A teacher has to make clear fundamental ends and valuations, and therefore he [sic] is a deeply religious man [sic] when he accepts this as his [sic] highest duty. If we want to save the world we need educators of powerful personalities. Objective Knowledge is not all that students need. We need responsible development of youth so that they will understand that service to mankind (sic) must be their goal – Albert Einstein

Awakening

Here is a story, not by a sociologist or a sociology student, by a high ranking computer geek. It may not be coming from a Sociologist, but it sure points to how sociology can transform our perceptions of the world. One moment we are comfortable focusing at the surface of social phenomenon, put at ease by our redolent illusions, and the next we are thrust beneath the surface to a reality that may not be as pleasant as had originally seemed. What was once “obvious” and straightforward is now obtuse and complex. The world has been turned on its head! The Sociological perspective. Is it a blessing, is it a curse? Only you can decide.

Comrades in Arms – Rape and Abuse in the U.S. Army

Ever wonder what happens to people who don’t go along in the army? They don’t get along. In this heart wrenching first person account one female soldier recounts the brutal rape and callous disregard she experienced at the hands of U.S. Army soldiers and officers just for expressing an opinion not within the boundaries of official army discourse. Warning, some imagery may not be suitable for younger audiences, the faint of heart, or those easily disturbed by violence and human disregard.

If Society is the Disease, is Cannabis the Cure?

Cannabis gets a lot of bad press, but perhaps it is undeserved. While alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and even tobacco are known to be highly addictive and damaging to the physical body and brain, there’s not a lot of negative research on cannabis. In fact, quite the opposite. More and more research is finding medicinal properties. From anti-depressent and anti-anxiety effects to its ability to help generate new pathways in the brain, is cannabis and its effects on psychology, health, and our social fabric worth having a closer look at?

Are you my "friend?"

Is it really possible to have 800 “friends.” Does connecting through FaceBook really mean you’re connected in life? Or does the proliferation of one-click social media really represent the emasculation OF human social contact? Like the reduction of human marriage to the consumerist frenzy of the marriage ceremony, new technologies do not necessarily mean a better life, better friends, or deeper connection. In fact, perhaps exactly the opposite. New social media elevate superficial social display to epic proportions and neuter the supportive and transformative potential of authentic human relations. Viva la revolution… NOT!

Opening your eyes to the new Surveillance Networks

Now here’s a kick in the head. They know where you are. And by “they” I mean everybody. Anybody with even a minimum online presence in today’s surveillance/social networks leaves a global footprint that anybody can trace. Sounds reasonable if you are thinking about the police I suppose. Why worry if you don’t have anything to hide right? But what about organized criminals? Far more useful it is for them to know when you are out on your own, away from home, vulnerable, and alone. Don’t have any enemies? No exes looking to beat you down? Don’t know anybody that wants to take things from you? Then you have nothing to fear! Tweet away but just be aware, “they” are watching you.

The Morphing of Obama

If you think there’s a difference between Republican and Democrat, if you think the choice is real, think again. Barack Obama won the presidency and the hearts of billions around the world by pledging to bring peace. His humanitarian rhetoric promised a new era in American foreign policy, away from armed confrontation and towards cooperation. But since taking office he has increased combat forces in Afghanistan, expanded our air strikes in Pakistan, shifted the fighting in Iraq onto hired mercenaries and local soldiers, and pledged his “full support” to the “heroic” CIA. Ah the huddles masses, hooped again. When will we learn?

Wealth and Inequality in America

Sociology looks at income and wealth and one of the repetitive insights of sociology is that wealth in unequally distributed, more so today than perhaps ever before. In these modern times we generate more wealth than at any time in history, yet we concentrate that into fewer and fewer hands. A few people live high, high, high on the hog while the vast majority suffer and struggle to even buy food. I suppose the growing number of poor people on the planet could always eat cake…

Bill Gates is an Idiot: A Recipe for Educational Failure

In truth, Bill Gates probably isn’t an idiot. He did build one of the most successful software companies in the world after all. At the same time however his ability to prognosticate on post-secondary education seems questionable at best. The problems we, as university educators, face are well understood. We can’t do our jobs while the government is cutting our resources. This is like applying the logic of the assembly line to education. More product, less resources, more profit, less cost. Makes sense maybe in the business world but when we’re dealing with human minds does it pay to cut corners. If we want to remain competitive in a global economy, probably not.

Better writing through intent

As a rule academics are not trained to write well. You might even say academics are trained to confuse, hiding their thoughts behind walls of pretentious gobbledygook. It is not our fault. It is part of our training. From the moment we step into our first 100 level class to the time when we finally hand in our dissertation and head out for a celebratory libation, our only goal is to impress somebody else and make ourselves look smart. It is the nature of the academic beast I suppose but it does not contribute to communication, connection, or education. If we want to change that we have to intend a different result and practice a different approach.

What's on your mind? Facebook, voluntary surveillance, and the global panopticon

As a sociologist I’ve always been interested in surveillance. Jeremy Bentham, Foucault, Orwell. Like it or not surveillance is an aspect of the industrial and post-industrial world. It’s been talked about for centuries and dystopian authors like Orwell, sociologists like Foucault, and others have worried about the future directions and the implications of total surveillance and control. Well, almost 30 years after 1984 is the Ministry of Truth finally here and right under our noses? Don’t be shy. Show us your face and tell us “what’s on your mind” today.

Conscious Peace: World Peace Depends upon Our Collective Consciousness

We live in a materialist universe, or do we? Scientists chant a materialist mantra but gravity, a concept present at the very birth of Science, is an invisible force that nobody has ever seen–in other words, immaterial. As sociologists our ontology (what we believe to be the nature of existence) is important. Do we limit ourselves when we buy into a scientific materialism? Is there something more we should be considering? Inquiring minds want to know.

Survival of the Nice Guys

As a sociologist I often get heartburn listening to others talk about evolution. As every sociology student knows, from the time Herbert Spencer first coined his “survival of the fittest,” Darwin’s thoughts have been used, misused, and exploited in service of the status quo. You beat somebody down? You dominate another in business? You accumulate obscene wealth? You create a thousand losers for every winner? That’s the natural order of things. Like Darwin NEVER said, survival of the fittest. But times they are a changin. From over due behavioral corrections, fresh air research onthe stupidity of competition (ya I said it), to this provocative article that suggests that having “big winners” is bad for our general survivability, we scientists are starting to reclaim our truths from the social classes that have exploited it. Yay team!

Calling a rose a rose

What makes us put up with violence? Why, when we see abuse around us do we pretend it’s not abuse. This is a question that as a sociologist and parent of two school age children I find myself asking a lot. Why don’t we see the violence that our kids are subjected to on a daily basis? Why do we normalize, minimize, and ignore abuse? What’s even more of a concern, why can we see it for what it is in some situations, but be totally oblivious in another. Inquiring minds, research scientists, and concerned parents want to know.

Mall Culture and Identity in Malaysia

Shopping mall culture in Malaysia is ever growing, so much that one could hypothesise about the emergence of a subculture centered on the shopping mall. More and more mega mall projects are coming up as bigger portions of the population is urbanised. In this new urban jungle, identity and meaning can be purchased, for a price. Nothing new here. We’ve been doing this on North American soil ever since the collapse of the counter-culture, the rise to dominance of corporate individualism, and the explosion of depression, neurosis, and psychological dysfunction. The question must be asked, can you really purchase and wear your identity?

The Problem of Child Labor in US Agriculture

Ever wonder how those grocery shelves at your Publix get filled with all the wonderful and lovely produce you and your family enjoy? Think it is the result of well paid craftsman farmers, hearty individualists sowing and tilling and harvesting with sweat on their powerful brows? Think again. In the service of increasing profit, capitalism requires the constant reduction of cost and this competitive dynamic eventually forces the use of cheap labor. And what’s cheaper than a child? In the value system of competitive capitalism, not much.

Academic Education – A Waste of Space, Mind, Money and Time?

Academic communities and higher learning facilities like universities are the places where great knowledge is born and passed on with the purpose of ‘enlightening’ our societies for the better. Or is it? Aren’t academies and universities about socialization into The System and indoctrination into ideas that support hierarchy, exclusion, etc. According to Anna Brix Thomsen, its both. Universities are useful and do make a [technological] improvement in things, but usually only for the primary benefit of the elite. Trickle down benefits there may be, but its ultimately about maintaining the status quo and further enriching those who are already with privilege.

SAMs for Uncle Sam

Here is an awesome article that questions the western view of Arab women, the Western view of women, the Westernized view of the family, the Western fetish with the Hijab, and even Western understandings of the politics of colonialism and occupation. A veritable sociological tour de force, but not from a traditional sociological source. A fascinating alternative to views common in the mainstream, and accepted without thought, by most.

Athletes and the ‘Club’: Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight

So what’s with professional athletes and violent behaviour? Are these individual just “thugs” or is something else going on. In this short article Earl Smith traces some of the social, class, and economic roots of questionable athlete behavior showing that even the seemingly random nature of some types of social behavior can in fact be understood and explained by some simple, sociological analysis.

Embracing Change: Working Together to end the Cycle of Violence

One of the first things the sociology initiate learns is about the “sociological imagination.” This concept is used to illustrate, the power of sociology. Sociology can help you, you are told, if you just use its concepts to understand your life. Here is an example of what it means to apply the sociological imagination. Drawing on research in gender, criminology, sentencing biases, and a number of common sociological themes, this author examines his own life through a sociological lens, applying the “sociological imagination” to explode a common bias and blind spot in our modern cultures. Think you can do the same? You’re welcome to submit.

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