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Goals of the Course:
- to develop the "sociological imagination" - the ability to apply a critical perspective to view yourself and your various social worlds (family, school, workplace, hometown, country, biosphere, etc.) with a greater understanding of individual, group and societal processes.
- to master the basic tools of sociological inquiry - including the ability to identify a sociological problem, to pose theoretical questions and engage with current debates, and to learn methods of data collection and presentation.
- to expand knowledge of specific events, groups, historical periods and economic, political, and social trends, focusing on subject areas that resonate with and expand your own interests.
- to develop written and verbal skills for developing ideas, exchanging ideas with others, and presenting these ideas to a broader audience.
- to create a learning environment that encourages you to forge meaningful collegial relationships through participation in the classroom and college community.
- to instill confidence in your abilities to articulate and interpret your own experiences, and to empower you to take action as agents of personal and social change.
Organization of the Course:
Introductory courses can be both exciting and frustrating in that they cover so many topics in such a short period of time. Thus, I have designed the course to try and give you both breadth and depth as you venture into new intellectual terrain. The main reader for the course, Mapping the Social Landscape (MSL), evokes the metaphors of geographical exploration and discovery, and will take you on a journey of addressing the many broad subfields within sociology.* I have also assigned four full-length books in order to give you the experience of delving into a single topic and getting to know the work of a single sociologist more intimately.
I have chosen books that integrate several subfields within sociology, and in addition, are considered classic works (not to mention being good reads). The course is organized in such a way that we will first examine a few topics within the MSL reader, then focus on a book as a case study of how sociologists have actually researched and written about these topics. Thus, rather than completing one section and moving on to a seemingly unrelated one, I hope the course will weave and layer many different strands of thought to give you an experience of sociology as a coherent, although not necessarily unified or consistent academic discipline and intellectual perspective.
* The editor of MSL, Susan Ferguson, is a professor here in the Sociology Department at Grinnell. I thank her and Professors Chris Hunter and Lisa Avalos, and my former colleagues at Skidmore College, John Brueggeman and Rory McVeigh for contributing to the design of this course.