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Overview: What is Sociology?

Sociology is the science of discipline that studies societies, social groups and the relationships between people. The field encompasses the formation, evolution, transformation, continuation, dissolution and demise of societies and social groups. For example – Do you still go on play-dates at the park with your parents? (Nothing wrong if you still do!), but likely you no longer have that type of interaction with your family. It has transformed. When you were 4 years old did you borrow the car to go to the movies with your friends? Probably not, but perhaps now you do because your family (your 1st social group), has evolved. A good friendship turns into a relationship. Your old form of interaction has dissolved, and a new one has formed.  In a negative way, a crowd of usually nonviolent individuals becomes violent and breaks into stores and starts a riot due to electricity black out. Their behavior wouldn’t have happened without the group. The group’s influence suddenly became stronger than their own individual moral code. They now act and think as a group; without realizing it.

Sociology looks at the many different levels of social life of human behavior in groups. It could be a group as small as a friendship with one person (dyad), or a group of 3 friends (triad – these can be a bit treacherous depending on gender!), or as large as the social structure of humanity itself. How do organizations change human behavior? How can humans behave so differently in different situations without a set of rules to follow? Whether the focus is on how people interact with each other, in certain situations or locations, at different ages, with different people and environments, on a team, in a club, at a prom– or even in different classrooms. It is the makeup of the individuals, and the various “cultures” they bring with them, that will form the new culture of the group.

While we do look at individuals in Sociology, it is more focused on our relationships and influence we have on each other. Unlike Psychology, which focuses on the individual and contains some physiological and neurological content, Sociology always focuses on the individual as part of a society.


Course Outcomes 

Students will:

1.            Explain how sociologists study how people live in groups, and appreciate the variance of behaviors in the worlds many cultures.

2.            Define and explain different sociological terms, and translate the various theories that effect sociology.

3.            Recognize the nature of culture, and identify differences between classes in a society.

4.            Understand conformity and deviance, and explain the various causes of social problems.

5.            Explain the need for roles in society, and explain the need for social institutions.



Grades are based on total points.  There are two main types of activities:

1.  Tests:  These are a chance for you to show off your knowledge!   Any test missed must be made up as soon as possible when you return, usually within one day.  Tests are to be made up either before or after school, not during class. 

2.  Class Activities:  Group projects, assigned questions, quizzes, and participation. 

Late Work

Work that is not handed in when I pick it up on the due date is late (= 0).  Each student will receive one “free” late work pass each nine weeks.  The free pass can only be used to make up a late assignment; it’s not a free homework lesson.  The pass gives you one day to get the assignment completed.  There will be certain assignments for which a free pass cannot be used.  (I’ll let you know in advance)

Make up Work

Tests dates will be posted and we will review at least one class period before the test.  If you are absent during the review, as long as no new material is presented, you will make up that test the day you return to school.  Two days will be given to make up any missing assignments for excused absences.  If you are absent more than two days you will receive three days to make up materials missed.

What will be covered:                                                                                   

•             Introduction to Sociology - How and why did it begin? Sociological Imagination, Perspectives, Founders of Sociology, Founders of Sociology, Comte, Spencer, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Addams, Cooley and others. Symbolic Interactionist Perspective,  “Looking Glass Theory” Functionalist Perspective, Conflict Perspective, Feminist Perspective, Integrated Perspectives, Causes, Correlations, Measurement and analysis of data, Sociological Investigation, Methods of research, Ethics of research and evaluation of results.

•             Culture & Societies - Culture, Biological or Social? Material and Non Material Culture, Symbols and Language, Whorf-Sapir Analysis, Norms, Taboos, Folkways, Proscriptive (Prohibit = NO) norms and Prescriptive (Prescribe = YES) norms, beliefs, values, subcultures, culture clash, dehumanization, countercultures, cults, assimilation and/or multiculturalism, ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. Population, mortality rates, migration, population growth, population composition, de juror and de facto segregation (today), ethnic makeup of cities). Urbanization, Industrial society, Post industrial society, Global society. Theories on poverty – stereotypes on poverty.

•             Social & Global Stratification - Property, power, prestige, Social Classes: lower class, working class, middle class, upper class, determination of class measured by: poverty, wealth, intelligence, disability, environment, effects of socialization. Social mobility, patterns and structural mobility and individual mobility, status, achieved or/and ascribed, conflict status, roles, role strain, poverty and geography, access to health care/food/ incentive vs. no incentive strategies for poverty management and success.

•             Socialization, Family & Social Groups - Unsocialized children (feral), family, (changes and transitions and dynamics), evolution of families throughout childhood to early adulthood. Friends, siblings, self concept, personality development and it’s effect on social groups. In groups, Out groups, Reference Groups, Primary Groups, Secondary Groups, small groups, leadership and conformity, social organizations, bureaucracy vs. collectivist. Sociograms of your own family. Poverty in our own neighborhoods.


•             Sex, Gender Race & Ethnicity  - Definitions, identities, influences, psycho social influences, biological influences, gender stereotypes, types of sexuality, the deconstruction of “traditional” sexuality, social stratification in reference to sexual preference, sexism in workplace, higher education, minority vs. majority, the new majority and the status quo, prejudice and discrimination, sources and solutions to prejudice, Case Studies: Different “types” of ethnic-Americans. Melting pot or salad?

•             Deviance, Crime and Social Control - Theories of Deviance, Differential Association Theory, Anomie Theory, Control Theory, Labeling Theory, Psycho-biological Theory, positive vs. negative deviance, measurement of deviance and factors of influence. Crimes against people: murder, homicide, rape, assault, sexual and child abuse, Crimes against property, computer crime, hacking, victimless crime, organized crime, social control of deviance, Criminal Justice systems.

•             Health & Medicine - Sociological impact on health, major health problems in the US, Medical establishment, managed care, costs and equality, access to health care, health care proxy, advanced directives, ethics of euthanasia, right to health care.

•             Education Marriage & Family  - Early adulthood transitions, relationships, singlehood, cohabitation, marriage, types of marriages, divorce, starting a family, Middle Adulthood, Older Adult hood, Relationship categories. Case Study: Social Media and Monogamy. Polygamy, Polyandry, Serial Marriage. The marriage game, the 1950’s vs. today family styles, functional family vs. dysfunctional family. Family of origination vs. Family of orientation. Development of education in the US, Horace Mann and tax supported education, the rise of credential society. Costs of college in the US as de facto discrimination, Theories of education. Case Study: violence in schools and bullying – root causes or all problems in one basket? Discipline, security, mainstreaming, public vs. private vs. homeschooling.