July 03, 2017

Sociological Superheroes

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman (illustrations by Terence Moronta)

The world needs some sociological superheroes. Don’t get me wrong. I have great appreciation and admiration for Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Spiderman, The Flash, The Hulk, and the rest of our favorite crime-fighting idols. With their awesome strength and special powers these comic book creations help keep our world safe from evil villains and wrongdoers.

But the problem with these traditional superheroes is that that they are only equipped to deal with problems after they occur. They always enter a scene to stop some wicked scoundrel from carrying out a nefarious plan. When they become aware of danger or sense that someone is up to no good, they quickly appear to thwart the dastardly plot and save the day.

What we really need are superheroes that have the power to stop evildoers from concocting these plans in the first place. Instead of tirelessly running around the globe trying to extinguish or contain so many fires, wouldn’t it be great if we had superheroes who had the power to prevent these villains from setting fires in the first place?

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June 26, 2017

Children and Global Gentrification

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

I recently gave a talk to the newly formed chapter of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Campus Initiative at Knox College. Founded by the United Nations in 1946 to provide aid to Children affected by World War II, UNICEF works in countries across the globe to improve the lives of children through research, health care, access to clean water and sanitation, and emergency relief, to name a few.

Their campus initiatives encourage college students to promote the mission of UNICEF, engage in fundraising, and organize educational panels. Like many clubs and organizations on college campuses, and especially at Knox, there is a component of philanthropy, volunteerism, and community engagement that underlines the work students do with UNICEF. At the same time there is a training component, where students learn how to become civically engaged in projects that they are passionate about.

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June 19, 2017

How Sociology Majors Prepare for the Labor Force

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Every year, students ask me what kinds of jobs they might get with a degree in sociology. In today’s job market, a major is not typically direct vocational training, preparing you for a specific field, but instead a major allows students to develop skill sets that translate into the work force. Sociology provides students with the chance to develop many of these important skills.

In 2015, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) published the results of a survey on how well prepared college graduates are for the labor market. The survey asked recent graduates how they rated themselves on a variety of skills, and also asked employers how they recent graduates on these same skills. Students consistently rated themselves higher than employers on each skill.

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June 12, 2017

This is Your Brain on Sociology

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

“My head hurts!”

I’m sure many students have uttered these words after sitting through a particularly dense or complex sociological lesson. I know I’ve felt this way during my own education and I have certainly heard students say it at the end of class. But do our heads literally hurt when we are studying difficult material? Or is this phrase just a figure of speech to convey how confusing the topic is we are trying to learn?

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June 05, 2017

The Brumble

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

As a professor at a large northeastern university, I spend a fair amount of time listening to students talk. Particularly before class, as I do some last minute shuffling of my notes or plugging in my PowerPoint, I’ll overhear conversations. There’s a common—but assuredly not universal—male speech pattern I’ve noticed. It’s a kind of low, back-of-the-throat mumble I started to call a brumble (i.e., bro + mumble).

Two years ago, there was quite the uptick in interest on how some women speak with a kind of rasp or “creaky voice”—an example is Zooey Deschanel’s character on New Girl--and the term “vocal fry” became quite popular. This corresponded with other supposed concerns over how women speak, like using “uptalk” or, more technically, “high rising terminal” (i.e., ending every sentence with a high note, implying a question) and, like, dropping “like” in a sentence. The idea of vocal fry becoming problematized as a characteristic of young women’s speech was seen as pervasive enough that even feminists like Naomi Wolf spoke out to say that women should drop vocal fry and “reclaim their strong female voices.”

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June 01, 2017

The Social Geography of Health

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Where we live matters, but not just for the reasons we might think. While we might associate the weather or terrain with a particular region or location, it's also important to consider the social forces that help explain how where we live shapes our health and even our life expectancy.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association details how life expectancies vary dramatically by county in the United States. For instance, if you are fortunate enough to live in Marin County, California, or Summit County, Colorado, your average life expectancy is about 87. But if you live in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, or in some parts of West Virginia and Kentucky, your life expectancy could be a full two decades shorter.

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May 29, 2017

Technology and Jobs: More of One, Less of the Other?

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

A student and I were chatting in my office, and she mentioned that she had just applied for five jobs but was concerned about the interviews. I assumed that these interviews were in-person and face-to-face with another human being. She quickly corrected me and shared that these were virtual interviews, and how she found talking into the computer somewhat difficult.

The five jobs she applied for were all using an online platform that uses live and recorded video to prescreening candidate and conduct job interviews. Their Google ad specifically sells them as a way “to make [Human Resource]’s life easier.”

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May 22, 2017

A Decade of Everyday Sociology

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Our Everyday Sociology blog turns ten this month! In this time, we have posted over 900 blog posts, received more than 8,000 comments, and have had nearly 6 million visitors.

It’s a good point to take a moment to reflect on this project: how have we succeeded in starting a sociological conversation, and what still needs to be accomplished?

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May 15, 2017

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

The social world is always changing. Norms, values, ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions—all of these things shift over time. Even what we know to be “true” is often re-evaluated and amended. For example, people used to think that women and people of color should not be allowed to vote in the United States because they didn’t have the cognitive capacity and were not seen as fully human. Fortunately, those notions are no longer deemed to be true.                  

Even though the impermanence of the social world seems like an obvious and easily understandable point, we don’t always embrace the idea that things are in a constant state of flux. Many of us resist change, especially when it might shake up our taken for granted reality. We would much rather cling to familiar ways of doing things and seek out stability, predictability, and permanence. But like it or not, the only thing that is really permanent is impermanence.

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May 08, 2017

A Day in the Life of One Sociologist

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

One of the best questions to ask if you are thinking about a future career is how someone in that career spends their day. One of our readers recently posted an “Ask a Sociologist” question about what a typical day is like for sociologists.

There is no one-size-fits all answer to this question, since there are a number of different ways that sociologists spend their time, which varies based on the specific kind of position one holds. Many sociologists work in academic settings or for organizations where they primarily conduct research (such as a government agency, a "think tank" or in private industries).

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