned readings. These quizzes - each consisting of 10 questions - will be posted and taken on Canvas. You will find a link for each unit quiz in the module or can access it via the "Quiz" tab located in the left-hand column of the page. 

Each quiz will correspond to a specific course unit. Please understand that the "unit" numbers for this course do NOT correspond to the chapter numbers in the textbook - Quiz 4, for example, does NOT cover the materials in chapter 4 of the textbook.

Each quiz will be available online, opening at 7AM the Monday morning that the materials are assigned, and closing at 10AM the Monday that follows the completion of the unit. You will therefore have either one or two full-weeks - depending upon the unit - to take a quiz that is associated with a particular unit. It is important to note that you only get one attempt per quiz and there are no make-up quizzes unless there are extraordinary circumstances that you bring to my attention. In addition, once you begin a quiz you must complete it at that time. If you log out, the clock keeps running and you will be unable to log back in and pick up where you left off.

The purpose of  these quizzes  is to keep you involved in the course on a regular basis - just as if you were taking the course on-site and we met each Monday and Wednesday (or Tuesday and Thursday) for fifteen-weeks. You will have one hour to complete each quiz - which is more than enough time - and it is quite possible that you will have all of the relevant information "nearby" as you answer the 10 questions ;-). You will be shown your quiz score immediately upon completing the quiz, along with the correct responses for those questions you might have missed. Let me say this again for emphasis: You only get one attempt per quiz and there are no make-up quizzes. In addition, once you begin a quiz you must complete it at that time. If you log out, the clock keeps running and you will be unable to log back in and pick up where you left off. I will only reopen a quiz under extraordinary circumstances, such as computer glitches while taking a particular quiz. 

These ten quizzes, combined, will count for 15% of your final grade.

  65% Four (out of 10) Writing Assignments

A number of topics for "summary and response papers" will be available for each of the ten (10) units covered in the course. Altogether, you will complete four (4) of these papers in which you will demonstrate your understanding of the materials by directly applying sociological concepts and theories to your social life and/or contemporary events. As you shall see, these assignments are spread out over the course, typically with at least two weeks - often three weeks - in between due dates.

The first essay – which corresponds to Units 1A/B on "Perspectives" & Unit 2 on "What is Sociology?: The Search for and Explanation of Social Patterns” - is mandatory. Every student must complete and submit this assignment.

For your second essay you will choose one assignment from one of the following three units: Unit 3A/B on "Sociological Theory," Unit 4 on "Culture," OR Unit 5 on "Socialization." (In other words, you will NOT submit a writing assignment taken from two of these three units.)

For your third essay you will choose one assignment from one of the following two units: Unit 6 on “Race, Prejudice and Discrimination,” OR Unit 7 on “Poverty and Inequality. 

For your fourth essay you will choose one assignment from one of the following three units: Unit 8 on "The Sociological Study of Social Problems," Unit 9 on “Collective Behavior and Social Movements,” OR Unit 10 on “Public Sociology and Social Responsibility." 

Each of these papers are to be submitted/uploaded in the "Turnitin Assignment Inbox" in Canvas. 

Links that will lead you to the prompts for these writing assignments can be found in two places: (1) the module for each unit and (2) the "Assignments" section located in the left-hand navigation column on each page in Canvas. Each paper will require roughly three-typed-double-spaced-pages (750-1,000 words). The due dates and times for each assignment are clearly listed in the unit modules and on the assignments page.

I have included a "Tips for Writing Assignments" that can be found in the "Start Here" Module. In addition, if you would like to send a draft of your essay for my review prior to the due date, you must send it as an attached word document in an email at least two days before the due date. I will typically tell what grade your paper would earn if is was to stand, "as is," and also provide comments that, in most instances, improves your essay. Grades will typically be posted no more than forty-eight hours after the due date for each assignment. During the semester, one – and only one – late assignment will be accepted if I consider there to be a valid reason, but 5 points will be deducted from the grade for each day that it ls late.  For example, papers are due on Monday mornings at 10am. I will deduct 5-points if I receive the paper  after 10am that day and will deduct 10-points if I  receive it after 10am on Tuesday. And so on

*** Again, please remember: the Unit numbers for the materials that we will cover do NOT correspond to the Chapter numbers in the textbook.

Taken together, these four writing assignments will count for 65% of your final grade. This means that each essay is worth 16.25% - which is equal to slightly more than a letter-and-one-half-grade.  If, for example, you fail to submit an essay and all of your other work yields an average of 93, your final grade would actually be a 77 - you would drop from an "A" to a "C." 

  20% Final Essay Exam

For your final exam, you will submit one larger essay question, also via the Assignment Depot on Canvas. The two-part question has already been posted on the "Assignments" page.  Let me state this again: Your final exam has already been posted on the assignments page. The two-part question for the final exam will require at least 1,000 words – roughly three typed-double-spaced pages (12-point font). I suggest that you look at the questions as soon as possible and keep them in mind as you go through the materials we cover during the semester. You might even begin to complete parts of the exam as we cover the relevant materials and they are still fresh in your mind.

This final essay exam will count for the remaining 20% of your final grade.

  Bonus Points Discussion Board Bonus Points

A number of (what I consider to be interesting and provocative) discussion topics have been posted on the Discussion Board. Your participation is not mandatory, but you might, perhaps, want to see what your classmates are thinking and perhaps even respond in a thoughtful way.  You might also want to take into consideration that if you do get involved in the back-and-forth of good conversation - if you participate in eight out of the ten units we will be covering - you can, depending on the extent to which your comments indicate an understanding of the sociological issues involved, receive a bonus of up to 5-points on your final grade. That's one-half of a letter grade - which can raise a B+ grade of 85 up to an A . . . The number of bonus points you receive depends, of course, on the extent of your participation and on your ability to discuss the issues in a “sociological” manner.  A simple "I agree with what X said" about so-and-so is not sufficient without a valid reason to support it. 

Grading Scale

A = 100 - 90

B = 89 - 80

C = 79 - 70

D = 69 - 60

F = <60

Course Calendar

Topical Weekly Calendar (subject to change).

Links for all of the assigned readings, web site visits, and videos to view for each unit are listed in the “Modules” section in Canvas. You will also find a "Preview" that briefly outlines the specific topics and issues that will be covered for each unit as the first entry of each module. In addition, you will find links for each writing assignment and quiz - along with their due dates - that you are required to complete during the semester.

August 23 - 27

Course Orientation and Overview:
Course Theme: Anti-Intellectualism in Contemporary Society

August 30 - Sept. 3

Unit 1A: Perspectives: Ways of Seeing, Not Seeing and Being Deceived
Unit 1B: Perspectives:  What is a Human Being?

September 6 - 10

Unit 2: What is Sociology?: The Search for and Explanation of Social Patterns

September 13 - 17

Unit 3: Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology: Micro- and Macro Level Approaches

September 20 - 24

Unit 4: The Study of Culture

September 27 - Oct. 1

Unit 5: The Socialization Process: The Influence of Social Groups and the Mass Media

October 4 - 8

Unit 6: Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination

October 11 - 15

Unit 6: Racism, Prejudice and Discrimination, continued

October 18 - 22

Unit 7: Poverty & Inequality: Causes & Consequences

October 25 - 29

Unit 7: Poverty & Inequality: Causes & Consequences, continued

November 1 - 5

Unit 8: The Sociological Study of Social Problems

November 8 - 12

Unit 8: The Sociological Study of Social Problems, continued

November 15 - 19

Unit 9: Collective Behavior & Social Movements

November 22 - 26

Unit 9: Collective Behavior & Social Movements, continued

November 29 - Dec. 3

Unit 10: Public Sociology & Personal Responsibility

December 6 - 10

Final Exam

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will: 1. Compare and contrast the basic theoretical perspectives of sociology. (Critical Thinking) 2. Identify the various methodological approaches to the collection and analysis of data in sociology. (Empirical and Quantitative Skills) 3. Describe key concepts in sociology. (Critical Thinking; Communication Skills; Social Responsibility) 4. Describe the empirical findings of various subfields of sociology. (Empirical and Quantitative Skills) 5. Explain the complex links between individual experiences and broader institutional forces. (Critical Thinking; Communication Skills; Empirical and Quantitative Skills; Social Responsibility)

Institutional Policies

Collin College has a passion for Learning, Service and Involvement, Creativity and Innovation, Academic Excellence, Dignity and Respect, and Integrity. For more information about Collin College’s mission, vision, and core values, please go to https://www.collin.edu/aboutus/missioncorevalues.html.

All policies, guidelines, and procedures in the Collin College Catalog, Collin College Board Policies, and the Collin College Student Handbook are applicable to this course.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Collin College provides reasonable accommodations, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to afford equal educational opportunities to all people. Students requesting accommodations under this provision should contact Collin College’s Accommodations at Collin College for Equal Support Services (ACCESS) Office. For more information, go to https://www.collin.edu/studentresources/disabilityservices/index.html

Scholastic Dishonesty

Every member of the Collin College community is expected to maintain the highest standards of academic integrity. All work submitted for credit is expected to be the student’s own work. Collin College may initiate disciplinary proceedings against a student accused of scholastic dishonesty.  While specific examples are listed below, this is not an exhaustive list and scholastic dishonesty may encompass other conduct, including any misconduct through electronic or computerized means. Scholastic dishonesty shall include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following acts. 

General Scholastic Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, statements, acts, or omissions related to applications for enrollment, credit or class work, research, or the award of a degree; falsifying academic records; using annotated texts or teachers’ editions; using information about exams posted on the Internet or in any electronic medium; leaving a test site without authority; failing to secure test materials; and/or submitting work that is not one’s own. Students are expected to record honestly and accurately the results of all their research. Falsification of research results shall include misrepresentations, distortions, or omissions in data or reports on research. 

Plagiarism is the use of an author’s words or ideas as if they were one’s own without giving credit to the source, including, but not limited to, failure to acknowledge a direct quotation or patchwriting. In the preparation of all papers and other written work, students must distinguish their own ideas and knowledge from information derived from other sources. The term “sources” includes not only published primary and secondary materials, but also information and opinions gained directly from other people. Whenever ideas or facts are derived from a source, the source must be indicated by the student. 

Cheating is the giving or receiving of information in an unauthorized manner during an examination or to complete an assignment; collaborating with another student during an examination without authority; using, buying, selling, soliciting, stealing, or otherwise obtaining course assignments and/or examination questions in advance; unauthorized copying of computer or Internet files; using someone else’s work for an assignment as if it were one’s own; submitting or resubmitting an assignment in whole or in part (i.e., recycling an assignment) for more than one (1) class or institution without permission from each of the professors; or any other dishonest means of attempting to fulfill the requirements of a course. 

Collusion is intentionally or unintentionally aiding or attempting to aid another in an act of scholastic dishonesty, including, but not limited to, failing to secure academic work; providing a paper or project to another student; providing an inappropriate level of assistance or  unauthorized collaboration; communicating answers to a classmate about an examination or any other course assignment; removing tests or answer sheets from a test site; and allowing a classmate to copy answers. 

In cases where an incident report has been filed for an alleged violation of scholastic dishonesty, the faculty member is requested to delay posting a grade for the academic work in question until the case is final. A student found responsible for a scholastic dishonesty offense(s) will receive an appropriate disciplinary penalty or penalties from the Dean of Students Office. The student may also receive an academic penalty in the course where the scholastic dishonesty took place. The faculty member will determine the appropriate academic penalty, which may range from a grade of zero (0) on the assignment to failing the course. 

To view the Board policies associated with this section, go to http://pol.tasb.org/Policy/Download/304?filename=FLB(LOCAL).pdf

Academic Etiquette and the College Experience

Students and professors at Collin College share a responsibility to promote, develop, and maintain a positive learning environment. Students are expected to show respect to other students and professors at all times. For more information regarding academic etiquette and the college experience, specifically student academic success and seeking out resources, disruptive use of electronic devices, and tardiness and absences, please refer to the Student Handbook 

Institutional Deadlines

The Census Date is the 12th class day in a regular 16-week semester, or the fourth (4th) class day in a short summer semester. The census date varies for mini-semesters and express classes. Students are required to attend class prior to the census date. For more information, go to https://www.collin.edu/gettingstarted/register/census%20dates.html.

Students may withdraw from a course(s) with a grade of “W” through the end of the eighth (8th) class week during a regular 16-week semester, through Tuesday of the third (3rd) week of classes in a short 5-week summer term, and through Thursday of the fifth (5th) week of classes in a long 10-week summer term. Withdrawals will appear on the student’s official transcript, but have no effect on his or her grade point average (GPA). Contact the admissions area in the Student and Enrollment Services Office for withdrawal deadlines for other terms.  

Prior to initiating a withdrawal, students should contact their professor(s) and/or an academic advisor. Withdrawal from Collin College must be initiated by the student. Students who discontinue class attendance and do not officially withdraw will receive a performance grade for the course(s). Students who need to withdraw from a class(es) may do so online or in person in the Student and Enrollment Services Office at any campus. For more information and withdrawal dates, please go to https://www.collin.edu/gettingstarted/register/withdrawal.html.

Additional Support

Collin College is dedicated to providing information and support to students. Please click on the following links for more information and to learn about support the College offers: Mental Health Resources (Counseling)Strategies of Behavioral Intervention (SOBI)Financial Aid and Veteran Benefits, Anthony Peterson Center for Academic Assistance (Writing Centers and Math Labs) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  

For any other College Academic Policies, please also refer to the Student Handbook.  

 

Additional Items

"The Bottom Line"

This course is designed to provide you with the opportunity to discover how the discipline of sociology - an approach that studies social factors and processes that affect all human actions and their consequences for specific individuals, groups, institutions and the society - can help you make sense out of your daily life and interpret broader societal issues.

As shall become clear, sociology is not simply knowing so-called “facts and figures” about society – how many homeless people there are, how many crimes are committed, how many divorces occur in a given year, how many people lack decent health care, and so on. Although sociologists are certainly attentive to these statistics, sociology is less an assemblage of facts and figures and more a “way of seeing” these things; a way of focusing on certain aspects of human conduct, raising certain questions and then relying on the systematic application of scientific methods – not individual, personalized, impressionistic accounts – to attain a deeper understanding of the world. 

There are, then, two separate “bundles” of information you will be required to confront and grapple with this semester:  (1) what’s going on “out there” in the world – current events and the broader context in which they are embedded – so, yes, either reading the “news” section of a newspaper (preferably more than one) or watching the news on television on a regular basis would be helpful, and (2) how sociologists actually go about their business of trying to account for and provide explanations (sometimes tentative explanations - for one or another state of affairs.  And as you will quickly see, life is complicated – and often quite messy – resisting quick and easy explanations. H. L. Mencken, a noted editor and critic, had it right when he said, "For every human problem, there is a neat, simple solution; and it is always wrong."

So, be prepared: It is quite likely that the application of the sociological perspectives and concepts that you will encounter will lead you to “see” the world and your immediate surroundings somewhat differently and to  “notice” things that have thus far escaped your attention. Do not, however, jump to the conclusion that sociology is necessarily “subversive.” True, the application of a sociological perspective to something that you think you “already know and understand” might challenge your position and force you to reconcile the differences. But a sociological analysis might just as well lend added support to your previous understanding and, in fact, strengthen it considerably. That is for you to decide.

Know, too, that sociologists do not believe that their perspective is the one and only way to explain individual and societal phenomena. Other disciplines, such as psychology, economics, political science, and history have much to say that is important, too. Each discipline carves out its own niche, focusing on different aspects of the phenomenon under investigation, asking particular types of questions, using particular types of methods of inquiry, and offering different - usually complementary - interpretations of events. No one discipline has an exclusive claim to knowledge.

But let me highlight one theme that sociologists typically stress - one that we will be considering throughout the semester: the Inevitability - and Importance - of Legitimate Social and Intellectual Conflict.

A course such as this ordinarily covers many sensitive issues and it is NOT expected—nor is it desirable—that we all view them in the same manner.  This is not simply a reflection of my cultural bias – I spent my formative years growing up in New York City where to argue with someone is considered to be a sign of respect. Instead, I will argue that there are clear and specifiable sociological reasons that would lead you to expect – to predict – widespread disagreements among people when it comes to beliefs, values, attitudes, and interpretations of the social world.  This will be especially relevant this semester as we witness the various political controversies that are likely to unfold (the debates over our response to COVID, access to health care, immigration,  access to military grade weapons, the challenge to political institutional norms, foreign affairs, court appointments, etc).

To discuss these matters – and other issues on which disagreement will inevitably occur during the semester – we must all take seriously – and respect – the legitimate existence of reasonable differences of opinion. If you accept the premise that we are all – to some extent – shaped and molded by our life-experiences –

That, generally speaking, men and women experience the world differently – they are perceived differently, they are treated differently and, as a result they have to deal with different circumstances as they make their way in the world;

Then, it should come as no surprise that, due to these difference experiences, although they share certain beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, men and women will likely have meaningful and legitimate differences with respect to important beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, too.

That, generally speaking, wealthy people and impoverished people experience the world differently – they are perceived differently, they are treated differently and, as a result they have to deal with different circumstances as they make their way in the world;

Then, it should come as no surprise that, due to these different experiences, although they share certain beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, wealthy people and impoverished people will likely have meaningful and legitimate differences with respect to important beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, too.

That, generally speaking, older people and younger people experience the world differently – they are perceived differently, they are treated differently and, as a result they have to deal with different circumstances as they make their way in the world;

Then, it should come as no surprise that, due to these different experiences, although they share certain beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, older people and younger people will likely have meaningful and legitimate differences with respect to important beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, too.

That, generally speaking, people with lighter complexions and people with darker complexions experience the world differently – they are perceived differently, they are treated differently and, as a result they have to deal with different circumstances as they make their way in the world;

Then, it should come as no surprise that, due to these different experiences, although they share certain beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, people with lighter complexions and people with darker complexions will likely have meaningful and legitimate differences with respect to important beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, too.

That, someone who is a seventy-one year old male who has spent thirty-plus years (that include the nineteen-sixties and seventies) living in New York, who grew up in the upper level of the lower-class yet has an Ivy League graduate education, has taught in prisons as well as prestigious universities, and has shared in the raising of three daughters – has experienced the world differently than someone who is a nineteen year old female, has grown up in an affluent community, is just entering college . . .

Then, it should come as no surprise that, due to these different experiences, although they share certain beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, the older New York professor and the younger female student will likely have meaningful and legitimate differences with respect to important beliefs, values, attitudes, and interests, too.

It is important to realize that not only is disagreement fundamental to the social world, but also that it fosters intellectual growth. Honest discussion and arguments over actual differences of opinions (not caricatures of opposing viewpoints) often lead to a sharpening and deepening of one's understanding of the world. Toward that goal – and as long as it is kept respectful and civilized – lively argument and "creative disagreement" will be strongly encouraged in class throughout the semester.  Be bold.  Let’s “agree to disagree.”  I assure you that the more we argue, the more each of us – myself included – will learn.  If you are uncomfortable about anything that appears in the readings, web pages, and videos or is said in class, please do not hesitate to come and speak with me during office hours.  In fact, I hope that you will come by the office at least once during the semester just to “touch base” so I can see how you are doing!

Let me end with a cautionary note:  the course requirements are demanding. To keep you engaged in the course there will be a number of writing assignments – requiring between three and four pages (depending on the assignment) - which means that one will be due nearly every third week. And the required readings and web site visits look imposing (although most of the readings that supplement the textbook chapters are only a few pages long). 

Now, let me be re-assuring: I will do all that I can to help you reach your goals. I will be available during office hours and beyond. You can contact me via email or phone. Meet me at least halfway and, if needed, I’ll drag you across the finish line (kicking and screaming, I suspect)! At the same time, if you haven’t been keeping up with the class (with no good reason), haven't handed in the required assignments when they were due and then happen to show up asking for help the last day of class, well . . . . perhaps not.

In sum, sociology will lead you to raise certain questions and then rely on systematic scientific methods, rather than individual, personalized, impressionistic accounts, to better understand the various social worlds that you inhabit and the inevitable social problems that are found in contemporary society. In each instance you will take a “hands on” approach and apply sociological concepts, findings, and theories to your life and contemporary social events. The main objective is for you to learn that a sociological perspective has relevance to your life. And, who knows? We might have all sorts of fun arguing about all sorts of stuff!