About Nate
Nate Palmer is the primary author of Sociology Source, the editor of SociologyInFocus.com, the creator of SociologySounds.com, and a lecturer of sociology at Georgia Southern University.
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Sunday
Aug102014

A Teacher's Guide to ASA 2014

Ready or not ASA is upon us. For those of you who are pedagogically inclined, I've put together a list of events that you should check out. Mostly these are the ASA Section of Teaching and Learning events. If you spot other sessions/events that I should feature, email them to me at Nathan@SociologySource.org. I'll be tweeting from a lot of the sessions and I hope to see you at our Sociology Blog Party on Saturday at Johnny Foley's Irish Pub. For more on the blog party check here.

 

Monday August 18th -- ASA Section Day

8:30-10:10

Section on Teaching and Learning in Sociology Paper Session. Connection, Transfer, and Reflection: How Community Engagement Enhances the Sociological Imagination

10:30-12:30

Section on Teaching and Learning in Sociology Invited Session. Mapping the Sociology Curriculum

2:30-3:30

Hans O. Mauksch Award Speech, Betsey Lucal, “Getting Real about Private Troubles as Public Issues: Students, Teachers and Higher Education in the 21st Century

3:30-4:30

Section on Teaching and Learning in Sociology Business Meeting

4:30-6:10

Section on Teaching and Learning Roundtables

6:30-8:30

Reception, co-sponsored with AKD at the Parc 55 Hotel (room not assigned yet) with cash bar.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014: 8:30 - 10:10

Section on Teaching and Learning in Sociology Paper Session. Capstones, Culminating Experiences, and Senior Seminars: Meaningful Teaching Ideas that Help Students Put It All Together.

Sunday
Aug102014

Join us at the ASA Sociology Blog Party

Are you coming to ASA? Do you like chatting with friendly sociologists? Would you like to meet your favorite blogger face-to-face? We'll then come on down to Johnny Foley's Irish Pub and join us for the 3rd Annual Sociology Blogger Party. This is a casual and fun affair open to anyone. Your favorite bloggers from the Sociological Cinema, Sociological Images, The Society Pages, Conditionally Accepted, SociologySource, and SociologyInFocus will all be there. Tell your friends, bring your colleagues, or come alone and meet new people. We'd love to see you. The details are below and for even more info go to our Official Blog Party Page

WHO: Open to everyone! Please bring your friends and colleagues.
WHEN: Saturday 8/16 4:30–6:00pm
WHERE:
Johnny Foley's Irish Pub
243 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Monday
Jul282014

Defining Intuitive Sociology

What do we call sociological research done by untrained sociologists?

In it’s simplest form sociological research is nothing more than the making and testing of hypotheses about the social world (i.e. groups of people, institutions, culture, etc.). We all do that every day. You can’t make sense of the world without doing informal sociological research. So what do we call this untrained sociological research?

What I’m talking about is not common sense. As Mathesin (1989) points out, common sense is a body of knowledge, not a methodology. What I want to talk about is the methodology people use everyday to explore the social world. To be clear, I’m talking about the non-systematic observations of anecdotal evidence, hearsay, and media reports used to draw conclusions about the social world. What should we call that?

We should call it intuitive sociology.

By definition intuition means “The ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning”. Furthermore, unlike scientific reasoning, intuition draws its conclusions, “without the use of rational processes”. Intuition is also BFF with the confirmation bias, as it’s conclusions are often drawn “based on or agreeing with what is known or understood without any proof or evidence”.

Therefore I define Intuitive Sociology as the non-systematic, non-empirical process of making and testing hypotheses about the social world that is carried out without conscious reasoning. The findings from this methodology are often selected based on the prior beliefs and/or needs of the individual using the approach.

Why Intuitive Sociology Matters

Intuitive sociology matters because it is what our students bring with them into our class room. The first challenge any sociology teacher faces is convincing students that a rigorous, conscious, rational, empirical methodology offers them something that their intuitive sociology methods cannot. You have to show them that intuitive sociology is flawed and produces a vision of the world that is often inaccurate. You have to give them “new eyes” to see the world around them again for the first time.

Our students will spend the entire semester going back and forth between their intuitive and scientific sociological methodologies. They will waffle between anecdotal and empirical evidence. Keeping this in mind can help us be more empathetic and patient teachers.

Intuition is Flawed, Science is Flawed

Sociology is not a religion (to Comte’s chagrin). Obviously, sociology like all scientific endeavors is also flawed. Any first semester grad student can rail on the subjectivity of science, but I’ll spare you as I’m guessing you already know the deal. Empirical methods cannot give us the “Truth”, but they can provide us with a perspective that intuitive methods cannot.

We also need to honor the experiences of our students. Shaming their use of intuition or ridiculing their common sense is a counterproductive approach to teaching. We should not present sociology as diametrically opposed to intuition and common sense because in reality they are interconnected, but that’s a topic for another day. I think the best we can hope for our students is that when they leave our classes they will find ways to use their sociological imaginations in conjunction with their intuition and common sense.

Monday
Jun092014

REVIEW: The Next America by Paul Taylor

The Next America by Paul Taylor is an outstanding and approachable book that I plan on using in my sociology classes this fall. The book is a tour de force of social statistics. This is no surprise given that it was written by the Executive Vice President of the Pew Research Center Paul Taylor.

What makes this book so outstanding is how it manages to integrate sociological research with Pew studies, while at the same time never overwhelming the reader with a stats attack. If you want to show your students how to write and explain data, this is the book for you. Taylor lowers the on ramp to social statistic and demography and presents a picture of the United States as an ever changing social system full of surprises. Statistics are used to dispel a myth of common sense, to highlight a piece of the American mosaic, or to help the reader make sense of a seemingly chaotic social world.

As the book’s title alludes to, Taylor is primarily interested with how birth cohort affects perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. In each chapter the data is segmented by each of the living generations (Greatest Generation -> Silents -> Boomers -> Xers -> Millennials). After reading a few pages, the reader can’t help but see that our perceptions of the world are guided by the historical moment we live in and have lived through. In other words, this book is amazing at showing how historical context affects an individual’s perception of the world around them. As I’ve recently lamented many of our students intuitive understanding of the social world is built upon an ahistorical framework. I am hoping that a text like Next America will pry open my students’ minds to the role historical timing plays in their lives.

While the dramatic title would have you believe this book is all about the “looming generational showdown”, that was really only the focus of 3 chapters. The rest of the book looked at how the different generations felt and behaved on issues like marriage, religion, immigration, racial inequality, and use of digital technology. If you are looking for a quick introduction to the sociological research on any of these issues, this book is hard to beat. In this way the book serves as a public facing edition of the Annual Review of Sociology.

As a bonus, Taylor was interviewed by Jon Stewart about Next America. This short (6 min) clip will be a great way to introduce the book and the author to my students this fall.

Taylor’s work is strongest when it focuses on sharing the wealth of demographics and social data points. When Taylor strays into drawing conclusions and predicating the future the results are a mixed bag. While this book uses a lot of sociological data it is not a sociological book. At times I winced as Taylor espoused the dominant ideology (e.g. racism for the most part is a thing of the past). To his credit, Taylor often presented data that challenged these dominant ideologies. To his discredit, these contradictions were rarely acknowledged and I anticipate having a few confused students. All that said, science is often a contradictory process, so dealing with conflicting arguments is a skill that I hope to develop in my students.

This book is a winner and I plan on using it for at least the next few years. The curated presentation of real time social data that this book offers alone warrants your consideration.

Monday
May122014

I Need Your Help!

Dear readers,

I need your help. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed sharing my ideas & resources with you here at Sociology Source, but now it’s time for me to ask for something in return. I am collecting data on how sociology educators are using the Internet to do their jobs. I’d like you to take my survey.

You can take this survey by clicking this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2G5TXS2

But wait! I have one more favor to ask of you. I need you to help me get the word out about this study. Tweet the link. Post it to your Facebook wall. Email the link to your colleagues. Do whatever you can to help us get the word out.

Thank you in advance for your help! Nate