Introduction to Sociology 101
Ten Week Internet Course Syllabus
Spring Semester 2015
Dr. Ralph M. Faris, Co-Coordinator
Professor of Sociology
Office: Main Campus, Mint Bldg., Room M3-2
(Honors Program Suite)
Telephone: 215 751-8283
Welcome to my internet sociology course. Please read this syllabus carefully from beginning to end. You will be held responsible for the information contained in it. When you finish reading, please log onto Canvas and select this course from the menu listings.
Understanding the social nature of humans and the social world in which they live. Analysis of such topics as culture, socialization, social groups and social institutions, stratification, the family, gender relations, race and ethnicity, minorities, social deviance, social change and technology, the urban community, population and the environment. Both Western and non-Western cross-cultural comparisons are provided throughout the course. Fulfills Interpretive Studies, American/Global Diversity and Writing Intensive requirements.
Upon completion of this course students will be able to:
Describe how sociologists seek to understand the social world and human social behavior as contrasted with other disciplinary attempts to understand it.
Describe the varieties of methodological approaches to sociological explanation.
Explain what variables account for the maintenance of and change within social systems.
Discuss how the individual becomes a functioning member of society.
Discuss the explanatory models used by sociologists to understand and explain the nature of social deviance.
Describe how sociologists understand and explain the nature and consequences of stratification systems in human societies in the context of social class, race, ethnicity, gender, age, and global inequality.
Here is some information about how to contact me, but it’s best to use the tools of Canvas for routine contact. When you email me, please be sure to read my “Rules for Emailing Me” that are posted on my web site, in the first week’s module of Canvas, and listed below:
I’m not inclined to read email messages from students who ignore the “Rules for Emailing Me” so please read and observe them:
Please observe there rules when emailing me:
* Email is fast and convenient. By far it is the most efficient form of contact between students and professors, and you are encouraged to use it rather than trying phone tag.
* However the sheer speed, and perhaps the novelty of email, lead people to misuse it occasionally.
* So we can avoid irritating each other, I strongly suggest you abide by these rules. I myself certainly will, and can't promise to be responsive to your email to me if you neglect them.
If it should become necessary to email me through my CCP address, please note that an email address is not a name. Be sure your name in on that email. Similarly, my email address is not my name. Address me by name, as you would in a letter. Emails are not analogous to little slips of paper being passed around in the back row of a classroom. They are formal communications. Treat them as such. Try it this way: "Dear Dr. Faris: Cordially, Tom Snyder"
If replying to an email is not to be a simple matter of clicking the reply button, please alert your correspondent to that fact. This is especially important if you have more than one email address, as many people do. If you send from Yahoo, but wish to receive at AOL you must either set your mail program to accommodate this in replying or else specifically call it to the attention of your correspondent.
Learn how to send and receive attachments in Canvas. It's not complicated. The in-line text of email editors is not a proper substitute for a word processing file. Any document longer than a page or so ought to be sent as an attachment. Also, if you are sending a word processing file, be sure that it is in a format that your recipient can read. If you don't know what any of this means, then either learn what it means, or don't send attachments. Try to remember that if your word processor puts out a non-standard format, you should convert it before sending it. Finally try opening your own attachments to make sure they were not inadvertently corrupted.
Never, never, never, send an email in anger or in haste. In general it is not a good idea to send an instant response on any important matter. Instant responses tend to be sloppy, intemperate, and ill-considered, and after you press the send button your respondent will get to see an unfortunately distorted view of you. Wait and think before you respond to an email.
Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Email is a writing medium, not a speaking medium. Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation – all those things that make a written document felicitous should be duly attended to.
Required Texts: If the paperback version of the texts below is available, you may also use it. I did order it as well from our bookstore.
Sociology in a Changing World by William Kornblum. Thompson Wadsworth Publishers.
Either the Eighth edition: ISBN-10: 0495096350
The Ninth Edition: ISBN-10: 1111301573
They Say, I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein ISBN 0-393-92409-2
Please read the course materials posted in each week’s Module. The materials listed there are assignments in addition to those in the textbook;
You will be responsible for submitting responses to the posted forum questions (both Supplemental and Required) during the weeks they are assigned. (Formal Forum submissions will be graded acceptable +2; unacceptable -0; Total points for forum submissions equal 18 (9 forum posts required) each worth two points. No forum questions will be posted during the week of the midterm and final exams. Forums post are due no later than 11PM on the Sunday of the week in which they have been assigned, and have a minimum length of 400 words. Unless the Canvas site is down for repairs, no credit will be given to students whose forum posts reach me after 11PM. No exceptions. If you wait until the last minute to post your response, you may suffer the consequences of living in an unpredictable universe. So post your responses early and avoid costly delays.
Also each week the professor will post discussion questions to the Supplemental Forum. These questions are usually drawn from the “Reading and Study questions” for the week’s readings. Although formal responses to the questions there are not required, these forums are designed to initiate discussion of particular important aspects of the reading assignments. I strongly encourage you to use this forum extensively, not only to reply to the questions but also to thread discussions of the issues. It is especially valuable to engage your classmates in discussion. Indeed, the other students in the class are a very very important resource for coming to understand some difficult material. I will not allow students to circle around the student forum to consult directly with him unless the issue has already been thoroughly aired in the Student Supplemental Forum. I will neither interfere with individual postings nor evaluate them – except when it is necessary to moderate, or to remind posters of the ordinary rules of academic exchange e.g. one writes in formally correct English. Occasionally, if it seems helpful, the professor will post additional questions for consideration, or suggest reformulations of problems or redirection of discussion that seems dead-ended. At the end of the semester, students will be graded holistically on the frequency, quality and timeliness of their participation in these supplementary forums:
Excellent = 12; Good = 8; Marginal = 4; Unsatisfactory = 0)
A = 89+
B = 79-88
C = 69-78 (i.e. the lowest possible 'C' is 69 points, not 68 or 67,
and similarly for the other grade levels.)
D = 59-68
F = 0-58
The points able to be earned for each requirement in this course are:
Mid term and Final Exams: 35 points each--------------- 70
Required Forums 9 forums worth two points each---- 18
Eight supplementary Forums at 1.5 points each -------- 12
Total points -- 100
Each week, usually on a Monday evening, I will send my general commentary on the assigned forum posts to all who have submitted responses. Those comments should serve as useful pointers to you about how well you’re approaching the forum assignments, your use of the Graff and Birkenstein text to do so, and the extent to which you are being responsive to the questions raised in each forum. So if you submitted a forum response, you will receive a set of general comments from me that has been sent to everyone who responded to the forum. If, however, you also receive a separate email from me, it may very well be that your forum post was unacceptable and thus you will not receive credit for it. Thus, unless you receive that separate email from me explaining why your post was unacceptable, you may assume that it was acceptable and that you have received the two points for it.
I will also ask you to take two online multiple-choice exams (midterm and final) during this semester each worth exactly 35 points toward your final grade in the course. Thus, the maximum number of points for the assigned and supplementary forums and exams is 100. The exams will consist of multiple-choice (please see the sample multiple choice question at the end of this syllabus). You will be given 70 minutes (one hour and ten minutes) while online to complete each exam. No grade will be given unless both exams have been taken. No alternative assignments or extra credit work will be considered, so please don’t email me asking whether such extra assignments are acceptable. They aren’t.
Here are the dates and times when the online exams will be available:
Midterm Online Exam:
From 7:00AM, Friday, March 20th to 11PM Sunday, March 22nd, 2015
Final Online Exam:
From 7:00AM, Tuesday, April 28th to 11PM Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
Please note that you will have 70 minutes and only 70 minutes to respond to approximately thirty-five multiple-choice questions on each of the two exams.
During this semester, you will encounter reading assignments, either from the required Kornblum textbook, or from other materials posted in the weekly Module in Canvas. Frequently, although not always, you will find reading/study questions there as well that raise various sorts of issues about the texts being read and discussed. These questions are mostly designed to focus your attention on certain aspects of the texts. They should not be read as "the questions that I have to answer"; you should not think of the questions as focusing on all that is worthy of attention in the reading for the week. The questions are only meant to be helpful.
These are the criteria used for deciding whether a particular Required Submission is acceptable for credit.
1) Timeliness. If the Submission is not posted by the deadline, it is automatically not accepted for credit. Don't wait until the last minute, or the last half hour. This criterion also applies to the Supplemental forums.
2). Minimum Length: All forum posts must contain no less than 400 words. (400 - 600 typical). Supplemental Forum responses should contribute to the student exchanges in those settings and thus the length may be determined by the intensity of and usefulness of the discussion there.
3) Appropriateness of Presentation. Required Forum Submissions are formal academic documents. All ordinary standards of presentation are in force. The ordinary expectation is that submissions will have been prepared offline in a standard word processing program, and carefully proofread before submission. This criterion also applies to the Supplemental forums.
4) Mastery of Relevant Material. The questions posed in the Required and Supplementary Forums presuppose at least a basic understanding of the reading for the week, and any theorist whose work is being discussed. A serious breakdown in understanding, consequently, is a serious problem.
5) Responsiveness to the question posed in the forum. The required forum questions pose particular issues rather than others, and it is absolutely essential that your response be open to being reasonably construed as responding to that question. Sometimes students will seem to ignore the question(s) being asked in the sense that rather than answering it, they use it a launching pad to do something quite different than answering the question. Of course responses may be more or less pointed, clear, comprehensive, subtle, and theoretically astute. But if the professor cannot find a clear way to interpret what you have written as a response to the intellectual problem presented in the question, then the submission will not be accepted. This criterion also applies to the Supplemental forums.
These "criteria" may seem more onerous and imposing than they really are. What they come down to is this. Understand the material, answer the question(s) asked, write it up as a formal presentation and submit by the deadline. It's hard to see how things can get more straightforward than that.
What are Forums supposed to do for you?
Participation in both types of Forums is course requirement.
Provide students with the opportunity to try out strategies of interpretation and understanding in public.
Provide students with the opportunity to practice formal, brief academic presentations.
Form the students group into a "discourse community"
which allows significant opportunity for reflective commentary, discussion and debate.
Provide a setting for question formulating, asking, and answering.
All proceed on a weekly basis and are all linked to the weekly assignments.
Assigned Topic Forums: In this forum students will submit answers to questions occasioned by the weekly reading assignment. All academic conventions are in force— spelling, punctuation, syntax and semantics - and will be closely monitored. Submissions should be organized and paragraphed appropriately, and responsive to the assignment. The minimum required length is 400 words for each forum. As described in the syllabus, submissions to forums will be graded as satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
Important Considerations about the Forums:
Participation in a forum means both reading and writing. In a forum you engage the thought of others. That means careful, respectful reading and respectful on-point responses. Disagreement, criticism and mutual reflective revision are at the heart of a discourse and learning community.
New Thread Forums: Topics, issues and questions may be introduced by any student as a new thread to the student initiated forum. However, please do not give other students single sentences to respond to. Instead, build a paragraph or two explaining the question or issue (as opposed to simply stating it), why you are raising it, and what your own preliminary take on the issue or problem or question is.
Is this course for you?
The Internet version of Sociology courses is entirely conducted by text. For students, this implies that no one should attempt the internet version of this course unless he/she already has strong abilities in reading and writing.
In a sense, this course requires significantly more—and better—reading and writing achievement than an ordinary classroom based course. Similarly, expect to spend significantly more time on this course than on an ordinary classroom based course.
Do NOT take this course:
On the expectation that it will be easier than a classroom based course — it will not be.
On the expectation that it will require less time than a classroom course. It will require more time.
If your reading and writing competency is not very high. Any reading or writing problem will likely make the course impossible to pass. Sociology is almost entirely a language-based discipline and in the internet course it is entirely text based. Attention will be paid to strategies of reading and writing in Sociology but those are mapped onto strong initial competencies.
Unless you can consistently devote significant time to the course. The course has a consistent, even relentless, work plan. There is no possibility of setting it aside for week or two and then "catching up."
Do take this course:
If reading and writing are your strong suits.
If you are willing consistently to devote 6-10 hours per week to the course.
If you have an interest in the abstract and theoretical underpinnings of contemporary debates.
The following chapters will be covered in the Kornblum textbook (Eighth and ninth editions):
For Midterm Exam:
Chapter 1 -------Sociology: An Introduction.
Chapter 2 --------The Tools of Sociology
Chapter 3 --------Culture
Chapter 5 --------Socialization
Chapter 6 --------Read only from the section “Formal Organizations and
Bureaucracy” to the end of the chapter
Chapter 7 --------Deviance and Social Control
For the Final Exam:
Chapter 10 ------Stratification and Global Inequality
Chapter 11 ------Inequalities of Social Class
Chapter 15 ------The Family
Chapter 16 ------Religion”
Please note that I offer you the opportunity to use either the older eighth or the newer ninth edition of the Kornblum textbook. But you will need to be careful to read the appropriate chapters as they are listed above, especially if you are using the older eighth edition.
I strongly recommend reading the recommended Graff text, They say, I Say. Finish the book within the first two weeks of this semester. Doing so will increase the likelihood that your responses in the formal and the supplementary forums will more appropriately resemble academic discourse within a sociological context.
There are other required readings posted in the weekly modules in Canvas. You are responsible for anything posted in those weekly modules: readings in Kornblum, assigned articles I have posted there, supplementary or suggested readings, and, of course, the forum and supplemental assignments.
So you may have a better idea of what to expect in the way of the multiple-choice questions on the exams you’ll be taking this semester, I am including a sample question in this syllabus. Read it carefully. It is the type of question that includes “all and none of the above” responses you’re likely to encounter on the midterm and final exam.
Sample Multiple Choice Question
McGrath and Spear find which of the following to be peculiar about the stories they relate in their chapter?
a. faculty do not communicate their objectives to students clearly enough.
b. students frequently are not to blame for their poor performance in
c. faculty often fail to take into account the disadvantaged backgrounds of
d. students could publicly challenge the requirement that reading be done.
e. All of the above.
f. None of the above.
Some thoughts on Forum Assignments
What do you take your task to be and with which audience? Task is defined here as an activity you’re engaged in with a particular audience for a particular reason. What is it exactly that you hope to accomplish with your audience, and why do you wish to do so? What are the demands that the question itself is making on you?
In an abstract formulation, how do you imagine your task to be achieved? What will the precise sequence of activities be?
How is the audience being acknowledged and handled?
What issue or set of issues, or problem are you working with? Why is it an issue or problem?
How has your thinking been affected by other forum posts or “threads”?
How to Handle Reflective Forum Questions:
Explain the question:
Talk your way through it if you wish but you must be able to expand and explain what is at issue. If the question presents you with a theory or a position for your consideration, explain it at length. If the question is deploying a picture or an image, explain it. If there are a set of alternatives for your consideration, what are they? If some claims are open for dispute what are they, and what do the grounds of dispute appear to be? If you are being asked to deploy a theoretical apparatus, what is it exactly? If you are laboring under constraints what are they? If you are being asked to tentatively adopt a position, what is it? If you are being asked to construct a relationship, then between what and what, and what is the range of relations possible?
Explain your Strategy for Answering the Question:
Given your explanation of the question what will you be trying to accomplish in your response? What needs to be done to accomplish that? What is the order of march? What gets done first, second etc. If qualifications or disclaimers are needed what will they be and why will they be used? If some theorist is being appealed to, how do you signal your relation to that theorist?
Good luck in your efforts to master the sociological complexities of modern life.
Ralph M. Faris, Co-Coordinator
Professor of Sociology