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What is Patriarchy?

Working definition

The systematic domination of women by men in some or all of society’s spheres and institutions

Origins of the Concept 

Ideas of male dominance have a very long history, with many religions presenting it as natural and necessary.

The first theoretical account of patriarchy is found in Engels theory of women’s subservience under capitalism. He argued that capitalism resulted in power being concentrated in the hands of fewer people which intensified the oppression of women as men passed on their wealth to their male heirs. (I’ve outline this theory in more detail in this post: the Marxist perspective on the family).

The main source of patriarchal theory stems from Feminism, which developed the concept in the 1960s, highlighting how the public-private divide and the norm of women being confined to the domestic sphere was the main source of male dominance and female oppression, highlighted by the famous Feminist slogan ‘the personal is the political’.

Subsequent Feminist theory and research explored how

Today, there is much disagreement over the concepts usefulness within the various different Feminist traditions (for the purposes of A-level sociology, typically divided up into Liberal, Marxist, Radical).

Meaning and Interpretation

The concept of Patriarchy forms the basis for radical forms of Feminism which has focused on how Patriarchy is reproduced in many different ways such as male violence against women, stereotypical representations in the media and even everyday sexism.

Sylvia Walby re-conceptualized Patriarchy in the 1990s, arguing that the concept failed to take account of increasing gender equality, but that it should still remain central to Feminist analysis, suggesting that there are six structures of patriarchy: Paid Work, Household Production, Culture, Sexuality, Violence and the State.

Walby also argued that analysis should distinguish between public and private forms of patriarchy.

Critical Points

The concept of patriarchy has been criticized from both outside and within Feminism.

The concept itself has been criticized as being too abstract: it is difficult to pin it down and find specific mechanisms through which it operates.

Many Feminists argue that Patriarchy exists in all cultures, and thus the concept itself is too general to be useful, as it fails to take account of how other factors such as class and ethnicity combine to oppress different women in different ways.

Black Feminists have criticized the (mainly) white radical Feminist critique of the family as patriarchal as many black women see the family as a bulwark against white racism in society.

Postmodern Feminism criticizes the concept as it rests on the binary distinction between men and women, the existence of which is open to question today.

Continued Relevance 

Much contemporary research focuses on discourse and how language can reproduce patriarchy. For example Case and Lippard (2009) analysed jokes, arguing they can perpetuate patriarchal relations, although Feminists have developed their own ‘counter-jokes’ to combat these – they conclude that humor can act as a powerful ideological weapon.

 

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Ethnicity and Inequality in the UK 2017

The issue of why there are inequalities by ethnicity in the UK is a topic which runs all the way through the A level sociology syllabus. This post simply presents some sources which provide information on the extent of inequality in life chances by ethnicity in contemporary Britain.

As it stands, in 2017 it seems that:

  • ethnic minorities are less likely to be offered places at Britain’s top universities
  • ethnic minorities have higher rates of unemployment
  • ethnic minorities are more likely to be arrested, charged, prosecuted and imprisoned.

Ethnic minorities are less likely to be offered places at Britain’s top universities

Russel Group universities are less likely to provide ethnic minorities with offers of a place, even when grades and ‘facilitating subjects’ have been controlled for.

Univeristy ethnicity.jpg

White British students have the highest chance of being offered a place, with 52% of candidates receiving offers, while Black African students have the lowest chance, with only 35% of candidates receiving offers of places. (source: Manchester University Policy Blog, 2015) also see: (source: UCU research paper).

Oxford University has also been accused of being biased against Ethnic Minorities: according to Full Fact – in 2013 the Guardian revealed that only 17.2 percent of ethnic minority applicants were admitted to Oxford University, compared to 25.7 per cent of white applicants, and earlier this year (2017) MP David Lammy argued that this issue has not yet been addressed.

NB – It’s worth mentioning that the Russel Group universities, and Oxford University explain this away by saying that ethnic minority students are more likely to apply for more demanding courses for which they don’t necessarily have the grades, hence their higher rejection rate.

Ethnic minorities have higher unemployment rates

Ethnic Minorities are almost twice as likely to be unemployed compared to white people (source: ONS employment data)

In January – March 2017 the unemployment rate was 4.1% for white people compared to 7.9% for people from a BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) background.

unemployment ethnicity UK 2017

There are significant variations by both specific ethnic and group and age: for example, Bangladeshi and Pakistani Britons have the highest unemployment rates relative to other ethnicity in all ages.

unemployment ethnicity age UK 2017.png

This difference is at least partially explained by the relatively high levels of unemployment among Pakistani and Bangladeshi females, which is significantly higher than male unemployment, a trend on found in these two ethnic groups.

ethnicity unemployment gender UK.png

Ethnic minorities are more likely to be charged for comparable offences

According to a recent study headed by David Lammy MP, ethnic minorities are more likely than white people to be arrested by the police, to be prosecuted by the CPS, and to be sentenced and jailed by judges and juries.

A Guardian article outlining the findings of the report (link above) notes that

‘Disproportional outcomes were particularly noticeable in certain categories of offences. For every 100 white women handed custodial sentences at crown courts for drug offences, the report found, 227 black women were sentenced to custody. For black men, the figure is 141 for every 100 white men.’

NB – It’s particularly interesting to note the disparities in sentencing for black women, suggesting a truly massive ‘intersectionality effect’

Race gender crime statistics UK

Comments/ Questions 

This is just a brief ‘update post’ providing links to some recent statistical evidence on ethnic inequalities across a range of topics in A-level sociology.

You should always question the VALIDITY of these statistics – the drug offences stats, for example, do not tell us the severity of offence. It may just be that all of those black women were caught smuggling drugs whereas white women are more likely to be caught ‘merely’ dealing them… not inconceivable!

Also, even if you accept that the stats have at least some validity, you’ll need to dig even deeper to deeper to find out why these inequalities in life chances by ethnicity still exist!

Related Posts

Ethnic inequalities in social mobility 

Criminal Justice, Ethnicity and Racism

 

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The Internet as an Object of Content Analysis

Websites, social media posts and similar virtual documents are all forms of secondary data, and thus amenable to both quantitative and qualitative content analysis.

 

global internet use stats.png
The sheer number of internet users creating online documents makes researching them a challenge

 

There are, however, many difficulties in using web sites as sources of content analysis. Following Scott’s (1990) four criteria of assessing the quality of documents, we need consider why a web site is constructed in the first place, whether it is there for commercial purposes, and whether it has a political motive.

In addition, we also need to consider the following potential problems of researching web sites:

  • Finding websites will probably require a search engine, and search engines only ever provide a selection of available web sites on a topic, and the sample they provide will be biased according to algorithm the engine uses to find its websites. It follows that use of more than one search engine is advisable.
  • Related to the above point, a search is only as good as the key words the researcher inputs into the search engines, and it could be time consuming to try out all possible words and combinations.
  • New web sites are continually appearing while old ones disappear. This means that by the time research is published, they may be based on web sites which no longer exist and not be applicable to the new ones which have emerged.
  • Similar to the above point, existing web sites are continually being updated.
  • The analysis of web sites is a new field which is very much in flux. New approaches are being developed at a rapid rate. Some draw on traditional ways of interpreting documents such as discourse analysis and qualitative content analysis, others have been developed specifically in relation to the Web, such as the examination of hyperlinks between websites and their significance.

Most researchers who use documents accept the fact that it can be difficult to determine the population from which they are sampling, and when researching documents online, the speed of development and change of the Web accentuate this problem. The experience of researching documents online can be like trying to hit a moving target that not only moves, but is in a constant state of metamorphosis.

Three examples of content analysis of documents online

Boepple and Thompson (2014) conducted quantitative analysis of 21 ‘healthy living blogs’. Their sampling frame was only blogs which had received an award, and from those, they selected the blogs with the largest number of page views.

They found that content emphasised appearance and disordered messages about food/ nutrition,with five bloggers using very negative language about being fat or overweight and four invoking admiration for being thin. They concluded that these blogs spread messages that are ‘potentially problematic’ for anyone changing their behaviour on the basis of advice contained in them.

Davis et al (2015) conducted an analysis of postings that followed a blog post concerning a cyberbullying suicide y a 15 year old named Amanda Todd. There were 1094 comments of which 482 contained stories about being bullied, 12% about cyberbullying, 75% about traditional bullying, the rest a mixture of both.

The research found that the main reason victims of bullying are targeted is because they do not conform in one way or another to society’s mainstream norms and values, with the most common specific reason for bullying being a victim’s physical appearance.

Humphries et al (2014) conducted content analysis on the kinds of personal information disclosed on Twitter. The authors collected an initial sample of users and they searched friends of this initial sample. In total the collected 101, ,069 tweets and took a random sample of 2100 tweets from this.

One of their findings was that Twitter users not only share information about themselves, they frequently share information about others too.

Concluding Thoughts 

Researching documents online may be challenging, but it is difficult to see how sociologists can avoid it as more and more of our lives are lived out online, so researching documents such as web sites, and especially blogs and social media postings is, I think, very much set to become a growth area in social research.

 

 

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Sentence Sorts for Teaching A-Level Sociology – How Useful Are They?

Matching exercises or ‘sentence sorts’ simply involve students matching the concept/ sociologist/ perspective/ method to a definition/ statement.

Simple example:

Decide whether the sentences are below are Functionalist or Marxist – simply write ‘F’ or ‘M’ next to the sentence.

1.            Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.

2.            The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.

3.            The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society.  The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.

4.            Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.

 The easiest way to format these is simply as above – a title, brief instruction, and anywhere from 10 (or less if you like) to 20 (more is probably too many) statements/ definitions. You might like to use a grid (as in example 2 over page) for paper versions as it provides a more obvious space for students to write into. For more difficult topics, provide a jumbled list of concepts at the bottom.

Obviously if you’re designing your own, do the answer version first, then just delete the single or short-phrase answers. Numbering the definitions/ statements makes feedback easier!

Topics matching exercises work well especially for

  • After Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism, or all the perspectives for any of the topics within A-level sociology.
  • For material deprivation/ cultural deprivation and social/ cultural capital in class and education.
  • For the main changes with different waves of education policy
  • For strengths and limitations of any research method – one of the best I’ve seen is a range of sentences which are either strengths or limitations for either lab or field experiments.
  • Any sub-topic that’s very conceptual – such as childhood within the family.

Different ways of administering sentence sorts

  • Personally I still like the one-side of paper method – simply needs about 12 definitions/ statements and students just write in the concept/ method or whatever next to it.
  • These days of course, you can always put sentence sorts online – Quizlet, or Socrative work very well for this.
  • A way of adding in ‘stretch’ to this is to add in a third column in which you ask students to ‘give an example’ or ‘the opposite’ or to provide supporting evidence, or even criticise the concept/
  • NB The ‘gap fill exercise’ – don’t be fooled by a gap-fill paragraph exercise, it’s basically just a matching exercise/ sentence sort in disguise.

Three examples of Sentence Sorts for A-level sociology

The examples below show three typical applications of this method…. perspectives, ‘match the stat’ (which is quite good to introduce a new topic) and concepts. Unforunately they don’t format very well on a blog, but they’re just to give you an idea – they’ve all been designed to fit on one side of A4 paper. 

Example 1: Sociological perspectives on the role of education

Sort the following statements into either Marxism, Functionalism or Feminism, simply write in F/M or Fem….

  1. Girls may follow the same curriculum as boys, may sit side by side with boys in classes taught by the same teachers and yet emerge from school with the implicit understanding that the world is a man’s world, in which women take second place.
  2. Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.
  3. The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.
  4. The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society. The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.
  5. Classroom interaction reflects the sexist attitudes and male dominance of the wider society.
  6. By transmitting and reinforcing the culture of society to new generations, education helps to ensure the continuity of rules and values.
  7. Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.
  8. The classroom is a ‘mini-society’ which provides a training ground for the wider society and eases the transition from childhood to adulthood.
  9. Education has an important role of society reproduction, meaning that it is involved in the reproduction of new generations of workers appropriately schooled to accept their roles in capitalist society.
  10. Schools help to abridge the gap from the ascribed status of the family to the achieved status of society as a whole.
  11. Schools promote the shared value of achievement – at school young people are rewarded for academic achievement with good exam results. This, in turn, socialises young people for their adult roles.
  12. The education system is the main agency for ideological control. People accept their situation in life because at school they have learn that capitalism is just and reasonable.
  13. The hidden curriculum, including the social relations in the classroom and the attitudes and expectations of teachers, prepare girls for male domination and control.
  14. Schools prepare pupils for their roles in the workforce. Most are trained as workers and are taught to accept future exploitation and are provided with an education and qualifications to match their future work roles.
  15. The hidden curriculum produces a fragmentation of knowledge so that ordinary workers do not become educated and overthrow the ruling class.
  16. Schools reinforce gender inequality in wider society.

 

Example 2: Key facts and stats about families and households in Modern Britain

Match the stat to the question. All of these issues come up at some point over the next eight weeks of the course. 

  1. What percentage of marriages end in divorce?  42%
  2. How many children do the average family have? 92
  3. How much does it cost to raise a child to the age of 18? £230,000
  4. What is the average age which women have their first child? 30
  5. When did rape in marriage become illegal? 1991
  6. On average, how much more money a year does it cost to live a year if you are a single person living alone? £250,000
  7. What percentage of households with children in are single parent households? 25%
  8. What proportion of relationships consists of same-sex couples? 152 000
  9. What percentage of men have been victims of domestic violence? 13%

OBVIOUSLY I’ve given the answers here, the numbers would be at the bottom, I’ve also been lazy and missed out sources.

Example 3: Key Concepts in the sociology of the family

Concept Definition
Birth Rate The number of babies born per thousand per year.

 

Civil Partnership

 

The legally or formally recognised union of a man and a woman (or in some countries two people of the same sex) in a committed relationship.
Co-habitation Two people living together in the same household in an emotionally intimate, committed relationship without being officially married.

 

Death Rate The number of deaths per thousand members of a population per year.
Emotion Work Thinking about the emotional well-being of other members of the family and acting in ways which will be of emotional benefit to others. For example, hugging and reassuring children when they have nightmares, organizing Christmas and birthday parties so that everyone feels included and has a good time.
Individualisation The process where individuals have more freedom to make life-choices and shape their identities because of a weakening of traditional social structures, norms and values. For example, secularization means people have more choice over whether they should get married or simply cohabit.
Instrumental Role The provider or breadwinner role which involves going out to work and earning money for the family – the traditional male role within the family.

 

Matrifocal Household A family structure in which mothers are the heads of household and fathers have less power and control in family life and the allocation of resources.

 

Net Migration

 

The difference between the numbers of people immigrating to and emigrating from a country.
Nuclear Family A man and a woman and their dependent children, either their own or adopted.

 

Patriarchy A society where men hold the power and women are excluded, disadvantaged or oppressed.  An example of a patriarchal society is one which women are not allowed to vote, but men are.
Primary Socialisation The first stages of learning the norms and values of a society; learning basic skills and norms, such as language, and basic manners.

 

Serial Monogamy Where an individual has a string of committed relationships, one after the other.

 

Social Construction of Childhood The idea that the norms and values and social roles associated with childhood are influenced by society, rather than being determined by the biological age of a child.
Toxic Childhood Where social changes, especially the invention of new technologies, does increasing amounts of harm to children. For example, the internet and mobile phones results in screen saturation with increases anxiety and reduces attention spans.

NB – If you print this off, the grid format is much easier on the eye than the non-grid version. 

 

How useful are sentence sorts in teaching and learning sociology?

Open question.. please do lemme know what you think!

 

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Seven Transferable Skills Teachers Can Take to Other Professions

  1. Producing engaging written and audio visual resources
  2. Emotional sensitivity
  3. Evaluation and decision making based on standardized criteria
  4. Presentation and communication skills
  5. Facilitating participation
  6. Simultaneous independent and collaborative working
  7. Reflexivity, which incorporates flexibility.

Seven transferable skills which teachers can take with them to kinder careers

Given the depth and breadth of skill which teaching requires, combined with the unbearable amount of stress which teachers are expected to soak up, teaching is without doubt one of the most undervalued professions in the United Kingdom, and I’m fairly sure this is also the case in pretty much every country outside of Scandinavia.

Evidence for this (at least in the UK) lies in the fact that 30% of teachers quit within five years, and the thought of quitting is no doubt at the forefront of the majority of teachers’ minds towards the end of a long summer holiday; and no, a six week summer holiday is not enough compensation.

Just in case you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of undervalued teachers thinking of moving on, here’s a list of transferable skills which you can use to promote yourself to your next employer….

  1. Producing written and audio visual resources that engage a differentiated audience for a sustained period (over month or years) – teachers are required not only to produce quality written ‘work sheets’ which are clearly written and structured, they also have to incorporate a range of audio visual (video/ podcast/ websites/ online tests) within these in order to engage learners. A related benefit is that teachers tend to have both sound levels of knowledge in their specific fields and excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation.*
  2. Emotional Sensitivity – working with vulnerable children requires teachers to pick up on the special needs of students early on, which may not be communicated verbally by the students themselves. An extremely useful skill when working with a range of colleagues and clients in any profession.
  3. Judgement and decision making – the ability to evaluate students’ work according to standardized criteria and provide constructive oral and written feedback to help students/ colleagues/ clients improve their performance in a timely fashion
  4. Presentation skills – teaching requires the ability to present complex information in clear, concise and accessible manner, communicating the goals of lessons clearly to participants at the beginning of a particular session. It also involves the use of humor, analogies, examples, metaphors, stories, and delivery methods other than lecture or PowerPoint to engage an audience.
  5. Facilitating participation through small and large group discussions – teaching involves doing a range of pair-work and discussion work in groups of 3-6, with feedback being given to the whole class. Teachers are experts in making sure everyone feels like they are participating and having a voice.
  6. Independent and Collaborative working – teaching involves both working independently to plan lessons/ mark students work, while simultaneously working collaboratively with colleagues to share information about students in  order to deliver the best outcome for students.
  7. Reflexivity – The ability to continually reflect on one’s own performance and respond to constructive criticism based on feedback from peers and supervisors in order to improve one’s own performance. All of this has to be done within the context of shifting parameters of educational policy, so one also has to pick up new skills and knowledge in order to respond to systemic changes.

Sources and comments on other people’s lists of teaching transferable skills 

I derived this list from the two lists below. Mine is better, but thanks to those who gave me a leg up!

Gina Smith from Branden University suggests the following list Of Top 20 Transferable-Skills:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Complex Problem Solving
  3. Coordination
  4. Critical Thinking
  5. Diagnostic Tests
  6. Grading
  7. Instructing
  8. Judgment and Decision Making
  9. Learning Strategies
  10. Lesson Plan Development
  11. Problem solving
  12. Management
  13. Monitoring
  14. Multitasking
  15. Reading Comprehension
  16. Relationship Management
  17. Service Orientation
  18. Speaking
  19. Social Perceptiveness
  20. Time Management
  21. Writing

How useful is this list?

To be blunt, I don’t find this particularly useful – somehow the list manages to include too much information and not enough specificity both at the same time. If you were going to write a new C.V. in order to transition out of teaching, you would probably include all of the above words, but you’d be better off re categorizing them so you had fewer key-skills.

Whoever it is who writes the ‘Life after Teaching Blog’ provides the following five basic transferable skills for teachers:

1. strong written and oral communication skills

2. strong interpersonal skills

3. demonstrated ability to work independently

4. demonstrated problem solving skills/ability to learn new things quickly

5. demonstrated ability to work under pressure/in a fast paced, deadline-driven environment

How useful is this list? 

Well it’s better than the above list because they’ve thought about the key ‘skill sets’ better – personally I think this is a nice, general list, and full disclosure, this guy also has another list of ’12 skills which teachers have’ which helped me a lot with writing the above post!

If, like me, you’re also thinking about quitting teaching, do get in touch.

*If you call me out on my own slightly dodgy grammar it WILL NOT be appreciated, in fact, regard yourself as having received a virtual slap if you’re one of the smug.

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Why Intelligence Doesn’t Explain Success

A summary of Malcom Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ chapter 3: The Trouble With Genius, Part 1.

Over the past Decade, Chris Langan has become the public face of genius in American life. He has an IQ of 195, compared to Einstein who had an IQ of 150 and the average of 100.

Langan was a ‘child genius’ – he was speaking at 6 months of age, and taught himself to read at three. He didn’t attend school very much but could ace any test after cramming a semester’s worth of text books for 2 days.

He was also something of a polyglot – he was interested in maths and physics, but also languages, philosophy and he could sketch a picture of something for fun which ‘looked like a photograph’ according to his brother.

2

Just after WW1, Lewis Terman, a young professor of psychology met a remarkable boy named Henry Cowell, who, although unschooled since 7, achieved an IQ score of above 140, near genius level.  This made Terman wonder how many other undiscovered geniuses there were out there.

In 1921 Terman decided to make the study of the gifted his lifes work. Through a series of 1Q tests administered in elementary schools to 250 000 students, he identified 1470 children whose IQs were above 140, and who became known as the ‘Termites’ and were to be the subjects of the most famous psychological study in history.

For the rest of his life, Terman watched over his charges – they were tracked and tested, measured and analysed and pretty much every milestone of their future educational and professional lives were recorded in thick red volumes entitled ‘Genetic Studies of Genius’.  Terman even wrote his ‘Termites’ letters of recommendation for jobs, and as his subjects grew older he issued updates on their progress – pointing out that in pretty much every field of expertise, you would find a Termite heading to the top of it – he fully believed that these 1470 would be the future elite of America.

‘There is nothing about an individual as important as his IQ, except possibly his morals’ Terman once wrote, believing that identifying IQ-based talent and nourishing it was the best way to find our future leaders.

Today, many of Terman’s ideas remain central to the way we think about success – schools measure IQ, we have gifted programmes and tech companies also measure cognitive ability.

We tend to be in awe of Geniuses – they seem to be the purest of ‘outliers’ – so far ahead of the rest of us genetically that nothing can hold them back, and we tend to listen to people like Terman who suggest that sheer brute intelligence is the most significant thing in determining the success of the individual.

However, Gladwell suggests that Terman was wrong about his termites – he made an error because he didn’t understand what a real outlier was.

3

Over the years an enormous amount of research has been done in an attempt to determine how a person’s performance in an IQ test translates to real life success.

People at the bottom, who get a score of 7, are considered mentally disabled. A score of 100 is average, and in order to handle a college graduate programme, you’ll probably need a score of 1115.

In general the higher your IQ score then the more education you’ll get and the more money you’ll make.

However, there is also such a thing as an ‘IQ threshold’ – it has been amply proved that someone who has an IQ of 120 can think better than someone with an IQ of 100, and the person with higher IQ will, on average, be more successful in education and life more generally, but once you get to the 130 threshold, the relationship breaks down – A scientist with an IQ of 180 is just as likely to win a Nobel Prize as one whose IQ is 130.

In other words, if you have an IQ of 130, you have reached the ‘threshold’ where you are good enough to excel in your field – someone with an IQ 50% higher than yours will not be ‘50%’ more successful, and you basically have an equal chance of excelling as your peers with slightly, or significantly (but not significantly!) higher IQs than yours.

Unfortunately, the idea that IQ has a threshold goes against our intuition, we tend to think that the Nobel Prize Winners are the ones like Chris Langan, the exclusive people who have very high IQs – but this is simply not the case, someone with an IQ of 130 is just as likely to become the top of their field as someone with an IQ of 180.

With this knowledge in mind, the psychologist Barry Schwartz recently proposed that elite schools give up their complex admissions processes and simply hold a lottery for everyone above ‘the threshold’ – create two categories: those who are good enough and those who are not, and put the names of the former into a hat.

Schwartz accepts the fact that his idea will probably never be accepted, but Gladwell thinks he’s right.

This section ends by making the case for affirmative action – the University of Michigan relaxes its entry criteria for minority students, which brings their ethnic intake up to 10% (it’s estimated that without the affirmative action, the figure would be 3%.

The University conducted a study to see how successful these students were years after graduating, and found that they were just as successful as their white peers. The reason: because even though they had lower high-school scores than their white peers, those scores were still above the threshold.

5.

Given that there is a threshold for intelligence, it must be other things that determine which of those with IQs over 130 go on to be remarkably successful – one such thing may well be their ability to think ‘divergently’.

One type of divergence test is to get people to think of as many different uses of an object as possible, which is a measure of creativity, and some people with high IQs are very good at this, others are very bad at it.

This might well explain why some of those with high IQs do better than others.

Another analogy Gladwell uses here is taken from Basketball – once you’re 6,2, you’re tall enough to make it to major league basketball, after that, it’s things like agility that determine who the very best are.

5.

To go back to Terman’s Termites, by the time they reached adulthood, his early predictions about their future success had been proved wrong – some had gone on to be successful, most had good, but not outstanding careers, while others were stuck in pretty average jobs.

By volume 4 of his study, Terman concluded that the link between intelligence and success was not at all clear.

In a damming study by sociologists Pitirim Sorokin, Sorokin argued that if Terman had selected a group of children at random and followed them through to adulthood, then you’d have exactly the same distribution of successful  adults and those in ordinary careers.

So what all of this tells us is that having a large IQ is no sufficient to explain why people do well in life, we need to know a lot more about them than that.

Comments

On the selection process to elite education institutions

A question you might want to consider is this: If such rigid selection by ability is not necessary for students to benefit from an elite education, then why do elite institutions spend so much effort ‘selecting’?

Could it be that having control over the selection process allows them to select out people ‘not like them’ – i.e. the working classes who are ‘intelligent enough’ but haven’t been hot-housed by independent schools to get the very top grades???

On being ‘good enough’

It’s interesting to hear talk of ‘being good enough’ to benefit from an certain level of education given that you hardly ever hear the phrase ‘good enough’ in the context of education – the discourse is much more about aspiring to be better, it’s as if, in a marketised system, there is no such thing as ‘good enough’, possibly because the very concept of settling for ‘good enough’ would stifle competition.

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Social Experiments on T.V.

There have been a lot of T.V. productions which have run ‘social experiments’ in recent years. This post simply outlines a few examples of these and some of the strengths and limitations of social experiments run by media companies. Channel 4 seems to be the main outlet for these experiments….

Some (relatively) recent examples of televised social experiments

Return to Eden and Eden Lost

Eden social experiment.jpg

Channel 4’s Return to Eden featured 23 people heading to an island in the Scottish Highlands for a year to see what happened if a small community of people ‘started again’. They had sufficient resources to last the year, so I guess the experiment was just about of seeing how people would interact when their economic basics are sorted out.

The show wasn’t a great success: after the first four episodes (aired in spring 2016), viewing figures slumped to 800 000, and the show only returned in July 2017 as a ‘retrospective’, now called ‘Eden Lost’.

The experiment wasn’t a great success – 13 people left before the experiment ended, with only 10 left at the end. I just hope none the candidates had hopes of becoming a Fogle 2.0 who managed to segway into his media career after the BBC’s Castaway 2000.

The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds

This is much less ‘media manufactured’ than the example of Eden above: more of a ‘proper’ experiment with just cameras being present.

old-peoples-home-4-year-olds.jpg

The point of the experiment is to measure the effects of having children present over the course of a few weeks on the physical and mental health of elderly people.

In the experiment variables such as reaction time and mobility of the elderly residents are measured, then the home is effectively turned into a day care nursery for four year olds, with the old-people taking an active role in their day-care, and after a few weeks, their health is tested again.

The results are remarkable!

No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?

This sort of thing is sociology gold-dust – a school in the Isle of White is turned into a gender-neutral zone…

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Some strengths and limitations of televised social experiments 

Obviously each of these social experiments have their own individual strengths and limitations, but there are also some generic strengths and limitations which stem from the fact  media companies are involved in the production of these experiments.

  • There are some obvious practical strengths to the social researcher – you can just watch the show and relay the results, this is secondary data after all.
  • There are also some obvious ethical advantages to the social researcher – the respondents have given their consent to the company involved in making, so in effect the ethics of the research are down to the media company – there are no obvious additional ethical problems which might be a barrier to research simply by using what material is made available by the media company.
  • Usually in terms of representativeness, media corps are pretty good at representing a range of classes, genders and ethnicities in these experiments.
  • Probably the biggest problem of televised social experiments is that the primary reason for making them is to make a profit, and to do this they need to be entertaining – thus the kinds of topics chosen will not necessarily be those of interest to social researchers.
  • The ‘entertainment problem’ also comes into play where ‘controlling variables’ and testing hypotheses are concerned – entertainment trumps the kinds of questions asked and the shape of the experiment
  • When it comes to validity, there are also lot of potential problems – you only get to see what the media company wants you to see.  The Hawthorne Effect might also apply – respondents may act differently because they know they are on T.V.
  • Finally, in terms of reliability, this could be difficult because there’s a chance that people doing any repeat experiments will have seen previous experiments, which could influence future results.

So all in all, while these televised social experiments may be entertaining (if that’s your thing), it might well be that they give us very little valid or reliable data about how people interact in the real world.

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What is Alienation?

Working definition: the separation or estrangement of human beings from some essential aspect of their nature or from society, often resulting in feelings of powerlessness or helplessness.

Today, the concept of alienation has become part of ordinary language, much used in the media. We may be told, for example, that who groups are becoming alienated from society, or that young people are alienated from mainstream values. With such usage of the concept we get the impression of the feeling of separation of one group from society, but the concept has traditionally been used in sociology, mainly by Karl Marx, to express a much more profound sense of estrangement than most contemporary usage (IMO).

Origins of the concept

Sociological usage of the term stems from Marx’s concept of alienation which he used to develop the effects of capitalism on the experience work in particular and society more generally.

Marx developed his theory of alienation from Feuerbach’s philosophical critique of Christianity – Feuerbach argued that the concept of an all powerful God as a spiritual being to whom people must submit in order to reach salvation was a human construction, the projection of human power relations onto spiritual being. Christianity effectively disguised the fact that it was really human power relations which kept the social order going, rather than some higher spiritual reality, thus alienating from the ‘truth’ of power was really maintained.

Marx applied the concept of alienation to work in industrial capitalist societies, arguing that emancipation for workers lay in their wrestling control away from the small, dominating ruling class.

Later, Marxist inspired industrial sociologists used the concept to explore working relations under particular management systems in factories.

Marx’s historical materialist approach began with the way people organise their affairs together to produce goods and survive. For Marx, to be alienated is to be in an objective condition which as real consequences, and to change it we need to actually change the way society is organised rather than changing our perception of it.

Work in the past may well have been more physically demanding, but Marx argued that it was also less alienating because workers (craftsmen for example) had more control over their working conditions, work was more skilled and it was more satisfying, because workers could ‘see themselves in their work’.

However, in 19th century industrial factories, workers effectively had no control over what they were doing, their work was unskilled and they were effectively a ‘cog in a machine’, which generated high levels of alienation – or feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, and of not being in control.

It doesn’t take too much of a leap to apply this analysis to late-modern working conditions – in fast food outlets such as McDonald’s or call centers, for example.

Marx’s theory suggests capitalist production creates alienation in four main areas:

  1. Workers are alienated from their own labour power – they have to work as and when required and to perform the tasks set by their employers.
  2. They are alienated from the products of their labour – which are successfully claimed by capitalists to be sold as products on the marketplace for profit, while workers only receive a fraction of this profit as wages
  3. Workers are alienated from each other – they are encouraged to compete with each other for jobs.
  4. They are alienated from their own species being – according to Marx, satisfying work is an essential part of being human, and capitalism makes work a misery, so work under capitalism thus alienates man from himself. It is no longer a joy, it is simply a means to earn wages to survive.

Marx’s well known (but much misunderstood) solution to the ills of alienation was communism – a way of organizing society in which workers would have much more control over their working conditions, and thus would experience much less alienation.

Critical points 

Marx’s concept of alienation was very abstract and linked to his general theory of society, with its revolutionary conclusions, and as such, not especially easy to apply to social research.

However, in the 20th century some sociologists stripped the concept from its theoretical origins in order to make the concept more useful for empirical research.

One example is Robert Blauner’s ‘Alienation and Freedom (1964) in which he compared the alienating effects of working conditions in four industries – focusing on the experience of the four key aspects of alienation: powerlessness, meaninglessness, isolation and self-estrangement.

Blauner developed ways of measuring these different types of alienation incorporating the subjective perceptions of the workers themselves, arguing that routine factory workers suffered the highest levels of alienation. However, he found that when production lines became automated, workers felt less alienated as they had more control over their working conditions.

Blauner’s work ran counter to existing theory that technological innovation and deskilling would lead to ever greater levels of alienation. It also suggested alienation could be reduced without destroying capitalism.

Continuing Relevance

While the collapse of Communism suggests that Marx’s general theory of alienation is no longer relevant, many firms today seem to have taken on board some aspects of the theory – for example, it is well establish that increasing worker representation and participation reduces worker ‘alienation’, as outlined in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. Another example of how firms combat alienation is the various media and tech companies which design work spaces to be ‘homely and comfortable’.

Other sociologists have attempted to apply the concept of alienation to criminology (Smith and Bohm, 2008) and even the study of health and illness (Yuill 2005).

Source

Giddens and Sutton (2017) Essential Concepts in Sociology

 

 

 

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Stephen Hawking Against Neoliberalism!

Stephen Hawking this week accused the Conservative government of damaging the NHS by slashing funding, weakening the health service though privatization, demoralizing staff by curbing pay and cutting social care support.

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Hawking blamed a raft of policies pursued since 2010 by the coalition and then the Conservatives for enfeebling the NHS and leaving it unable to cope with the demands being placed on it.

“The crisis in the NHS has been caused by political decisions,” he said. “The political decisions include underfunding and cuts, privatising services, the public sector pay cap, the new contract imposed on the junior doctors and removal of the student nurses’ bursary.

Hawking also accused the Tories of ‘cherry picking evidence’ to back up their views that funding cuts were not damaging the NHS…

“When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others, to justify policies that they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture…One consequence of this sort of behaviour is that it leads ordinary people not to trust science, at a time when scientific research and progress are more important than ever, given the challenges we face as a human race.”

Comments/ Application to Sociology

I thought the news item above was worth summarizing as it’s such a great example a critique of neoliberal social policy – Hawking basically picks up on all the three main aspects of neoliberal policy – deregulation, funding cuts and privatization.

The matter of ‘trust’ is also a very central concept in any sociology of the risk society – Hawking is saying that you can trust scientific research as long as you’re objective about it and take into account all of the data and (appropriately reviewed) studies on the topic in-hand – not enough people are saying this clearly enough, and I think it’s important as it’s a useful antidote to post-truth politics.

As to the credibility of science being undermined when politicians cherry-pick data, this is less likely to happen if more scientists like Hawking get involved in social policy discourse. I mean: who do you trust more: The health minister Jeremy Hunt telling you the NHS is doing great based on studies B, F, AND M, or someone like Hawking telling you that, yes studies B,F, and M tell suggest the NHS is doing OK, but if we also take into account studies A through Z, on balance the neoliberalism is screwing our public health services?

Sources 

The Guardian: Stephen Hawking blames Tory politicians for damaging NHS

 

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Durkheim’s Perspective on Education

Functionalist sociologist Emile Durkheim saw Education as performing two major functions in advanced industrial societies – transmitting the shared values of society and simultaneously teaching the specialised skills for an economy based on a specialised division of labour.

Durkheim, a French sociologist, was writing at the turn of the twentieth century (late 19th and early 20th) and he believed that schools were one of the few institutions uniquely poised to assist with the transition from traditional society, based on mechanical (face to face) solidarity, to modern society, which was much larger in scale and based on organic (more abstract) solidarity.

Durkheim Education

Education and the Transmission of Shared Values

According to Durkheim ‘Society can survive only if there exists among its members a sufficient degree of homogeneity: education perpetuates and reinforces this homogeneity by fixing in the child from the beginning the essential similarities which collective life demands’ (Durkhiem, quoted in Haralambos 2013). 

Education does this by instilling a sense of social solidarity in the individual – which involves instilling a sense of belonging to wider society, a sense of commitment to the importance of working towards society’s goals and a feeling that the society is more important than the individual.

Durkheim argued that ‘to become attached to society, the child must feel in it something that is real, alive and powerful, which dominates the person and to which he owes the best part of himself’ (Durkheim, quoted in Haralambos 2013). 

Education, and in particular the teaching of history, provides this link between the individual and society. If history is taught effectively, it ‘comes alive’ for children, linking them to their social past and developing in them a sense of commitment to the social group.

Education and Social Rules 

Durkheim argued that, in complex societies, school serves a function which cannot be fulfilled by either the family, which is based on kinship or friendship, which is based on personal choice, whereas being a member of wider society involves learning to get on with and co-operate with people who are neither our kin or our friends.

School is the only institution capable of preparing children for membership in wider society – it does this by enforcing a set of rules which are applied to all children, and children learn to interact with all other children on the basis of these shared rules – it thus acts like a society in miniature.

Durkhiem argued that school rules should be strictly enforced – with a series of punishments for those who broke the school rules which reflected the seriousness of the damage done to the social group by the child who broke the rules. Durkheim also believed that by explaining why punishments were given for rule breakers, children would come to learn to exercise self-discipline not only because of fear of punishment, but also because they could see the damage their deviant behaviour did to the group as a whole.

According to Durkheim social sciences such as sociology could play a role in making it clear to children the rational basis of social rules:

‘It is by respecting the school rules that the child learns to respect rules in general, that he develops the habit of self-control and restraint simply because he should control and restrain himself. It is a first initiation into the austerity of duty. Serious life has now begun’. (Durkhiem, Quoted in Haralambos, 2013). 

Education and the Division of Labour 

Durkheim argued that a second crucial function for education in an advanced industrial economy is the teaching of specialised skills required for a complex division of labour.

In traditional, pre-industrialised societies, skills could be passed on through the family, or through direct apprenticeships, meaning formal education in school was not necessary. However, factory based production in modern industrial society often involves the application of advanced scientific knowledge, which requires years of formal education to learn, thus schools become much more necessary.

Another factor which makes school necessary in modern societies (according to Durkheim) is that  social solidarity in industrial societies is based largely on the interdependence of specialised skills – the manufacture of a single product requires the combination of a variety of specialists. In other words, solidarity is based on co-operation between people with very different skill sets – and school is the perfect place for children to learn to get on with people with different backgrounds.

Taking the above two points together, Durkheim argues that schools provide ‘the necessary homogeneity for social survival and the ‘necessary diversity for social co-operation’.

Evaluations of Durkhiem

  1. Postmodernists might criticise Durkheim for his assumption that society needs shared values – Britain has become much more multicultural in recent decades, and the extent to which there is a single British culture is debatable – there are whole communities which are largely cut off from mainstream culture, as evidenced in the case of ethnic segregation in Oldham.
  2. Marxists would be a bit more cynical about the relationship between school and work – according to Durkheim school is a neutral institution which simply transmits values and skills to individuals which enable the economy to run smoothly – according to Bowles and Gintis’ Correspondence Principle, this is a much darker process – school teaches working class kids to be passive, making them easier to exploit in later life.
  3. Ken Robinson in his ‘changing education paradigms‘ talk makes a number of criticisms of the contemporary education system – he argues it’s failing too many kids.
  4. Liberals such as Ivan Illich would even question the view that we need schools to transmit complex skills – In ‘Deschooling Society‘ he suggested that we could learn work related skills in a much more decentralised way, something which is even more possible today in the age of online learning.

Related Posts 

Talcott Parsons – Education and Universalistic Values

The Functionalist view of Education – Summary Revision Notes (a briefer version which covers this post and the work of Parsons

Evaluating the Functionalist View of Education