Time: 42 hours
College Credit Recommended
The sociological imagination is central concept to sociology, which allows sociologists to make connections among personal experiences and larger social issues. For example, did you know the United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world? To understand this trend, sociologists use scientific methods to study and make connections about various social issues, such as sex education in schools, sexualization in the media, poverty, and the personal issue of teenage sexual activity and pregnancy.
In this course we introduce a range of basic sociological principles so you can develop your own sociological imagination. We study about the origins of sociology as a discipline, and some major sociological theories and research methods. We also explore the topics of sex and gender, deviance, and racism. As we move through the course, try to develop your sociological imagination by relating the topics and theories you read about to your own life experiences.
First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me in this course". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.
In this unit, we explore the discipline of sociology. We learn how sociology developed, as a field of research, and study various central theoretical perspectives. We examine sociological research and explore different ethical concerns social scientists and researchers face in their work. Why should we study sociology and how can we apply it to the real world. For example, did you know sociologists helped the U.S. Supreme Court end "separate but equal" racial segregation in the United States? Martin Luther King, Jr., Michelle Obama, Ronald Reagan, Robin Williams were all sociology majors. Sociologists have helped change and mold of our social world. Sociology teaches how individuals fit into the bigger picture of society. We can look at ourselves with a sociological perspective to see how we classify ourselves and how others classify us. Sociology is an invaluable tool for living and working in our increasingly diverse and globalized world.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.
In Unit 2 we explore the sociological concerns of culture, social interaction, groups and organizations, deviance and social control, and media and technology. As we explore these sociological areas, we study some common unwritten rules for behavior in our social world. We investigate why social rules are so important to our everyday interactions. For example, what happens when you commit a minor social offense, such as cutting into a line of people, interrupting others, or showing up to meetings consistently late? Our unwritten rules (normative behaviors) do allow these kinds of deviance. without provoking a reaction.
Finally, we explore how technology affects our social interactions and deviant behavior. For example, Facebook, a virtual interactive world, has impacted our social thinking. The word "friend" is now a verb, we "like" something, and we can bridge our lives and experiences with hundreds of other users from around the world in seconds.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.
In this unit, we address the growing concerns of global and national inequality. We explore questions, such as how some countries are more wealthy than others. How can we address the needs of the world's population when we live in a world with more than seven billion people? We explore institutionalized inequalities, such as racism, sexism, and ageism, and how our prejudices can negatively guide our interactions. How can we overcome preconceived notions that lead to prejudice? We also discuss the difference between sex and gender, gender identity, and sexuality. We explore several theoretical perspectives on sex and gender and how to alleviate bias.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 12 hours.
In Unit 4 we study our primary sociological institutions: family, religion, education, and government.
Sociologists have seen dramatic changes in the structure of the American family. The number of unmarried couples grew from fewer than one million in the 1970s, to 6.4 million in 2008. Cohabiting couples account for 10 percent of all opposite-sex couples.
We'll also take a look at religious institutions, a second significant social and cultural indicator, from a sociological rather than religious perspective. Émile Durkheim, the French sociologist, found that people use religion in several different ways: for healing and faith, as a communal bond, and to understand "the meaning of life." All of these social functions affect a community's structure, balance, and social fabric.
Education is our third example of an institution that can be a social solution and a challenge. For example, schools can serve as change agents (as tools to break poverty and racism) or create barriers (such as when they foster large drop-out rates and institutional disorganization). Schools can sow political discord when community members protest a chosen curriculum, such as sex education and scientific evolution. Sociologists consider all of these trends when studying schools and education.
We conclude by exploring government institutions, in terms of their political and economic structure from a sociological perspective. How do you define power? Do you inherit your social status at birth or earn it in the workplace? We explore how various economic systems affect how societies function.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.
In Unit 5 we explore great social issues, such as those surrounding healthcare, urbanization, and social movements.
The sociology of healthcare encompasses social epidemiology, disease, mental health, disability, and medicalization. How we perceive and treat medicine and health care is constantly evolving. What does health mean to you? How do you feel about legalized drugs? Why are so many Americans addicted to prescription pain medicines? We discuss population, urbanization, and the environment. Why have people tended to migrate from rural areas to urban areas? How have these population shifts affected our environment.
Finally, successful, large-scale social movements can have great social impact, become institutionalized, and evolve into a fixed and formal part of the social structure. For example, the "second wave of feminism," originated as a grassroots movement in the 1960s to protest inequalities between the sexes. Most of the original participants did not belong to formal organizations, but publicized their cause through conscious-raising groups. For example, in 1966, 28 women created the National Organization for Women, which is now a prominent political and social voice for women's rights with a membership of more than 500,000. How does collective behavior affect social change? How does social change differ at the state, national, and global levels? How do different theoretical perspectives interpret social movements?
Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.
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