It’s that time of year. College graduates will don silly looking black robes and square hats, sit through mediocre commencement spearkers, and then be thrust into the world, unemployed and desperate for a break. Some of them will find a good, high paying job easily, and others will struggle mightily. In this piece Nathan Palmer explores the sociological term human capital and answers the question, are there “useless majors”?
Not all majors are created equal. That is the finding of a study done by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce . The study finds that student who pick a major that has a career attached to it (like accounting and being a CPA) are more likely to get hired after college. The study also finds that graduates who are skilled at making technology as opposed to using technology are more likely to be find a job post graduation. News outlet, TheDailyBeast.com used the data from this Georgetown study to put together a list of 13 “useless majors” that includes everything from fine art to theater to political science. At this point you may be wondering is my major a “useless major”?
Well fear not, sociology is here to answer your question, but before we do, let’s examine your college education through a sociological lens. Why did you go to college? If you took out money to invest in your education, why did you do that? My guess is among your many reasons one of them was, you wanted to get a good job. Someone told you that if you wanted to get a high paying job with benefits, you’d need to go to college.
I fly coach. I can’t afford those expensive tickets. So I put up with little leg room and a measly bag of nuts so I can get from point A to point B. But what happens when the class of ticket you purchase equates to your life or death? In this post, Bridget Welch revisits how this was the reality for many passengers on the Titanic.
“It was called the ship of dreams. And it was. It really was.” So intones the actress who plays the elderly Rose in the now rereleased in 3-D Titanic (because, I don’t know about you, but I really want to feel like Leonardo DiCaprio is coming out of the screen at me).
April 15, 1912 — now just over 100 years ago — in a ship that set off with 2,233 souls on board hit an iceberg and sunk resulting in the death of 1,530 people. This catastrophe has been retold countless times in films and books. Like many others of my generation, it was Leo and Kate flying at the front of the ship (with, perhaps unfortunately, Celine Dion warbling about how her heart will go on in the background) that was my entrance into this social epic. In fact, much of what I knew for a long time was because of that production. Let’s examine what the film teaches us.
The heart of the story (besides of course the “Heart of the Ocean” which you can now buy) is a love story between star-crossed lovers. While Romeo and his Juliet were caught up in a familial squabble, Kate and Jack are doomed because of their difference in social class. Kate, the newly poor aristocrat who needs to marry to refinance her way of life, gives us entry into the upper class area of the ship. No doubt luxurious and comfortable, the people are snobby jerks. Kate is trapped and boxed in by the requirements of her social milieu and is only able to escape by touring the 3rd class areas with Jack. She flees her proper life and to go drinking, dancing, posing nakedly, and sexing it up with Jack. Message: Wealthy = Boring and Trapped. Poor = Fun and Free. Continue reading
“My cell phone doesn’t record HD video!” “My parents only pay half my car payment!” “It’s really hard to to find designer clothes that fit me!” In this post, Sarah Michele Ford uses jokes about “first world problems” to examine the concept of the social construction of reality.
Sometimes life is hard. In the past month, I laundered my cell phone and then promptly left its replacement in the seat-back pocket on an airplane. The replacement’s replacement was defective so now I’m on my fourth phone in a month. There’s a somewhat snarky term for my complaints about this particular chain of events, and even a blog or two devoted to such things. We call these first world problems. Yes, there’s quite a bit of judgement in that term, with the implication that if this is all we have to complain about, our lives can’t be all that bad. And yet… for me, much like the folks who are mocked on White Whine and First World Problems, this was a real problem (not least because my cell is my only telephone).
By examining these varying definitions of “problems” we can begin to see evidence of what Berger and Luckmann called the “social construction of reality”. Put quite simply, social constructionist theory tells us that something is significant because society believes it to be significant. Social constructionist theory grew out of the sociology of knowledge and has come to be applied to a wide variety of social phenomena. Continue reading
Have you ever heard a woman say, “she just knew” when she was pregnant, well she was wrong. According to a new Arizona Law, pregnancy occurs two weeks before conception. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath discusses how this redefinition affects women and what it means for the social construction of pregnancy.
Did you know you can be sort-of-pregnant?
Arizona’s House and Senate have passed a bill that redefines pregnancy as occurring two weeks before conception.
No longer are women simply pregnant or not. This law frames women as in a constant sort-of-pregnant state. If women are always sort-of-pregnant, then should we all expect they “behave as pregnant women should” just to be safe? Continue reading
Pinterest is an online “pin board” where individuals (most users are women) “pin” images, quotes, and DIY tips for their followers to see. But this seemingly innocuous inboard has a negative side of Pinterest: Thinspiration. Thinspiration are images and media that promote anorexia and other eating disorders. In this piece, Alexa Megna explores thinspiration and asks us to think about the role media and imagery play in defining beauty standards.
Ladies, we are living in a truly revolutionary time! We have laptops and iPhones to keep us constantly connected to our loved ones, because after all, relationships are most important thing to women. We can log onto Foodgawker.com or Foodnetwork.com to download recipes instantly to cook for our partner. We can also watch our favorite chick flicks, like Titanic and Moulin Rouge, in an instant on Netflix.com. In addition, we can also log onto Pinterest.com to shame not only our bodies, but also women’s bodies everywhere.
Now, for all of those who are unsure of what Pinterest is let me explain. Pinterest is an online community where you can “pin” images, recipes, work out tips, and DIY secrets to an online corkboard that followers can see. Pinterest, of course, does have some men that do participate, but mostly it is a female dominated community where women can share tips and secrets with other women. Continue reading
In the U.S., rules for interaction require us to maintain a hula-hoop distance from others in the interest of respecting people’s personal space. But we don’t always follow these courtesy rules on the road. In this post, Sarah Nell shows us how we drive our cars can tell us a lot about social interaction and individualism.
My friends call me Captain Safety. It’s endearing and I deserve the nickname. The moments I am on full Captain Safety Patrol usually involve driving, riding in cars, or avoiding them while crossing the street. My friends tease me, but I don’t mind. You see, my concern about other drivers is more than mere paranoia. I am overly cautious because I am overcompensating for all the other idiot drivers out there.1 I am certain people know the best driving practices. However, what’s interesting to explore sociologically is why do so many people choose not to follow these basic rules of safe driving.
My driver education teacher said using the word “accidents” to describe car crashes is a misnomer. Most crashes can be avoided if everyone drives more considerately and safely. Safe driving experts recommend following a 3-second rule that allows enough distance between you and the car in front of you. If you are too close to the car in front of you, and something goes wrong, things can go really wrong, really fast. Then driving dangerously, all in the name of getting to your destination a minute or two earlier, may in fact lead to an accident. Then you’d be really late… or dead. I’m not being overdramatic. About 35,000 people die every year in car crashes.
You might be wondering, “What is sociological about safe driving?” As someone who studies human social behavior, driving is interesting because it is a kind of interaction. Continue reading
Recent successful films with women leads tend to either resort to the stereotypical (e.g., The Help, The Twilight Saga) or require women to act like men (e.g., Bridesmaids and The Hunger Games). In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores this second type of film.
One of the biggest films of 2011 and Judd Apatow’s highest grossing U.S.-film to date is Bridesmaids. The Hunger Games just opened, and had the third highest grossing opening weekend ever.
Both films have female protagonists and were written by women. In both cases, the protagonist stretches the portrayal of women on film, while at the same time, making men’s movies (i.e., films that include generous amounts of potty-humor or violence) with women in the roles normally reserved for men.
Is this what my feminist foremothers had in mind? Is this equality? Continue reading
Reality is what we make it. However, what happens when people are deliberately misled or our prejudices and biases cloud our vision of reality? In this piece Nathan Palmer explores this idea and shows how two recent news events demonstrate the power of the Thomas Theorem.
Situations defined as real are real in their consequences. If you believed the hotel you were staying at was experiencing a gas leak and the only way to save your life was to break the sprinkler system with a porcelain toilet lid, would you do it?
For these unsuspecting hotel guests, they truly believed there was a gas leak and that if they didn’t break the sprinkler heads people were going to die. They believed the gas leak was real and they believed the person on the phone was really the authorities. Clearly they were manipulated by pranksters, but we see the same type of reality construction everyday.
These prank calls illustrate two important sociological concepts, the social construction of reality and the Thomas Theorem. Sociologists argue that reality is whatever we all agree it is. The Thomas Theorem contends that situations defined as real are real in their consequences. If we believe our hotel needs us to break a window, we are likely to do it.
A far more horrific example of this theorem can be seen in the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. On the night of February 26th Martin was walking to his father’s house after purchasing a bag of skittles and an iced tea from a convenience store when George Zimmerman, a captain with the neighborhood watch program in the area, spotted him. Zimmerman called 911 from his truck and reported that a “real suspicious guy” was walking in his neighborhood. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something,” Zimmerman continued. At this point Zimmerman had not yet verbally interacted with Martin or even got out of his truck, but already he had decided Martin was dangerous. Around this time Trayvon Martin pulled up his dark gray hoodie and covered his head.