April 25, 2006

"I've thought about starting to pretend to be more politically conservative than I am in seminars just to feel less complicit in all this."

Suffering through sociology, where "[y]ou are asked to believe that the way to 'de-racialize' something is to take an award with no name attached to it and attach to it the name presently attached to the major sociology award associated with race."
It's like sociology is engaged in this campaign to purge the air in its hallways from heterodox thought as much as possible, and then it simultaneously wonders why students trained in this sterile environment have trouble articulating their ideas to the general public.
Well, go read all that. But here's my question for you current and recent students. Did you take or avoid classes in sociology? Tell us about it.


craig said...

Avoided like the plague. The courses seemed like watered-down material that could be studied with better professors in other departments (psych, econ, history, etc.)

Gahrie said...

Avoided it as long as I could. Sociology 170 was literally the last course I took as an undergrad, and then only because it was a required course for graduation.

The only courses I took that were worse were the Dept. of Education courses I took to get my teaching credential.

CB said...

I was able to avoid sociology courses, but was subjected to similar nonsense in literature courses. The biggest problem I have with sociology and literary theory is that they are jargon-laden, and thus largely tautological. That is to say, if you accept the definitions of the jargon, everything is true by definition. You cannot really argue or debate the tenets, because if you reject the jargon, the whole house of cards collapses.

Abraham said...

At UW Madison, I took Sociology of Crime and Punishment, along with a bunch of other law-related classes in political science and philosophy. Big mistake. The class was mostly just a survey of grievances and innuendo. I only feel like I learned anything because I took to routinely fact-checking and challenging the lecturer. My favorite example: he spent a class discussing the unfair nature of law enforcement and argued that if you count occupational deaths as corporate murders, then corporations kill far more people than lower-class criminals. Budding lawyer that I was, I responded by pointing out that such deaths lacked the specific intent required for murder or even manslaughter, and brought in BLS statistics that proved his numbers were totally bogus. He ended up apologizing to the class for not being clear about the subjective nature of "facts." WORST. CLASS. EVER.

Dave said...

Same as CB...

DCWilly said...

I went to Wesleyan University (a.k.a. "diversity university") where the name of every class, whether technically listed as a Sociology class, always began with the title "Race, Class, and Ethnicity in [insert name] . . ." We all nicknamed the major "Oppression Studies." I think there was a class once called "Race, Class and Ethnicity in Particle Physics."

I, for one, avoided all classes after Sociology 101, because I got tired of some really wealthy minority students telling me that I (middle-class son of a single mom) was a "hegemon" and, get this, a "white male oppressor." I lost a little respect for it as an academic discipline after that, especially given that the professor seemed to agree.

Steve Donohue said...

I took the 100 class here at the University of Illinois, but I'd never take on again. Too much of the stuff we learned started with "we would assume that...", while hard evidence flies in the face of everything the professor was saying. It was almost like a religion, explaining away all the many things that didn't fit in with the "sociological" worldview and contriving its own reality.

jeff_d said...

I'll confess that I actively sought out these classes in college. The nonsensical jargon, preference for victim culture abstractions over objective judgments, and utter disdain for anything approaching intellectual rigor meant that one could almost entirely ignore the reading assignments and bluff one's way through the semester. It was the fastest and easiest way to a gentleman's C.

My favorite memory was of the lengthy colloquy between a professor and a student who was--with minimal embellishment--satisfying his class participation requirement by excerpting phrases from the table of contents to one of the books. To this day, I don't know whether the professor knew what the student was doing and just didn't care or was actually unable to tell the difference between the student's fraud and that of her discipline as a whole.

We did get to read a little James Q. Wilson. But otherwise, what a waste of time.

tiggeril said...

At U of Chicago, a social sciences course was part of the core.

I had to take a sequence called Power, Identity, Resistance with the obligatory Marx-lovin' prof. At least he was pretty. Made up for the class a little bit

Ye gods. Is it any surprise I ran screaming to the comforting arms of the economics department after that?

37383938393839383938383 said...

The first comment on that linked to site really defeats the post: Wouldn't they say that the way they're deracializing the award is to rename the biggie award, one usually given to various white people, after a black man, as opposed to insinuating that DuBois' relevance only lies with sociologists of color?

howzerdo said...

Wow...animal abuse as humor yesterday and anti-intellectualism today! If I didn't share the political world view of so many here I would stop visiting. I don't how how long "recent" is for the commenters but when I encounter current students with such blatant disdain for any academic field it depresses me. Luckily this semester I am blessed with one class filled with the brightest lights at the university (sadly, my other class takes the dim view of Education classes, and would be at home among these remarks.) My undergraduate major was history, not sociology but my husband got his BA is sociology and loved it. Mead, Weber...how can they be discounted as unworthy of study? My favorite professor from u-grad was a Marxist (though he was an economic historian, not a sociologist). I didn't agree with his perspective then and don't even more today, but I will never forget the wonderful class discussions he facilitated.

CB said...

This brings to mind Alan Sokal's celebrated hoax, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, a completely nonsensical essay that was accepted and published by a cultural studies journal, which was evidently not able to distinguish between deliberate gibberish and the stuff it usually prints. If you're interested in more info, a good starting point is here.

Ann Althouse said...

Howzerdo: What are you classifying as "anti-intellectualism"? Back up your charge. I don't think you can. The criticisms of sociology are about its lack of intellectual rigor and honesty and are not anti-intellectual. They are pretty much the opposite.

Christy said...

Don't think mid-70s sociology was so one-note, but it was still the kind of class I took as an engineering undergrad because I didn't have time for another class that required thought or study. Just spit back the prevailing cultural mores in graceful prose and the teachers are happy. Does it mean I lack integrity because I authored papers and answered test questions with what I knew to be garbage? It served my purpose at the time, and frankly I've greater sins to worry about.

quietnorth said...

As long as we are critiquing grievances and generalizations, aren't most of the critiques here rather generalized? I don't know what literature courses others took, I took a few at the "Marxist" UW-Madison, and remember reading classic and modern works with only some literary theory thrown in. The professors I had seemed to love the literature. My sociology and anthropology classes, taken mostly at a different UW school, were very helpful in seeing the ways we "construct" our social reality. Doesn't the current critique of these institutions steal from the sociological toolbox? Conservatives: "Who's your Daddy?"

TWM said...

I took several Sociology classes, but for the life of me I recall very little of them. Now, my psych courses I remember, which may support the watered-down comment above.

mapchic said...

One of my proudest moments in college was when I was kicked out of the one Sociology class I ever registered for.

It fulfilled some requirement and I figured it would be an easy class in a semester where I was taking 21 credit hours.

During the second class I made the professor and her adoration of Cuba under Castro look so ridiculous that students were laughing out loud at her. She didn't expect there to be a Cuban American conservative in her class and was unprepared for anyone to question her.

At the end of the class she told me I was not welcome in her classroom... luckily it was early enough in the semester for me to pick up a different class.

Aspasia M. said...

I can't speak to any undergraduate courses about sociology, but I do have some knowledge about how history, as a field, has been influenced by sociology.

I'm a little confused about the knee-jerk reaction to "sociology" as a field.

Sociology is the study, literally, of the "mass." Trends, demographics, patterns, and the calculation of "the average" all constitute part of the field of sociology.

If you're interested in the average death rate, total fertility rate, infant mortality rate, ect., all of these questions are part of the study of sociology as a field.

As for myself, I'm grateful that other historians cracked the census numbers to provide us with such information. I find the information interesting and useful, but the counting and calculation of statistics rather tedious.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

geoduck2, I'm sure the majority of respondents in this thread would have been delighted to take the sociology class you described in lieu of the one they attended.

word verification: aekno

The collective response to "would you take another sociology class like the last one?"

Aspasia M. said...

The award blogged about was named for W.E.B. Du Bois.

Du Bois was a great scholar. However, I've never thought of him as a sociologist, but as a historian.

After all, Du Bois did get his Ph.D. in History from Harvard in 1895. His dissesrtation was on a history topic: it was titled, "The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870."

Actually, I've got Du Bois's book on Reconstruction checked out right now.

Abraham said...

I'm a little confused about the knee-jerk reaction to "sociology" as a field.

Perhaps you are confused because there is no such knee-jerk reaction. If you read the comments, you will find that these are mostly thoughtful reactions to specific Sociology classes. Sociology may be a noble and worthwhile field of study. The topic under discussion, however, is the quality of the classes that tend to fall under its rubric.

Edmund said...

In the mid-70s, I was double majoring in Sociology and Astronomy for my BA. It ended when two required courses were scheduled at the same time (Thermodynamics and "Personality, Social Structure, and Culture". Thermo won.) There were, at the time, two kinds of sociology courses past the intro course:
- somewhat quantitative courses based on the results of surveys and demographic data
- courses full of what we science and engineering types call "handwaving". Assertions, extrapolation from anecdotes, and personal prejudices are dressed up in fancy language and portrayed as fact.

I took a joint soc/comp sci class on computer modeling of social systems, based on the Club of Rome's book Limits to Growth. The soc prof that taught it took me aside and advised me that with a hard science background, I could go into sociology and have a great career: potential critics with a math background could be fooled by the soc jargon, the soc types would be baffled by the math.

A point to ponder about the humanities: the average science or engineering major can take an upper level humanities class and make an excellent grade. The average humanities major can't take any science class above "Rocks for Jocks" or "Twinkle, twinkle little star" and eke out a passing grade.

howzerdo said...

Ann: Well, Wiki (true, not the greatest source, but easy to access) defines anti-intellectualism as "...a hostility towards, or mistrust of, intellectuals and intellectual pursuits. This may be expressed in various ways, such as an attack on the merits of science, education, or literature." So your question and many of the comments aren't attacks on the merits of sociology? I'll admit to being sensitive on this subject (and animals too, but that is another story). The reason is because the "this is crap and I have nothing to learn from it" attitude is too pervasive. I encounter far too many students who take classes only because they are required for graduation, who go to college only because mom and dad are paying, who resent being asked to read, or write, or think, or do anything at all. The are consumers, and as consumers, deserve a minimal effort A. True, they are the minority - the vast majority are a joy - but that tiny group can be very influential in pulling down the work culture group (very aptly labeled by G.H. Mead, a social philosopher). By the way, I am not trying to defend the politicization of classrooms, which is something I abhor. But I still think Weber, Durkheim, Mead, even Marx are worth study.

tiggeril said...

No one said that any of those writers are not worth study. The problem is the dogmatic approach that many professors seem to take when it comes to injecting their political philosophies into the classroom via interpretation of the works. I would love to see a sociology class where the entire term didn't revolve around the study of oppression.

craig said...


I agree that "Weber, Durkheim, Mead, even Marx are worth study." My point, at the very beginning of the thread is that they were taught better and in more depth in other departments.

YMMV. On the couple of campuses i know, the sociology departments were staffed with weak professors and seemed to draw few brilliant students.

ShadyCharacter said...

Give me a break howzerdo.

By your sloppy logic mocking phrenology would be classic anti-intellectualism.

Sociology (and education) are mocked because they are, in their current incarnations, simply laughable as "academic" fields. Jargon and assertions dressed up as a field of study.

The fact that EVERY single poster on this board who had any contact with the Sociology department has come to the same conclusion is not a sign that they're all anti-intellectual.

You can generate your own sociology paper by visiting "http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo". It even gives the footnotes. It's a real hoot (as was the sociology course I took as a freshman at Dartmouth).

If this site had been in existence I could have pulled that A without going through the trouble of doing the 2 hours of work I did for it that quarter...

MadisonMan said...

A point to ponder about the humanities: the average science or engineering major can take an upper level humanities class and make an excellent grade.

I think this is true -- but only if the scientist is a good writer. I know I took a journalism class once on a lark, as a break from all my hard science classes. What a breeze. All you did was sit and write. To answer the original question, I avoided soc classes -- no time, with a double major in two hard sciences. But I wouldn't have taken them anyway, as everyone knew you learned nothing useful in them.

MadisonMan said...

You can generate your own sociology paper by visiting "http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo".

I simply must get new glasses. I read that link as porno several times.

Aspasia M. said...

If you read the comments, you will find that these are mostly thoughtful reactions to specific Sociology classes.

I'm talking about the link, not the comments. You know...the Du Bois award and "what's wrong with sociology" and such.
A point to ponder about the humanities: the average science or engineering major can take an upper level humanities class and make an excellent grade. The average humanities major can't take any science class above "Rocks for Jocks" or "Twinkle, twinkle little star" and eke out a passing grade.

1) You sure that ain't grade inflation?

2) hahahahahahahah. My husband is teaching a into. level computer science course this sememster. It's easy. He was grading harder then some other teachers, and people were surprised he had an actual grade spread instead of mostly As and Bs.

He is rather startled at the number of students who have trouble reading rather simple texts. (And I'm not even going to talk about the writing levels.)

ShadyCharacter said...

I will second the point about hard science types often having trouble with basic language skills. My sister was a TA for undergraduate chemistry classes at BU while getting her masters and the (lack of) quality of the written work was often unbelievable.

Some were so bad she assumed it was an ESL type issue for some of the students. Unfortunately, it was not. =)

Internet Ronin said...

I took one sociology class, Contemporary American Society. The two profs. were up-front about their supposed Marxist-Leninist-Maoist perspective. As this was in 1973, China was viewed by many leftists as the only genuine Socialist paradise. Visas to China were rare then, almost always only under the auspices of groups such as the US-Chinese Peoples Friendship Association. Tours were highly structured and closely monitored. Both profs. were among the first post-“Nixon-goes-to-China” American visitors allowed in China. One made a point of always wearing his cute Mao cap to each class while the other made a show of carrying around her authentic barefoot doctor knapsack.

As proponents of Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse-tung Thought at that time considered homosexuality a bourgeois perversion, the male professor was engaged in a great struggle with both himself and his teaching partner, who felt his “coming out” would damage the reputation of both and undermine their message in class about class.

Under the circumstances, the reading list was pretty standard fare. Off the top of my head, the ones I remember reading are:

Mills, C. Wright: The Power Elite
Slater, Philip: The Pursuit of Loneliness
Liebow, Elliot:Tally's Corner
Chinoy, Ely: Automobile Workers and the American Dream
Brown, Dee:: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Weber, Max: Essays in Sociology

At the same time, I was taking the college “core course,” Social Change in the Third World, taught by a defrocked priest, with an equally fascinating reading list:

Hinton, William: Fanshen
Fanon, Franz: The Wretched of the Earth
Barnett, Richard: Intervention & Revolution
Turki, Fawaz: The Disinherited
Bhagavad Gita
Turnbull, Colin: The Lonely African
(Altogether, there were 10 books, at least one was undoubtedly a work glorifying either Cuba or Che, or deprecating American interference in Latin American affairs, but I have forgotten the other titles)

Harkonnendog said...

I took that class, but I only remember because I reviewed my transcripts the other day. I got an A, which makes me think it was the kind of class where cynically parroting and almost parodying your teacher during tests worked.

Pogo said...

Accepting without critique the standard university postmodern sociology course is anti-intellectualism.

Oddly enough, the content among many fine arts courses (e.g. The Art Institute of Chicago) has devolved into a similar navel-gazing hand-waving style, where many words are spoken, but little is said. And nothing is painted.

It's all become a kind of nihilist summer camp, where the competition is to see who can create the best random pomo statement about nothing.

Tom C said...

It would be interesting to see if the same poor quality of teaching you're all recalling is the norm in situations where today's students (more conservative than in the past) are taking courses from tenure-track professors (who need their positive evaluations to hit the career lottery). My hypothesis would be "No." Sounds like a sociology experiment.

I think a "Freakonomics" approach to this issue might be illuminating...you need students in the classrooms, and the only way to do that in today's career oriented world is to generate something that will help the student's aspirations: an easy "A". This says nothing about the value of the discipline, merely about the incentives of the professors and students.

Ann Althouse said...

Geoduck: "I'm talking about the link, not the comments. You know...the Du Bois award and "what's wrong with sociology" and such."

Jeremy is a sociology professor (with tenure, here at UW, which is the top sociology dept. in the country). He's writing about improving the standards in sociology.

Jeff said...

This is a shallow response, but I must make it. I took an undergraduate Sociology 101 in the late 90's. The required texts were all variations on ethnological victim studies. The professor, an Indian PHD candidate, was a reasonable guy although I recall that he spent time arguing that communism was still untested because the Western capitalists had nevre left it unattacked for long enough for it blossom....

The thing that stuck with me was the author's note in one of our sociology texts. The author, a Brit, complained at length and with evident bitterness about the "Thatcherization" of higher education in the UK, particulary in funding. His complaint was that he was forced to earn some kind of living while a student. He had free tuition (no loans!), free rent, and free textbooks, but he still had to work part-time in order to feed himself! The injustice!

Kim said...

I'm a sociology professor, too, although not at Wisconsin. I'll be the first to admit that there's a lot of garbage produced in sociology. I'll also be the first to admit that the average sociology course at a middle-tier university is going to be less rigorous than the average economics course at the same university. Compared to economics, the pool of sociologists it isn't as deep, so the difference between the top players and the middle ranked players is much greater. (Much like the WTA, but I digress.)

But people who dismiss the entire discipline as a bunch of tautological jargon tainted by postmodernism, etc., clearly don't know much about the discipline. At the top schools, sociology is and has for many years produced research done with as much rigor as that produced in any other field. In fact, much of what is celebrated as "new" research in economics is merely rediscovering and recasting in economic jargon ideas and research techniques that sociologists have been using for decades.

Case in point: there's been talk of giving Gary Solon the Stockholm Prize in economics for "discovering" elasticities in intergenerational mobility. He's a smart guy, but he is effectively reinventing (and renaming) concepts and techniques that sociological mobility researchers developed in the 1950s. A second example, from an earlier era: the much-vaunted Oaxaca decomposition, which is widely used in labor economics. Oaxaca borrowed the technique (with full acknowledgement) from an article written by the sociologist OD Duncan over a decade before Oaxaca came along.

Sociology suffers from a legitimacy problem, arguably one of its own making. It also tends to get dismissed by conservatives, because as a discipline it tends to be more skeptical of the status quo than, say, neoclassical economics. But, that doesn't mean that all of its ideas or methods are crap.

Pogo said...

Re: "Sociology suffers from a legitimacy problem, ...But, that doesn't mean that all of its ideas or methods are crap."

Of course not. But who wants to wade through a septic tank hoping to find an occasional diamond?

Robert said...

I avoided it until I had to take 101 to finish my undergraduate degree (at age 36). The instructor, an instructor of the indoctrinate-into-liberalism school, was initially not pleased to have an articulate conservative grownup in class, but a little mutual civility produced a good atmosphere for discussion and learning.

The class was basically rubbish, and the discipline appears to be the formal search for evidence to use in grievance proceedings, however.

Tom Volscho said...

Sociology is more difficult than any discipline mentioned in the comments above. Even Paul Krugman admitted this much in the first few paragraphs of his book Peddling Prosperity.

AlaskaJack said...

Anybody wonder why there isn't a Booker T. Washington award? That there isn't, and that is it likely that there never will be one, is part of the explanation for the for the negative reactions reported in the comments.

Aspasia M. said...

Um, ok - are people actually going to talk about sociological methods?

Why is sociology not as rigorous as History, Political science, English, or the Classics? Is this the argument people are making? And if not, what is your specific complaint about sociology?

Because this sounds like a general "eeekkk..it's all PoMo icky Maoist- Marxistlenistist Fascists Identity Politics run amuck and they are destroying our schools!!!!"

If that's the argument - why sociology in particular? If, however, you just want to trash the Humanities, why don't you be up front about it? If so, don't pretend we're really going to talk about Sociology.

Anybody wonder why there isn't a Booker T. Washington award? That there isn't, and that is it likely that there never will be one, is part of the explanation for the for the negative reactions reported in the comments.

Are you kidding me?

Was Booker T. Washington a sociologist? Did Washington have a graduate degree? Did he produce any research?

Hey, if this list is about academic standards, let's be consistent.

Think about why you are comparing Washington to DuBois. Maybe Booker Washington was an academic, but I've never heard of his research. What did he write?

Justify why he should be acknowledged in a prize as a significant person in the field of sociology.

Constance said...

I'm a sociologist. I think the difference between a sociologist and a good sociologist is knowing the difference between your politics and your sociology. That said:

(1) Power and inequality are fundamental mechanisms of the social world. That is why sociologists study them. And, yes, they are always at play. It's not bleeding heart liberalism, it's freakin' fascinating. To me. If you're not interested in power and inequality, you won't like most sociology clases... but that doesn't make sociology bad.

(2) Most of the comments are presuming that other fields aren't political. All fields are political all the time. Yes even hard sciences. The extent to which a scholar makes his or her politics transparent is the only difference. Academics who pretend to be apolitical... that's where the real problem lies.

Ann Althouse said...

Constance: Well put, and I agree the subject is fascinating -- all the more reason to care that it be done well. But if you really believe everyone is unavoidably political, should you not insist that different political perspectives should be represented in the discipline (as Jeremy argued)?

Constance said...

Of course. But we can each only be who we are. If some of your commentors became sociologists, we'd be well on our way.

Aspasia M. said...

I don't understand this about "different political perspectives should be represented" in the discipline.

Rather, shouldn't a field want different methodological techniques to be represented? The current political perspectives (party affilliation) should be irrelevant to how someone properly sets up a methodological study.

If I understand Sociology correctly -- (granted, on a very, very basic level) sociology examines patterns in the "mass" versus the "individual". Thus, studies into demographics, literacy rates, birth rates, death rates, and fertility rates all fall into the study of Sociology.

Likewise, large groupings such as immigrants, labor classes, races, ethnicities, and genders are studied in the field.

Sociologists, please correctly if I have misunderstood the discipline.

Thus, if one is more interested in reading, say, autobiographies over mass social patterns of behavior I would suggest a history class that concentrates on, say, autobiography or a particular person (for example, the political philosophy of Ben Franklin and Louisa May Alcott) rather then a Sociology class.

Hey said...

Sociology as a subject IS fascinating and very important. The problem is that so much "sociology" is complete and utter political crap.

Some of the most important questions are how to maintain an empire/civilised order and avoid the mistakes of the Athenians, Romans, etc. How do we incorporate China into Western civilisation, keep the barbarous tribes down, manage the populist fascism that perpetually threatens Latin America? The problem is that so much of the Humanities, and sociology specifically, thinks that the mission is evil and wants to tear down the established order.

My soc course was called cultural anthropology (functionally the same, try and highlight the difference, please) and had the same inanities. Spew the same bs back to the prof (despite viciously mocking her during the term) and walk out with an A. If you can't get a sarcastic heckler's A in a soc course you're none too smart, especially if you're coming from the hard sciences.

As to the comments on the quality of writing coming from the hard science/engineering students: it is very, very hard to maintain your writing skills when nearly all your courses involve differential equations, tensors, and other higher order math problems. I was winning highschool writing competitions at a state-wide level and after college have written major public articles and statements for the senior executives of a global consulting firm, but in the middle of terms my english level would revert badly. You go nearly insane trying to make sense of 5 different math texts at once (reading an engineering text is very hard, given the size of the equations and the number of variables). With Thermo, Operations Research, Systems Modeling, Diff. Equations 2 and Signal Porcessing at the same time, it can be very hard to remember how to speak English. But if you get some practice again, you can highlight your skills and run rings around the barely literate folks who are actually taking Soc as a major.

Ann Althouse said...

Geoduck: The word "if" has meaning. Reread my response to Constance.

Aspasia M. said...


1) Sociology is not Cultural Anthropology. (Cultural analysis versus social masses/social movements/social patterns.)

2)As to the comments on the quality of writing coming from the hard science/engineering students: it is very, very hard to maintain your writing skills...

I call b.s. on this. For a the level needed in an intro. undergrad course?? -- come on. My husband is working on a doctorate in the sciences and he's an excellent writer.

3) I visited Universities in India and it's interesting to contrast the attitude of American undergraduate students with the Indian students. There's a huge difference in attitude. In general, the Indian students would never "act smarty" in class, or be disrespectful.

Aspasia M. said...

All fields are political all the time.

Perhaps we need a working definition of the "political" and "politics" if we're going to discuss this.

My two cents: I think a departmental hiring committee should look for Professors who can teach a variety of methods and topics in a discipline. (I don't care about their personal party affiliation.)

(For example: A history department will hopefully offer a range of Professors who can teach cultural, political and social history. In addition, they should offer courses in a range of countries and time periods. ie - American history, Colonial through the 20th century, ect.)

MadisonMan said...

Of course. But we can each only be who we are. If some of your commentors became sociologists, we'd be well on our way.

Well, I should think that if we can only be who we are, then if we all become sociologists, we're just on our way to becoming who we already are since that's all we can do.

I must say that this circular speak is an excellent example of what I find odd about politicized sociologists.

Constance said...


Yes. "We can only be who we are" IS circular logic. It's also NOT sociology.

Cheap shot.

AlaskaJack said...

Geoduck 2 doesn't know much about Booker T. Washington. She's never heard of anything he wrote and doesn't think he had a graduate degree. She thus concludes that his thought has no value or significance for serious academics.

Here are just a few of his writings: Up from Slavery, The Future of the American Negro and The Life of Frederick Douglas. Besides his writings and lectures, he somehow found time to start a universty. He was also one of the very first to recognize the genius of George Washington Carver and saw to it that Dr. Carver got his own laboratory. Of course, Dr. Carver didn't go to Harvard so Geoduck 2 probably never heard of him either.

Could it be that Geoduck 2 doesn't know that she doesn't know? The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom is guaranteed to cure this kind of malady.

Paco Wové said...

"All fields are political all the time. Yes even hard sciences."

Sorry, don't buy it. I'm sure to the hyper-politicized, everything is political all the time, but I'm just not seeing the "political" nature of, say, the Krebs cycle or plate tectonics. Unless you're using "political" as a synonym for "controversial".

Certainly, there are group dynamics at work in the acceptance or rejection of new or controversial ideas -- but "all politics, all the time"? Don't think so.

MadisonMan said...

Cheap shot.

Yes, I can see why quoting your own words back at you would be cheap.

Sociologists' statements such as yours typify why I never took a sociology course. The three sociology profs I know in Madison only underscore the general flakiness of the profession. The one soc. grad student I know is genuinely nice; however, I doubt he'll ever be a professor.

Aspasia M. said...

Alaska Jack:

A question for you: Did Washington get any graduate degrees that were not "honorary degrees"?

And he did get a degree from Harvard. (But it was honorary.)

Uh...if Booker T. Washington was an academic, what are his academic degrees?

What's his contribution to Sociology as a discipline?

Du Bois was a economist and a historian, but the sociologists are claiming that his work was important to Sociology as a discipline.

Lots of people have written non-academic books. Why should sociology name a prize after them?

Yes, Up from Slavery is a good primary source. However, it's not academic research on Washington's part; it's an autobiography. It's obviously not a contribution to sociology as a discipline.

Did you read the link? Du Bois is being promoted as an important figure in Sociology as a academic discipline.

paintedgoat said...

The professor in the one sociology class I took to fulfill graduation requirements always sat on stage in a rocking chair, wearing shorts and flipflops and bad-mouthing Ronald Reagan. My grad-student seminar leader was incomprehensible. I got an A in the class even after writing a complete BS answer to the one question on the final: "What is the significance of the blood-orange in Filipino society?" I'm still wondering what the actual answer to this question is. I guess that makes me anti-intellectual.

Ben said...

I'm currently a Political Science and Russian Studies double major, with a minor in Econ. I'm a sophomore, so I haven't finished everything yet.

I'm at a top twenty liberal-arts school in the NE. (So, yes, I'm an elitist white male opressor, despite the fact that I come from the boondocks on a full academic scholarship. I've made peace with this fact, and the double-think that everyone must engage in to speak it)

I haven't yet taken a sociology course, but I plan on taking it durning my senior spring...my reasoning being that I'll be done with important stuff at that point, and I'll be able to check everything out and actually come to class prepared.

I do talk to lots of current sociology students. I'm reading one of the textbooks for the intro class, and it's taken me about three days of my spare time to get 80% through it.
Most of the facts there are lightweight spins, that someone who's taken just the first year of econ seriously could disprove, or explain in a manner differently than the guy who wrote the book.
I've convinced at least half of the people I've had these kinds of discussions with to take their professors less blindly, and to check facts a bit before they spout them...and the other half are starting to doubt. I'm not going to say that I haven't learned anything new from these people/readings, but most of the stuff are things that are not as dire as they would like to believe, or are created by public policy that was created to fix a different dire problem.

In fact, my experience of talking with the sociology students has further convinced me that the government is never the best solution to anything, and that hard work individuals is the best way to fix the 'problems' of 'inequality,' 'opression,' and 'racism' in our society.

Side note:
I know lots of people all over campus due to my involvement in student government. The hard science majors (with some exceptions) often don't know much about what's going on in the world around them, and most of them can't write a coherant essay without spending many many weeks revising it. Usually, I can write a better first draft than their tenth, and while some of them may be able to turn out a better essay than me eventually, how many decent ones can I write before that?

But, grade inflation is a serious problem...and in my experience, it's as serious in the hard sciences as it is in some humanities majors. The worst majors for grade inflation at my school is the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Education, Biology, Environmental Sciences, and Sociology. There was a sociology intro class last year where everyone got an A. There was a cultural anthropology class where only three of forty got a B...In my micro principles class, there were four A's out of about twenty students, and I worked really hard for one of those. Of course, each professor in each department is different.

Sorry for the rabbit trail.

self-improvement said...

Well, I didn't know what awaited me. I thought "oh, sociology cool! I think Foucault and Baumant and Beaudrillard were cool sociologists. Let's do this shit." For those of you who've heard of some of those guys, they're world-respected theorists who changed in the intellectual map of Western thought. Well, that's not what we read.

What we doing is read socio-political agendas and a lot of watered down garbage. Articles about how children know about race difference, talk about why it sucks to be a Mexican houseworker, how the media encourages gender roles.

There is no theory. It is an intellectually sterile discipline with no insight. Furthermore, its a propaganda fest about feminism and racial equality.

I still can't fathom how there are such great thinkers out there (maybe it's that their European) who call themselves sociologists and are fricking amazing, as in they changed my life.

I'm getting a C or B in the class basically because I think the Prof and the class are full of it. I am in disbelief that there is an intellectual discipline devoted to this non-sense.