Friday, March 30, 2012

More Sociology Resources--The Society Pages

A couple more resources that will likely help you out are the following two items.  If you are on Twitter, check out this particular feed--they have several good links.  From their profile, "TSP is a social science edited by Doug Hartmann & Chris Uggen fea. accessible articles, fun podcasts, & lively blogs."  They come from an academic viewpoint, so what they share is great for you as an instructor to bone up on your theoretical background.  Advanced students may be able to use some of the content for a deeper understanding as well.!/TheSocietyPages

The Society Pages also has a website devoted social science and a page dealing with teaching sociology. Both are definitely worth checking out.

Check out their home page for so many resources:

The Teaching High School Sociology web site

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ongoing Student Feedback

I read an article in the New York Times about obtaining regular feedback from students within the context of one professor's engineering classes.  The article can be found here:

After reading that article, I had realized that written student evaluations of my work had largely become a thing of the past for me.  Currently, I have been using only verbal feedback and only sporadically.  Using a simple format of a few key questions, I can find out what my students are preferring (outside of the first day questionnaire I give).

One could examine this practice from both a psychological and a sociological point of view, especially from Marxist and Symbolic Interactionist theories.  What is the teacher doing that influences the power structure?  Is s/he giving up power or gaining power by obtaining feedback?  What are the intended and unintended consequences of the practice?  Does this symbolic deference to the students and their view diminish the status of the teacher?  If so or if not, why?

I will personally be using this practice more formally this semester.

The Teaching High School Sociology web site

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunger Games and Racism

I've not read The Hunger Games series, but the premise sounds interesting to me.  However, what really got to me was this article from about the seeming racism of the movie's fans.  I guess I really should not be surprised, but something similar happened with the second and third Matrix movies when most of the supporting characters were cast as people of color.

This is a great read for dissection with your students.

Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed

After the initial post, I found the following links to this issue:

Here are a couple links to follow up to the initial reactions.  Seems like some ripe fodder for a sociology discussion:

The Teaching High School Sociology web site

Monday, March 26, 2012

When Did the Pink for Girls/Blue for Boys Begin?

I just discovered this particular article from Smithsonian magazine.  It's a cool read giving some great history behind the "longstanding tradition" of separating the sexes by color.

In addition to the history, there is also a wonderful slideshow with a variety of styles.

When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?

The Teaching High School Sociology website

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Survival in America if You Are Young and Black

I read this in Time magazine and then found the online version.  I just find this reality so disturbing.

"How to Talk to Young Black Boys About Trayvon Martin"

Read more:

Students who are white need to learn that this is a reality for people of color.  It is not just something that occurred in the history books, sometime in the distant past.  This is people's reality now.  My student population is 60% Latino.  They face similar issues.  We must do what we can to reduce/remove this reality from our world.

Teaching High School Sociology Website

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Learning to Be Racist in South Africa

Learning to Be Racist in South Africa
I discovered this BBC post while perusing Twitter this evening.  Disturbing to say the least.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Social Distance--A Class Demonstration

When I first entered teaching (before the widespread use of the internet), I read about Emory Bogardus' research on social distance (see for a more complete definition).  I was very intrigued by what I read and ended up creating my own version of it in order to measure the collective attitudes in my own classes.  What groups would face acceptance or rejection by my classes?

I wanted to take the idea and modify it to gather an actual score.  Below are links to both additional resources as well as the questionnaire itself and my score sheet for tabulation.

This is the link to the actual scale (this is a .docx version so you can modify it as you see fit).

From a presentation I did in 1995:

Directions for Social Distance Scale
 Overview:       This survey is called the "Social Distance Scale" which was originally created by Emory Bogardus in the 1930's and modified for use at Munster High School by Charles Schallhorn in 1988 and in subsequent years.  Social Distance is the degree of sympathetic understanding we have for a member of another ethnic or cultural group.  By allowing ourselves to be placed in a situation where we would be living or working closer with a person different from ourselves, the lower our social distance score would likely be.  In our view, a lower score is better for it indicates a more tolerant and accepting attitude toward those who are different.  
Directions for class use:1.   Distribute forms.  Tell students to keep their responses to themselves.2.     Be sure appropriate gender is circled.3.     Instruct students to place an "X" or check mark on each line for their responses to each of the 12 questions and 6 cultures/groups.4.     Tell them not to write in the space marked "S.D. Score" (it's for you to tally, not for them to score inaccurately)5.     Collect and Score  
Scoring of Social Distance Scale:  To score each column, look for the "lowest yes" response in each column.  For example, if a student marked "yes" for letters A-J, but marked K and L as "no," then the lowest "yes" score is J.  That would yield a score of 3.  L=1, K=2, J=3, I=4, H=5, G=6, F=7, E=8, D=9, C=10, B=11, and A=12.  Should a person be so xenophobic and bigoted as to put "no" for all 12 responses, give that a score of 13.                
Once the individual scores are tabulated, use the social distance quotient sheet for class totals to see which group has the lowest social distance quotient.  That is essentially the group with the lowest average.  Remember, the lower, the better.  In my primarily Caucasian school, white Protestants and Jewish people have scored the lowest and Arabs and retarded/mentally-challenged people will score the highest.  If you are interested in specific data, please contact me.**
**I no longer have specific data.  However, examining data from one's own classes and even beyond can potentially open up some eyes in terms of comfort levels with different groups on campus.

Further Links to Bogardus:

The Teaching High School Sociology Web Site

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Evaluating Group Projects

A recent topic came up on one of my listservs regarding how to evaluate student work in the context of student work groups.  What grades are earned?  Who did most/all of the work?  What about those who disengage by social loafing?  Should they get the same grade as the grade-conscious person who spent the most time/gave the most effort?  I never liked the inherent unfairness of a "group grade."

Self-evaluation form I use for group projects.
In an effort to compensate for that, I created two evaluation forms.  One is a self-evaluation and the other is a written evaluation of the effort of other group members.

Those documents can be found on the site I created for documents from this blog below: 

Please leave comments if you have suggestions for improvement.  I am always open to getting better.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Watch Know Learn

While doing some research recently, I came about a website that offers free educational videos called, ""  I did a quick search for sociology:

While there were only 35 videos for sociology, there were thousands for many other areas.  the quality varies, so I'd recommend checking out the ratings for possible quality.  I watched/listened to a few and was both pleasantly surprised and disappointed.  Most were hosted by YouTube and some had been removed, so this is a mixed bag.

One idea for a sociological investigation is to have students examine some of the various social media sites for teachers (or students or any profession) to see what kinds of quality of video offerings there are.  If there experience is anything like mine, they will find that there is lots of garbage with little updating going on.  Many seem to be hastily put together without thought of making the product have deeper meaning than reading words already on the screen.  What social factors drive this behavior and lack of quality?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Utopia Exercise

One of the enjoyable things for me when I teach is tapping into the collective imaginations of my students.  The activity below is one of those assignments when I either love or hate the fact that I assigned the thought experiment ("gedankenexperiment" in German).  

This has both flopped and succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.  Some students just have the ability to make decisions about what they do and do not value.  Others have trouble determining what the name of the culture should be.  To watch the dynamics is fun and potentially painful.  As they do this activity, I walk around the room asking clarifying questions, attempting to help them see this new society from the ground up.

After I give them anywhere between thirty and sixty minutes (depending upon my judgment of how seriously and how well they are doing on the activity), we then share out the core of our new societies and then ask questions about how functional or "do-able" their ideas are.  When they take many of their ideas to the logical extension, they begin to understand.  One example was stood out was the culture of the pot-heads.  Everyone had to smoke pot in their culture.  They got a kick out of it.  When the class started asking about sanitation, food growth and consumption, the school and governmental systems, the group realized the folly of their idea, but it was worth it.

As a side note on values, I value the intellectual property rights of those on the internet.  Any photos I use are either my own or searched through the creative commons web site for the world to use, copy, and remix.  If I become aware of use of copyrighted material, I will immediately take it down.

A .doc copy of this exercise can be found here.


Utopia—Is It Within Our Grasp?
First and Last Names of Group Members

For a long time, younger people have said that our cultural leaders don’t know what they are doing, are corrupt and should be replaced.  Fictional “dystopias” include 1984 and Brave New World.  We are going to examine the flip side, or the positive aspect.  We will be creating an ideal culture that has everything you want and need.

Name of your culture                                                                                                                                                                        
New Ideas
Reasons for why the changes are taking place (i.e., rationale for value/law/attitude)
Values (what is important to the group?)
(These should be chosen freely, chosen among alternatives, after consideration of consequences of alternatives, be prized and cherished, publicly affirmed, and acted upon consistently.)

Rules & Laws

Attitudes that people in this culture will have

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Unintentional Racism in Article About Intentional Racism--Geeesh

A good friend of mine pointed out the following article.  At the time it was written, there was a glaring error that has since been corrected.  Fortunately, I was able to get screen caps before they corrected it.

Wow.  They go to all those pains to make the change on the correct spelling of the guy's name, and then put the wrong name--I guess for some people, all Latino names are the same.

Check out the screen caps below.  "Credit" to Yahoo Sports for the story. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Resource: Teaching Tolerance

This is a repeat of the post I made on the Teaching HS Psychology blog, but it certainly pertains to sociology as well.
You've certainly seen their free magazines and perhaps even their emails.  The Southern Poverty Law Center's education project is an outstanding site dealing with a variety of prejudice and reduction of prejudice articles, activities, and resources.  One could literally teach an entire course utilizing the materials on this site.
The Magazine
Professional Development
Activities Search Page with a list
Mix It Up

If you are a believer in social justice, reducing prejudice, increasing understanding, and increasing an understanding of history, this is a fantastic site.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Culture: My understanding of how to "get" it

As part of teaching culture, I begin with this "lecture reading" along with the graphic showing the relationship among the four key concepts to understanding any culture/group.  As I work with my kids in understanding the connections and interrelations among these concepts, they learn a more complete view of cultural understanding.

To me, it is impossible to understand culture without examining these concepts together.

Values, Norms, Roles and Sanctions Lecture

            Values are important aspects of a culture that a group feels are either desirable or undesirable.  These standards are shared criteria for distinguishing good from bad, acceptable from unacceptable.  Values are not something that can be decided by scientific experiment, but rather are matters of collective preference.  Many values are connected with intense sensations of attraction or repulsion, approval or disapproval, which we have learned to feel about them. 
            Values have the following qualities:
                                    A.     Chosen freely
                                    B.     Chosen among alternatives
                                    C.     Chosen after thoughtful consideration of the consequences of each alternative
                                    D.     Prized and cherished
                                    E.      Publicly affirmed
                                    F.      Acted upon
                                    G.     Consistently acted upon

            If one knows the values of a culture, one can make certain predictions concerning the way its members will behave.  Values are the link between beliefs and the rules of a culture, called norms.
            Norms are shared rules of conduct, directing what should and should not be done by certain individuals under certain specified conditions.  It is through norms that values are put into action.  There are two kinds of norms.  Folkways, which are connected to daily behavior for what to do, customs and fashions, the violation of which will not produce a major problem.  However, a more (pronounced moor-ay) is a norm, that when broken, will produce a strong public outrage.  Examples of these include rape, incest, murder, etc. 
            Norms are very closely related to roles, which are the parts we play in society.  In our daily lives, we are putting on different masks, all of which reflect a part of us.  Some look upon this as "posing," but it is really a just a way to cope with the changing demands of a variety of situations.  Each role is built up from many norms.  Therefore, norms can be thought of as the building blocks of roles.  Each part we play has a series of expectations or norms.  As a student, you have a part to play with many expectations associated with it.  These expectations can be considered norms or rules for how you should and shouldn't behave.
            To enforce norms, cultures and other groups create sanctions, rewards or punishments that are designed to keep deviant behavior at a minimum.  They may range from a harsh look or a hug, to the silent treatment, incarceration, or even the end of life.  It will depend on the norm broken, the role of the person, and the value that was threatened.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sociology Resources

The American Sociological Association has created a number of excellent resources for high school sociology teachers.  Here are three:
This is the website full of materials for teachers and for students--take some time and check out this site--it will be well worth your time
ASA footnotes--an online journal for teachers of sociology
This link is to the resources page for high school teachers--there are some excellent resources here ranging from a listserv to blogs, to online materials and lessons.  You can also join the ASA from this page.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Perspectives--One Activity

Perspectives is a wonderful aspect of sociology that I fully embrace, despite the difficulty many students may have with understanding the points of view or lenses for examining behavior.

George Carlin did some sociological comparison with baseball and football.  Although he did not use the terms, he did hit upon some key insights using the language of each sport.  I use this early when teaching perspectives to help students look beyond the obvious.

So part of using sociology is looking at everything groups and cultures do in a new way, differently than what the kids are used to--this can create quite a challenge for teachers.  So I start with the simple stuff first.

In teaching the unit, my text deals with the Functionalist Perspectives (Parsons, Merton, and Durkheim), Conflict (Weber, Mills and including a sub-category, the feminist perspective), and Symbolic Interactionist perspective.  My text also has Postmodern perspectives, but there is very little information on that.

In teaching the "Big 3," I hit upon some key tools in examining social behavior.

  • society is a stable, orderly system and everything in it serves a purpose, even if it is not apparent at first
  • manifest functions
  • latent functions (unintended purposes that were created)
example with license plates:  manifest function:  license plates were created to track vehicle registrations; latent function: license plates are collectibles


  • Who has the power?
  • How is that power shown?
  • Can there be power shifts?
  • Who stands to benefit if changes are made?

example with license plates:  The state makes car owners and renters have plates to keep track of us--that shows us the power of the state.  If we have some higher economic power, we can obtain personalized plates

Symbolic Interactionist
Including Dramaturgical Analysis (Goffman)
Life is like a play, and all the people are players--our job with sociology is to figure out the roles and what they mean
Every interaction (conversation or any time two people connect) has both a surface meaning and a deeper, more symbolic (refers to something else) meaning.

example with license plates:  every car is supposed to have one--if we have a generic one created by the state, we are simply illustrating our conformity to the role of auto-owner or renter.  If we have a personalized plate style, we are symbolically communicating our support of whatever cause the plate is showing the world.  If we have a personalized plate the has unique letter/number combinations that spell something such as "SOCTCHR," we are sending a symbolic message about who we are and that we are rich enough and clever enough to have this special plate.

As time and the semester move on, I will take these beginning views of the perspectives into much more detail.

A simple example is to use the local town parade (or a Homecoming parade for a high school or college).  First examine the roles that a parade has (have the students make a list)--these could include police cars, fire engines, a marching band (bands), a band leader, floats (including particular clubs, businesses, politicians, classes), animals, signs and other visual identifiers, cheerleaders, clowns, etc.

Each person/car/float in the parade shows levels of power and strength (first or last typically is most symbolically powerful--police and fire; frosh teams/queens first, varsity and seniors last)

Each part of the parade interacts with the cloud in prescribed ways--each keeping within the roles given to them.  The clothing that each group wears is distinctive and symbolic of the status in society/school that the people have.

So a parade is never "just" a parade.  Any social gathering is never "just" a gathering.  Our students are often uncomfortable with this aspect of perspectives, but they eventually get used to it as they develop their skills.

Other social events that they could analysis in small groups would be:

  1. professional or college football-the roles and symbolism is rich with this topic--especially with an analysis from each of the three perspectives
  2. identification and analysis of the school culture (administration, teachers, classified staff, seniors to frosh, various cliques on campus, campus events, the yearbook, etc.)

There are certainly other examples--please do add any examples and activities in the comments.

posted by
Chuck Schallhorn

Monday, March 5, 2012

Perspectives: An Activity with Red Riding Hood

On of the most challenging aspects of sociology can be teaching perspectives.  To that end, I once read a column by F. Forrester Church retelling the Red Riding Hood Story from the point of the view of the wolf.  Not all of our students will have reached the abstract thought level of thinking, so this activity can help bring those kids along.  The main goal is to help students view things from another perspective than what they are used to.

Here are some questions I use with the activity:

  1. Tell me the basic story of Red Riding Hood, both content and the message(s) the story is supposed to send (this often takes about five minutes)
  2. Here is the story from a different point of view (sometimes I read aloud, sometimes I have them read silently--depends upon a variety of factors)
  3. Summarize the differences between the two stories
  4. Why do you think there are differences?
  5. At the end of the discussion(s), explain who you believe, Red's story or the Wolf's.  Explain.
  6. Debrief the activity as needed, based upon the discussion
  7. Transition into how viewing particular behaviors/stories/events through multiple lenses is important and something we will be doing frequently throughout the course.

The Red Riding Hood document can be found on this page:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sociology: What to Teach?

When I began teaching sociology in 1987, I was given a course outline, a book written at the 7th grade reading level, and a classroom that had lots of handouts from the previous teacher.  There were no state or national standards, the American Sociological Association had not yet gotten involved in high school level sociology, and I was fresh out of college with only my university courses as my guide.  At the time, there was also no internet (insert your own age-related joke at this time).  
I recall sitting on the floor of my living room with multiple sociology books and all the handouts I was given and attempted to make sense of it all.  What were the most important ideas to cover?  What kind of pedagogy would work best?  Do I lecture?  Do I lead discussions?  The previous teacher had some inquiry-based materials, should I use them?  What kinds of of projects do I give?  Should I use the sociodramas that I was given?  Do I give exams?  Multiple choice, short answer or essay?  How hard to I make the course?  

Over those first few years, I made many, many mistakes.

When dealing with high school sociology, what material was most appropriate?  I spent hours examining and reexamining these questions.  After much experimentation, these are the units I decided to focus on in order to best teach critical thinking skills and keep student interest high.

1.  Perspectives of Sociology:  Without this, we ignore the power of sociology.  To me, this unit is essential since sociology is not about facts, but about gaining tools with which to examine human social and group behavior.  Though they may be challenging to understand and teach, they are essential.

2.  Culture:  I do skip methods as a unit to get right into culture.  The interplay among values, norms, roles and sanctions can be applied to any and all social behavior--this lens is critical for a sociological mind.

3:  Social Interactions:  This one I use as a hook to keep the kids interested after all the examination of culture--This really hits upon the Symbolic Interactionist Approach.

4: Socialization (with an emphasis upon education):  While we examined the various social components to socialization, one emphasis was the unintended lessons of education (one assignment I will be posting about later)

5.  Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice:  When I began teaching about sociology, I was in a community that was 90% European-American.  Northwest Indiana had been cited as one of the most segregated areas in the country, so I used what I could to illustrate challenges for those in groups that had been discriminated against.

6: Gender and Sexism:  The tools and perspectives from the previous unit I used to understand gender, the power differences, and how media shaped images and perceptions of gender.

7: Family:  Since I was teaching exclusively seniors, I would use this unit as the end of the course--what better to finish the course with than what they dealt with daily?  

Formerly taught units I've abandoned:

Deviance:  There is much interest, but so much focus from the student point of view was violence.  In my view, it took too long to properly debrief and contextualize these issues.  I certainly realize that I may be in the minority 

Social Problems:  I taught this back when I had an honors sociology course.  I abandoned it when it abandoned me.

Ultimately, we need to look at the demographics of our students, examine what skills and perspectives from which they would benefit most, and how best to integrate those into the sociological perspectives.  Without that integration, we are just teaching our favorite topics in a text.  There is so much value in the sociological imagination, I shudder to think of the courses that are labeled as sociology but are really something else less valuable.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Introduction to the Teaching High School Sociology Blog

Welcome to this new blog, my name is Chuck Schallhorn and I am currently teaching at San Benito High School in Hollister, California.  Over time, my plan with this blog is to share resources so teachers of sociology can have an online location to share ideas and become exposed to new sources of information.  Although I am not teaching sociology currently, I have many resources that I look forward to sharing with teachers of sociology.  I also look forward to having many current teachers share their own lessons and insights.

While our university counterparts are able to use virtually any resource and discuss any topic freely, because we teach at the high school level, there are likely restrictions on what we can teach depending upon the community in which we teach.  One of my goals is to assist teachers in making these accommodations while still staying true to the intent of sociology.

In addition to lessons, I will be recommending readings for teachers, books, videos, films and other resources that correspond well with the high school level.

My name is Chuck Schallhorn and I've been teaching for 25 years (since 1987).  My background includes teaching at multiple high schools in Indiana, Illinois and California, so I've been exposed to a variety of socioeconomic/social levels as well as culturally diverse communities.  Courses I have taught are Advanced Placement Psychology, Psychology, Sociology, Honors Sociology, World Geography, U.S. Government, Hindu Literature, Cultural Anthropology, and Philosophy (Theories of Human Nature).  Thanks for coming along with me on this journey into the sociological imagination.