Category Archives: teaching

who is the public face of sociology?

The 101 class is the public face of our discipline. Every year there are roughly a million students in the United States who take Soc 101, that is, if my publisher friends’ estimates are to be believed. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, 101 will be their only exposure to our discipline. Sure, they might […]

becoming a master student.

I often tell my students that the course that changed my life was Introduction to Sociology. Today I realized that I’ve been lying to them, or to myself, all this time. The class that truly changed my life was Human Development 100.

the nas’s hundred great ideas

A couple of months ago, the right-wing National Association of Scholars pulled together and published a list of “100 Ideas for Reforming Higher Education.” The ideas are presented, one per contributor (with a few exceptions), organized alphabetically by the last name of the contributor, which makes the compilation seem even more haphazard than it is […]

too much sociology…?

The magazine n+1 recently published an article about the rise and inefficacy of critical sociology. It’s a strange piece which, i think, accords sociology way too much influence. but it does have some salient points, particularly relating to the balance between structure and agency in sociological writing. The editors write:  “In spite of the strenuous […]

dog bites person; right winger endorses ignorance

North Carolina is “blessed” with a statewide center dedicated to right-wing attacks on higher education, the John W Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. One of their more prolific commentators is Jay Schalin, a small-time journalist with no credentials, experience, or expertise in education, research, or scholarship, but who apparently feels entirely qualified to present […]

the chronicle’s wasted opportunity

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a reader contest recently, inviting readers to design their ideal college, from the ground up. The results are here (sorry for the paywall). This could have been a great opportunity to rethink what’s best and worst about current higher education. (In truth, I thought about suggesting a scatterplot combined […]

bad decisions and fairness

I have often discussed in class an example from Lani Guinier’s 1994 book, The Tyranny of the Majority, that deals with notions of fairness and rules of the game. Consider a road race in which the first-place finisher wins $10,000, and all other participants are banned from future competition. Consider, by comparison, a road race […]

students helping students.

As academics we know that the way that a class goes, how much students get out of a class, and their evaluation of the course or the material depends heavily on the students themselves. How much effort do they put in? Are they prepared to learn? Do they contribute to discussions and take the material […]

a brave new world.

This weekend the NY Times ran a story on 32 innovations that will change your tomorrow. Some are cool, others are a little scary, and more than a few are completely unnecessary (e.g., a Jetson-esque machine exclusively for washing and drying your hair). This weekend I also got an email from a textbook publisher telling […]

relevant reading assignment.

This semester, I’m teaching the second iteration of a senior seminar I created last year. The class, Socialization and the Life Course, explores social influences on our lives from before birth to after death. The class was wildly successful last spring and it’s shaping up to be just as good – although quite different – […]

difficult dialogues

I’m teaching a new first-year seminar this semester, entitled “Difficult Dialogues.” Essentially it’s my attempt to instantiate a public sphere at the undergraduate level. I got them talking this morning, the first day of class, about what’s hard for them to talk about, and it worked great! Take a listen: Cacaphony The syllabus is here […]

a beautiful method

Steven J. Tepper sent out  a request to various people looking for advice on “particularly good and compelling examples of creative, parsimonious scholarship.” Here’s what he and those who responded came up with. (compiled by Steven Tepper: Thanks to Shaul Kelner, Heather Talley, Karen Campbell, Eszter Hargittai, Terry McDonnell, Charles Kadushin, Kieran Healy, Bruce Barry, […]

shocker: north carolina right-wingers fear intellectual exploration

The Civitas Institute, North Carolina’s statewide right-wing think tank, accuses the UNC system of wasting taxpayers’ money on “courses [that] are esoteric, tinged with propaganda and often populated with few students.” Civitas and its sister organization, the Pope Center, delight in this methodology, which consists of reading course catalogs and deciding which course titles sound […]

perverse incentives in grading – exhibit a

A student forwarded me this email last week, which s/he received unsolicited from MyEdu, a company that specializes in helping students exploit grade inequality between departments and instructors: res ipsa loquitur.

of grade reform and deliberation

On Friday, UNC’s faculty council approved legislation that will put into place a series of reforms aimed at increased transparency in grade reporting. I chaired the implementation committee, charged with the details of how last year’s resolution (see discussion here) would be implemented, and I presented the legislation at faculty council on Friday. My first […]


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