ERIC Number: EJ851558
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Sep
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Save the World on Your Own Time: Or, What's the Matter with Sociology?
McNall, Scott G.
American Sociologist, v39 n2-3 p142-154 Sep 2008
This essay explores the question of why sociology departments, compared to other university departments, are often viewed negatively by higher-level administrators (deans, provosts, chancellors and presidents). We are asked to consider, as sociologists, how departments are ranked and evaluated by administrators. The characteristics of any good university department are identified (e.g., grants, support from alumni, publications, quality of teaching, national rankings, student enrollments); and, the characteristics of dynamic and healthy departments are outlined (e.g., student learning is primary; there is a commitment to the goals of the larger organization; leadership is provided by the unit to solve all-university problems; there is a focus on learning; faculty are productive; there are strong communication links across the organization). The question is posed and then systemically answered as to how sociology departments compare in terms of these standards. It is suggested that a major factor in terms of how and why sociology departments are negatively evaluated is the fact that sociology uses narratives of power and explanations of organizational behavior that are inherently oppositional, i.e., there is an "us" and "them" mentally that sometimes develops. Other reasons for organizational marginalization are identified such as the "canon wars" and their lingering effects, and the fact that the sociological enterprise has been diluted by the teaching of "sociology" in many other campus units, such as composition programs. Finally, questions are raised about how sociology, as an intellectual enterprise, differs from other disciplines in terms of pedagogy, the sequencing of courses, "grand" theory, and forms of apprenticeship. It is recommended that sociologists act positively to help the organizations within which they work to identify common problems and solve them. It is argued that sociology can and should "own" the area of civic engagement as a means of making a positive and distinctive contribution. Sociological "stories" grounded in the reality of everyday life are compelling. It is suggested that sociologists need to deepen connections with their communities and to offer real solutions to real problems.
Descriptors: Sociology, Institutional Characteristics, Benchmarking, Educational Sociology, Intellectual Disciplines, Faculty College Relationship, Comparative Analysis, Critical Theory, Organizational Culture, Organizational Theories
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A