Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Teaching sociology: Generating relevant examples

There is nothing like teaching to make somebody feel old. I am constantly making cultural references that my students don't recognize. Anything from the Seinfeld show? Forget it, they were 9-10 years old when it went off the air. OJ Simpson? That was 13 years ago. Furthermore, I don't get many of their cultural references. Rap music? I think that means Run DMZ. Current TV shows? I don't watch much TV, and I watch different shows.

Here's the problem, though--I want to use culturally-relevant video and sound clips to illustrate concepts in the course.

To do this, I gave my students an extra-credit assignment (worth 2 points on a class scale of 100) in which they had to identify a scene from a film or TV show or song that illustrated a theory, concept, or finding covered in the course. They then had to explain why the clip fit the class material. This got them thinking about sociology outside the class, and it gave me a lot of ideas to incorporate into my future classes. For example, did you know that Sponge Bob Squarepants had an episode entitled "Life of Crime" that wonderfully illustrates rational choice theory of crime? I didn't either, but I do now.

For additional essays about teaching sociology.



marc said...

OMG tell me about it. I'm not that old, but students were hardly born when Sally Struthers was saving children in Ethiopia. A great example of the functions/benefits of poverty for the West, being that the famine was much shorter than the Save The Children campaign.

Incidentally, the last Ethiopian famine joke I ever heard was on Seinfeld: "She wanted to go to an Ethiopian restaurant and I said 'What do they serve there: an empty plate?'"

Anyway, if you happen to teach a unit on the functions of poverty: it's diseases in Africa now, not just hunger. Think One Campaign, Bono, and Oprah.

Brad Wright said...

It's hard to believe that the Ethiopian famine was that long ago...

Michael W. Kruse said...

I love the assignment idea. Sermon websites compile sermon illustrations. Why not a sociologist site for illustrations? (Come to think of it, the few times I taught intro it was kind of like sermons.)


Brad Wright said...

What a great idea Michael! Now that you mention it, I'm amazed that somebody hasn't already done it.