Monday, February 06, 2006

"You mean we're not all equal?"

I just got out of a class where we wandered a little bit off topic, but still, I think, in a good direction. There's something really exciting about people realizing, probably for the first time, that not all is equal in the world. Maybe because, for me, that realization was the spark that led to a change in my entire view on the world and how it works. This individual doesn't necessarily get it yet, but the first questions have been asked. "You don't think there's equal opportunity? In my high school the middle class kids went on to prestigious universities and the working- and lower-class kids didn't." These are seen as different choices rather than systematic differences in opportunities.

I don't mean to sound condescending when I say this, I really, really don't... but I find this so exciting! To see someone on the precipice of radically altering their world view by realizing a basic fact about society... this is why I want to teach sociology! It's kind of like (and not at all like) the feeling you get when someone who has never read Harry Potter (or seen the movies) reads it for the first time. If only you could be there when they find out that it's been Quirrell all along, not Snape! If only you could see their reaction when Professor Moody isn't Professor Moody at all and the Triwizard Cup is a portkey. You only get these perspective-altering experiences once, so it's exciting to see and be a part of it when other people suddenly "get it."


Anonymous said...

As the only non-leftist person in many graduate courses, I find it amusing to watch my leftist colleagues and professors start to huff and puff when I question those "facts". Maybe it will take longer for me to be indocrtinated.. er.. enlightened.

So you want to teach to make people adopt your worldview? That's not cool.

Jennifer said...

Explain what you mean.

What exactly are you questioning?

As for what I want to do as a sociologist, I want to make people think about social structure. Not everything can be explained by looking just at the individual. Social opportunity structure and context are important. People make different choices, sure! But why and in what context they make them in are what's interesting to me.

I think we can all agree that this is not an entirely open society. People tend to stay in the class that they were born into. We can all cite a few counterexamples, but that doesn't make the weight of the evidence any less significant.

But people aren't aware of this. These sorts of things are what I want to teach them.

Where it gets to opinion/worldview, I believe, is what we want to do about it. My opinion is that it is one of the roles of the government to redistribute wealth. But that is my opinion, based on my morals. I don't want to teach people to adopt that opinion/morality in particular.

But they do need the facts, and getting them is often an eye-opening experience. What we do about them is a matter of opinion/worldview.

Thanks for replying!

Jennifer said...

Incidentally, what are you studying in grad school? And where are you at? Do you like it (besides all the lefty profs :-))? (I understand if you don't want to say.)

I only ask because I'm looking at sociology grad programs right now, and wondered if you could offer any insight.