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Sociological perspectives on drones over airports

Hundreds of flights were cancelled from Gatwick airport between the 19th-21st of December 2018 after reports of drone sightings nearby. This resulted in around 140 000 people’s flights being disrupted.

More recently, a drone was also sighted flying over Heathrow airport on Tuesday 8th Jan 2019 which led to flights being cancelled for an hour.

Despite ongoing police investigations and the military being involved in the Heathrow incident, we still don’t know who the drone pilots are!

This post simply provides some sociological analysis of drones over airports, applying various sociological perspectives – this is clearly most relevant to the crime and deviance module within A-level sociology, but also relevant to the media, given that these are media events!

drone.png

News Values

Firstly, it’s obvious why these events are newsworthy…. They tick lots of ‘news values’ boxes – Major drone disruption is very unusual, given that it’s never happened before, and it affected two of Britain’s best-known landmarks – Gatwick and Heathrow. This is also something most people can relate to, given that most people have used airports, the even at Gatwick at least had emotional appeal, because families were potentially being prevented from getting back together at Christmas.

The media and social reaction suggests support for aspects of Durkheim’s functionalist theory of crime – there was widespread condemnation of whoever the drone pilots in the media and one effect of their deviant act seems to have been an increase in social integration as the nation has come together in solidarity against them, even though no one knows who they are!

Interactionism – labelling and moral panic theory

An interactionist approach to these ‘drones over airports’ is, however, much more interesting…. One might ask why we’re making such a fuss over a few thousand people’s flight’s being delayed by drones, which is really no big deal, when the media fails to cover the use of drones by nation states to kill ‘suspected terrorists’ (and many innocent people) in foreign countries.

One might say this is a ‘moral panic’ over the general public’s use of drones to do ‘minor harms’, while the media ignores the use of powerful state actors to use drones to do ‘major harms’.

You can also apply interactionism to the police reaction…. As they arrested a working-class couple in a relatively poor part of the South East, only later to release them. I can just imagine the conversation…

  • ‘There’s a drone over Gatwick’
  • ‘Quick, go arrest someone’
  • ‘Who’?
  • ‘It’s probably poor people piloting it’
  • ‘But there are no poor people in Surrey?’
  • ‘What about Crawley, that’s nearby?’
  • ‘All units to Crawly, go arrest some poor people who own a drone, we need to be seen to be doing something about this.’

Or in other words, this just seems to be a straightforward example of the police labelling the marginalised.

Subcultural theory versus neo-Marxism

It’s tempting to think this is a group of lads doing this for status (come on, admit that’s the image in your head, it probably is!) However, this could be a political act…. Maybe climate change activists? IMO leisure flights are the perfect target for the environmentally conscious. Or it could (actually) be one of the bottom 30% by income, one of those people that will probably never be able to afford to fly anywhere, protesting about being marginalised by grounding flights!?!

Post and late modernism

Whether this crime was politically motivated or not, it’s unlikely that the drone pilots wanted to kill anyone…. They’re probably aware of the high levels of risk consciousness that surrounds airports… they were probably well aware of the likely impact of their drone flights… which was the grounding of all flights for a period.

It’s also the perfect postmodern crime in that this is preventing many people from engaging in their leisure pursuits (I imagine most flights are for leisure), it’s targeted at consumers.

Then of course there’s the uncertainty factor…. We still don’t know who did it, or when the next drone is going to appear…

Crime Control….

Given that international airports are so large, and thus the boundaries so big, it’s impossible to have on the ground security along all of the perimeter, and it’s difficult enough to get surveillance in place… especially when you have to go beyond the perimeter to cover the total area in which a drone could be operated from. In other words, it’s difficult to apply target hardening (preferred by right realists), and this goes to shows the difficulties of crime control in a postmodern age!

Gatwick aiport
Gatwick airport – a lot ground to police!

Globalisation

Finally, this could be used as an example of how easy it is to put ‘physical globalisation’ in the form of holiday migration into reverse… all it takes is one person in a car with a drone, and you can ground flights for days!

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Sociological Perspectives applied to The Apprentice….

Now in its fourteenth season, The Apprentice is one of Britain’s longest running T.V. series and remains one of the most popular, with average weekly viewing figures stable at just over 7 million for the past four years.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 10:00:01 on 25/09/2018 – Programme Name: The Apprentice – TX: n/a – Episode: n/a (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: **IMAGE EMBARGOED FROM PUBLICATION UNTIL 10AM TUESDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER 2018**
Lord Sugar with The Apprentice Candidates of 2018. Lord Sugar – (C) Boundless Taylor Herring – Photographer: Jim Marks

In this post, I’m just going to analyse what its ‘social functions’ might be by applying a few sociological perspectives…

From a Functionalist perspective, which tends to focus on the positive functions which institutions perform in contributing to the maintenance of the whole, then I guess there are several positive functions which the apprentice might perform: we can see it as playing a role in secondary socialisation, reinforcing the ‘work ethic’ that is deemed so fundamental to capitalist society, for example, and even providing additional opportunities for entrepreneurs.

From a Marxist perspective the main function would probably be one of spreading false consciousness. The broad diversity of contestants suggests (As it does on any BBC show that we have equality of opportunity. This is a myth, especially where successful entrepreneurs are concerned. Such people tend to be drawn disproportionately from the middle classes.

It might also perform the function of ideological control: it has a soporific effect as 7 million people tune in to it every week, and it celebrates the values of individualism, selfishness and competition, disguising the many downsides to these traits.

I can’t see that there would be much of a feminist critique of the apprentice…. There are equal numbers of both sexes, and there are plenty of female winners who have been successful because of the apprentice. Possibly the show might be supporting evidence for liberal feminism?

Although, just as with Marxism, it does little to highlight the very real barriers that ‘ordinary women’ face every day in the workplace – such as harassment and the effects of the persistent dual burden/ triple shift.

From a neoliberal point of view, you might see this show as a real celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit. From this perspective, society needs innovative individuals to come up new business ideas to drive the economy forward, and the sort of competition we see on the Apprentice is a perfectly healthy means of promoting this.

From a neoliberal point of view, the show ticks a lot of boxes – not only is it providing an opportunity for enterprising individuals to kick-start their businesses (either through winning and getting an investment, or through simply having their profiles raised as a result of being on the show), it also provides two generations of role models – in the form of Alan Sugar himself and the young apprentices. The show is itself is even a profit generating product in its own right as well.

Finally… this is a very postmodern show…. The sphere of production become the sphere of consumption, as entertainment. And the entertainment mainly comes from the extreme individualism of the contestants. It’s also hyperreal, as I argued in this post: how the apprentice really works!

Finally, from a late modernist point of view, while most the individuals think ‘they’ve done it all themselves’ – they are wrong: they need to realise the importance of the structures they’re embedded into, not least of all the competition itself: they need that external support of £250K and Alan Sugar’s business contacts to kick start their businesses, after all!

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What is the difference between Functionalism and Marxism

Functionalists have a very general analysis of the role of education in society, simply looking at how it contributes to the maintenance of social order, whereas Marxists analyse the role of education by focusing on how it performs different functions for different social classes.

As I see it, Marxists offer a ‘deeper layer’ of analysis compared to Functionalists, although critics of Marxism may say they seeing class divisions where there are none.

Below is a basic comparison of Functionalist and Marxist perspectives on the role of education in society:

Functionalism: Education serves the needs of an industrial society by providing it with an advanced, specialised division of labour

Marxism: Education part of the ideological state apparatus, and works for the Bourgeois

Functionalism: Education serves the needs of the social system by socialising new generations into shared norms and values which provide harmony and stability

Marxism: Teaches us the ‘myth of meritocracy’ – we believe we fail because it’s our own fault, thus put up with inequality

Functionalism: The formal and hidden curriculums helpsprepare children for service to society

Marxism: Correspondence Theory – Hidden Curriculum makes us accept authority without question

Functionalism: Education provides the means for upward mobility for those prepared to work hard

Marxism: Education reproduces class inequality – middle class kids more likely to succeed and get good jobs

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Asking Questions about Theories and Concepts in Sociology

My weekly ‘Monday teaching and learning’ post: I’ve been thinking about questioning in A-level Sociology recently,* in particular I’ve been asking myself ‘what are the best quick-fire questions to ask students about theories and concepts’ and ‘what’s the best way to present these questions’?

By ‘best’ I mean what kinds of questioning style will most effectively develop knowledge recall, understanding and the skills of application, analysis and evaluation? And how can this be done quickly!

I’m only really interested here in questioning as a review activity (not the kinds of question you ask during a regular lesson), so this is meant for recapping previous lessons work, as part of a plenary, or as part of a revision lesson.

As I see it, the most effective way to ask questions is to do so in a hierarchical order, starting with basic recall, and moving up through application, analysis, and evaluation, and you could even tag on a conclusion type question at the end.

I tend to ask eight questions to recap any theory or concept… In the example below,  I used these questions on a PPT with the headings as titles and the prompts in the main body of each slide. This was a simple, verbal pair-work recap task (with the usual further development questions tagged on). There’s also nothing from stopping you dumping these questions onto Socrative.

Why poor countries poor

I also use prompts to speed things up, and you could of course make these prompts as cards and for each slide get students to do ranking/ sorting exercises.

Eight Questions About Dependency Theory

(which could be asked about any other theory or concept)

  1. (AO1) Explain why poor countries are poor according to Dependency Theory

HINT: Use the following concepts…

  • Marxism
  • Colonialism
  • Neocolonialism
  • Exploitation
  • Core-Satellite
  • Communism
  1. (A01) Give some examples which best illustrates Dependency Theory
  • Try to think of one ‘developed’ and one ‘less developed’ nation
  1. (AO2) Apply Dependency Theory to something else…
  • Use Dependency Theory to evaluate Modernisation Theory
  • What do you think the function of education in poor countries might be according to Dependency Theory?
  1. (A03) Analyse Dependency Theory: How does the theory/ concept relate to the following concepts below:
  • Marxist theory more generally
  • Inequality
  • Power
  • Capitalism
  1. (A03) Analyse Dependency Theory
  • Who developed it (where did it come from)?
  • If you could convince everyone it’s true, then whose interests does it serve?
  1. (AO3) Evaluate Dependency Theory using evidence
  • Identify as many pieces of supporting evidence as you can
  • Identify as many pieces of counter-evidence as you can…
  1. (A03) Evaluate using other theories
  • HINT: What would Modernization Theory say about this theory?
  1. (AO2) Interim Conclusion – How useful is Dependency Theory?
  • HINT: Where ’10’ is explains everything and 0 is explains nothing, what score would you give Dependency Theory out of 10 in explaining why rich countries and rich and poor countries poor?

Asking these eight questions in relation to other theories and concepts…

Other topics I’ve used this template with recently include (with different prompts) The Functionalist View of Education, The Correspondence Principle (focusing in more deeply on just one Marxist concept of education), The Neoliberal Theory of Economic Development and the concept of Gross National Income as an indicator of development (the kind of concepts this 8 question hierarchy works well for might actually surprise you).

Of course this won’t work for everything and will need tweeking, but to my mind, this is a nice general questioning structure that ticks my 20-80 rule – spend 20 mins prepping to get 80 mins of students doing – NOT the inverse!

 

*I’m fairly sure this is a big contributor to mental illness among teachers, it’s exhausting.

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Analyse the reasons for social class, ethnic and/ or gender differences in society

Analysis Grid Sociology.pngThe issue of why differences in life chances by class, gender and ethnic differences exist forms a major part of any A level sociology syllabus, and I would say the analysis of the reasons behind these social differences is fundamental to sociology’s very self-identity.

Within A level sociology, students need to be able to a very general ‘macro’ analysis the ‘general reasons’ behind differences in life-chances by class gender and ethnicity, and they need to be able to focus in and analyse more specifically the reasons why there are specific variations. For example, across the A level syllabus you might reasonably ask students to do any of the following:

  • Analyse the reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
  • Analyse the reasons for differences in educational achievement by social class(education)
  • Analyse two reasons for differences in conviction rates between ethnic minorities (crime and deviance, AND this was an actual question in the AQA’s 2017 paper 3.

The point of this post is to provide a general framework to help students analyse why there are variations in class, gender and ethnicity in so many areas of social life.

A framework for analysing in A level sociology

To analyse the any social difference by class, gender or ethnicity I’d recommend simply looking at the following:

  1. (Functionalism) Socialisation (@home) differences – material versus cultural
  2. (Marxism/ Feminism) Society – Power/ Ideology/ Blocked Opportunities/ Patriarchy/ Capitalism/ Racism
  3. (Labelling Theory) Micro processes, especially labelling.
  4. (Postmodernism) – Individual Freedom….

The picture below shows the prompts I use to get students to analyse the reasons for gender differences in child care….

Analysis A Level Sociology

The above is a ‘BIG VERSION’ so it shows up here, I actually provide my students with the following blank A3 grid (prompts are the same as on the big version)

Analysis Grid Sociology

And I Include the following instructions either on the back of the A3 ‘grid’ or on a PPT…

Developing Analysis Skills in Sociology—Instructions

  1. Write in/ place the cards/ discuss the concepts and research evidence you could include in each bubble.
  2. Try to be logical— demonstrate how each ’broken down’ concept forms a ’causal chain’ to answer the question.
  3. You COULD add in evaluation outside each bubble.
  4. If you like ‘subvert the bubbles’ by analysing differently (see below)

Alternative ways of doing it!

  • Analysing this question from four broad perspectives is only one way of doing it—you could adopt a purely Marxist/ Feminist analysis and analyse using Marxist. Liberal, Radical and Difference Feminism.
  • You could also analyse this by using different institutions… focus on the family, education, work and the media.
  • And you could even analyse by research methods—simply macro versus micro….

The idea is that students can develop analysis within each bubble, but also across each bubble, the bubbles on the left and right (as you go down the template) should be especially easy to link together.

Essentially, students need to be able to analyse the reasons for any difference (within education/ families/ crime/ religion/ work, depending on options chose) by any of class/gender/ ethnicity (or two or three of these). This means there are a lot of possible combinations – in other words, there is a limitless amount of fun to be had with developing analysis skills.

Analysis questions in the A level sociology exams

All three of the A level sociology exam papers will have one 10 mark ‘analyse two reasons why’ questions. For example:

  • Analyse two reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
  • Analyse two reasons for differences in educational achievement by ethnicity (education and research methods

These questions will have an item which will fundamentally limit what reasons students can choose. I’d recommend a different template for specific exam preparation.

More of that later, personally I think it’s better to encourage ‘open analysis’ early on, as this also helps with the ‘outline and explain’ questions as well as any of the essay questions.

Ironically (not surprising for the AQA) the above template is probably better preparation for the 10 mark ‘outline and explain questions’, because good explanation also requires analysis!

Comments welcome!

As far as I see it, the above structure works for any combination of class/ gender/ ethnicity for any topic within A level sociology, although it doesn’t apply as well to Global Development.

Of course you might disagree, if so, do lemme know, and keep analysing!

 

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A Level Sociology Essays – How to Write Them

This post offers some advice on how you might plan and write essays in the A level sociology exams. 

The sociology A level exam: general hints for writing essays

  1. Allow yourself enough time – 1.5 minutes per mark = 45 minutes for a 30 mark essay.
  2. Read the Question and the item, what is it asking you to do?
  3. Do a rough plan (5-10 mins) – initially this should be ‘arguments and evidence’ for and ‘against’ the views in the question, and a few thoughts on overall evaluations/ a conclusion. If you are being asked to look at two things, you’ll have to do this twice/ your conclusion should bring the two aspects of the essay together.
  4. Write the essay (35 mins)– aim to make 3-5 points in total (depending on the essay, either 3 deep points, or 5 (or more) shallower points). Try to make one point at least stem from the item, ideally the first point.
  5. Try to stick to the following structure in the picture above!
  6. Overall evaluations – don’t repeat yourself, and don’t overdo this, but it’s useful t tag this in before a conclusion.
  7. Conclusion (allow 2 mins minimum) – an easy way to do this is to refer to the item – do you agree with the view or not, or say which of the points you’ve made is the strongest/ weakest and on balance is the view in the question sensible or not?

 

Skills in the A Level Sociology Exam

The AQA wants you to demonstrate 3 sets of skills in the exam – below are a few suggestions about how you can do this in sociology essays.

AO1: Knowledge and Understanding

You can demonstrate these by:

  • Using sociological concepts
  • Using sociological perspectives
  • Using research studies
  • Showing knowledge of contemporary trends and news events
  • Knowledge can also be synoptic, or be taken from other topics.
  • NB – knowledge has to be relevant to the question to get marks!

AO2: Application 

You can demonstrate application by…

  • Using the item – refer to the item!!!
  • Clearly showing how the material you have selected is relevant to the question, by using the words in the question
  • Making sure knowledge selected is relevant to the question.

AO3: Analysis and Evaluation (NB ‘Assess’ is basically the same as Evaluation)

You can demonstrate analysis by….

  • Considering an argument from a range of perspectives – showing how one perspective might interpret the same evidence in a different way, for example.
  • Developing points – by showing why perspectives argue what they do, for example.
  • Comparing and contrasting ideas to show their differences and similarities
  • You can show how points relate to other points in the essay.

You can demonstrate evaluation by…

  • Discussing the strengths and limitations of a theory/ perspective or research method.
  • You should evaluate each point, but you can also do overall evaluations from other perspectives before your conclusion.
  • NB – Most people focus on weaknesses, but you should also focus on strengths.
  • Weighing up which points are the most useful in a conclusion.

A note on using the item:

Every 30 mark question will ask you to refer to an ‘item’. This will be a very short piece of writing, consisting of about 8 lines of text. The item will typically refer to one aspect of the knowledge side of the question and one evaluation point. For example, if the question is asking you to ‘assess the Functionalist view of education’, the item is likely to refer to one point Functionalists make about education – such as role allocation, and one criticism.

All you need to do to use the item effectively is to make sure at least one of your points stems from the knowledge in the item, and develop it. It’s a good idea to make this your first point. To use the evaluation point from the item (there is usually some evaluation in there), then simply flag it up when you use it during the essay.

Seven examples of sociology essays, and more advice…

For more information on ‘how to write sociology essays for the A level exam’ why not refer to my handy ‘how to write sociology essays guide’. 

The contents are as follows:

Introductory Section

  • A quick look at the three sociology exam papers
  • A pared-down mark scheme for A Level sociology essays
  • Knowledge, application, analysis, evaluation, what are they, how to demonstrate them.
  • How to write sociology essays – the basics:

The Essays

These appear first in template form, then with answers, with the skills employed shown in colour. Answers are ‘overkill’ versions designed to get full marks in the exam.

  1. Assess the Functionalist View of the Role of Education in Society (30) – Quick plan
  1. Assess the Marxist view of the role of education in society (30) – Detailed full essay
  1. Assess the extent to which it is home background that is the main cause of differential education achievement by social class (30) – Detailed full essay
  1. Assess the view that education policies since 1988 have improved equality of educational opportunity (30) – Quick plan
  1. Assess the view that the main aim of education policies since 1988 has been to raise overall standards in education.’ (30) – Quick plan
  1. Assess the claim that ‘ethnic difference in educational achievement are primarily the result of school factors’ (30) – Detailed full essay
  1. Assess the view that in school processes, rather than external factors, are the most important in explaining differences in educational achievement (30) – detailed essay – Quick plan.

 

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Using material from item A, analyse two ways in which globalisation may have changed pupils’ experience of education(10)

A suggested model answer to this 10 mark analyse question, a possible question for the AQA’s education with theory and method’s A level paper (paper 7192/1) 

  • Hooks
  • What you need to apply the hooks to

Item A

Globalisation, or the increasing interconnectedness of countries across the globe, creates both challenges and opportunities for the United Kingdom. For example, economic globalisation has resulted in both more opportunities abroad and more competition for jobs for these jobs; and increasing migration has resulted in greater multiculturalism in the UK.

Education has had to adapt to globalization, and as a result, pupils today experience education very differently to previous generations.

Suggested Answer

Point 1 – Economic globalisation means increased competition from abroad, which means British students today are expected to spend longer in education (as evidence by the increasing of the school leaving age. So one change in the experience of education is that students stay in school for longer.

Development  – globalisation has meant that most of the unskilled factory jobs have now moved abroad, and increasingly British workers need to be better educated in order to get jobs at all, thus the expansion of higher education means that more students ‘experience’ higher education and are better qualified than their parents.

Further development – however, ironically, poorer UK students are put off by the fees universities now charge, meaning that the globalisation of HE is possibly resulting in more class inequality.

Further development  – increased competition also means more pressure to succeed, schools are now ranked by PISA league tables, which means even more ‘teaching the test’ and ‘narrowing of the curriculum’, which is a final way the experience of education has changed.

Point 2 – The item also refers to the pressures of increased immigration resulting in more multiculturalism – and British schools have long had multicultural education in response to this, which also changes pupils’ experiences of education.

Development 1 – For example, religious education has long taught about other religions, and increasingly schools and colleges have events such as ‘black history month’ raising awareness of diversity.

Further Development – schools have also introduced compensatory education to help recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, such as extra support for pupils who don’t have English as a first language.

Further development – however, some policies may be seen as potentially divisive, for example, the prevent agenda in schools seems to target Muslim pupils through ‘categorical suspicion’.

Further development – There is also doubt that these inclusive policies are working, many people, especially in working class areas, object to the extra resources being spent on minority groups, and given the fact that it is the white working classes who have the lowest achievement, they might have a point.