Dear Habermas Logo and Site Index Link A Jeanne Site

Theory, Policy, Practice of a Career

by Susan R. Takata and Jeanne Curran
Revision of Text from 1993
Copyright on Revised Text: Summer 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: September 16, 1999
E-mail Faculty on the Site.

Chapter 1: What's It All About?

This book is designed to be seen and used from many angles. First, it addresses the issue of careers, a singularly important social problem as we approach the millenium. Second, it tackles this issue through sociological theories and methods that can be used, the social policies and the practical alternatives they generate. And third, in the process of making these theories and skills available to students, this book offers a basic sampling of classical and current sociological research.

What is Fun? What is Play?

First of all, what is fun? Fun refers to those activities you enjoy the most. Typically, we're talking non-work (i.e., leisure and recreational activities), things you do when you're not working! Most of us divide the world into two different activities -- work and play. When we're working, we're not playing. And, when we're not playing, we're working. Why should we divide our waking hours into these two parts? Can they ever possibly be one and the same? That reminds me of a "special" professor who used to have the biggest grin once a month. As a class, we would wonder why he was so happy. Before one of his American history lectures, he finally confessed, "I enjoy teaching so much that I almost feel guilty collecting my paycheck each month. I get paid for doing something I enjoy so much!" To this day, I remember that discussion so vividly. I thought to myself, "Gee, I would like to find work that is that much fun." I must admit I have found it in teaching sociology! The main idea of this story is that this professor did not see the world split into two -- work and play. He found his work fun and enjoyable. That is certainly a very special situation. It's almost the exception rather than the rule. But, it can happen. In today's society, there is a delicate balance between work and play.

Some people look at work as "9 to 5" drudgery -- punching clock in order to pay the bills and to be "free" on the weekends. Isn't that where "TGIF" comes from? Some even believe that work and play do not mix. Work is seen as a "necessary evil" in order to make ends meet. I had a colleague explain to me why I should not make my "play" my work. He said it wouldn't be fun any more. The fun would become work (drudgery) and no longer play. Certainly, an interesting perspective, isn't it?

Ideally, work should be pleasant and not a miserable ordeal. We spend 40 plus hours each week working.That's a huge chunk of our time and energy. Seem a real pity to be so miserable, doesn't it? But then, some of us don't have the "luxury" to choose work that is fun. We need the money to put food on the table and other basic necessities in order to survive.

So what is fun? What does it mean to have fun? To get drunk out of your mind at a weekend party? To win that final championship game in an intramural basketball tournament? To stay ahead of your reading, papers and homework in all of your classes? What might be fun for one person might be pure boredom for another. So fun is a relative term, like many concepts in sociology as you will see later on in this book.

When we think of fun, we think of a person getting lost in the moment. For example, have you ever watched a child playing -- trying to figure out how to do a puzzle? The child loses all track of time while struggling and yet, very determined to get all the pieces in place. Time just flies by. (Just like Summer 1999 when we thought we would have time to have this online text all updated, edited and ready to go before fall semester began). (Sure, time flies by when you're having a good time! Doesn't it always seem that way?) Have you ever been so focused on an activity that you completely lost track of time and everything and everyone else around you? That can be considered fun. Why can't learning be fun? Rarely do students think of taking classes as a fun thing to do. More often than not, students take classes because they are "required" to do so in order to graduate. Alfie Kohn has a lot to say about this enforcement of learning, and even about the punishing effect of grades for such learning. Learning can be fun, but a great majority of students find that hard to believe, especially after the kind of traditional schooling they have been socialized into. It is our hope in this book that we can lead you into playing with a variety of sociological ideas and concepts so that you can make some sound decisions about your future -- your career, your family, your lifestyle, etc. We'd like that playing with how social theory and policy affect your life to be "painless," shared with family and friends, and lots of fun.

On Laughter

A cartoon in the Los Angeles Times, Monday, August 17, 1987. Mr. Boffo. [by Joe Martin]. A man and woman sit together over what appears to be breakfast, at least coffee. The man is reading from a book. He says, "I have proof, Dear, absolute proof, that you are an incarnation of the devil! The woman's mouth opens large and a dark blast pours forth, "VAWOOMP." Left, where once was man and book is a pile of embers. The woman remains unmoved, her mouth calmly closed once again. From the embers that once were the male mouth: "C'mon, Babe ... Can't you take a joke?"

Myth, sex roles, relationships, sexuality are all caught up in that simple comic strip. What makes us laugh? In many instances this combination is lethal, not funny. Yet we laugh.

Man begins by citing authority. From the book. Man grants authority to the book. [Many books are wrong. But not everyone knows that. And sometimes it is hard to tell which books are wrong, and which are right.] Here, man believes the book is truth. Here is absolute proof. The man reads. The woman, at least here, does not. Perhaps we can assume that she cannot or does not.

What man can prove is that woman is "an incarnation of the devil." How like the man [omission] who told Virginia Woolf that women have had access now for ten years, and what have they accomplished with it? Nothing. Her rage prompted "A Room of Her Own."

The woman in the cartoon exhibits the very characteristics man just said were hers. Those of the devil, and hellfire. The woman breathes fire. At the man. At the man and his book.

The man whimpers. The man calls the woman by a sexual pet name, "Babe." "It's all a joke." The only change in the woman's face is a slight elongation outward of her cheeks and mouth. An indication, perhaps, of anger.

Why do we laugh? Because, first of all these are comic strip characters. They are rigid in their belief systems. We would never fall into such traps, we are knowledgeable, sophisticated. None of us would ever tell a woman she is the incarnation of the devil. So we can laugh at this boob, who doesn't know any better.

Second, the woman has been proved to be an incarnation of the devil by the man's book. She accepts that definition and then carries it to its extreme. If she is in fact an incarnation of the devil, she might breathe fire. She does. And man, the fool, is not prepared to cope with the very consequences he has dictated. We laugh because the man was foolish.

We laugh because man here claims a sophistication. He claims to know about woman and the devil. He talks of that which is not socially acceptable in normal terms, legitimizing it through his book. This shows inflexibility in his knowledge system. And woman, whom he thought he could control, exhibits some power that exceeds his knowledge system.

Third, we laugh because man and his book are now denied by him. The breathing of the fire substantiates the book. Yet man does not see it so. He claims he didn't really mean it. Just joking. It is cowardly to give up your beliefs so easily. Man is seen to blow with the wind, or with the fiery breath of woman. And it is woman who remains constant, unflappable throughout the scene.

Fourth, we can laugh because there are no real consequences to either man's folly or woman's violent fulfillment of his definition of her. Woman, though angered does not leave. The dyad remains. Man, though burned to a cinder by hell fire, still retains the shape of human form and speaks, lightly and sexually. The violence is fantasy violence. No real harm done. Except maybe to the book. We may laugh.

Men can laugh at it. See I told you women were of the devil. Women can laugh at it. If that's what men want, that's what they'll get. Joe Martin seems to be laughing at the belief systems that keep getting in the way of our relationships.

[Recall that this analysis is mine, not his. He and you may disagree. The fate of the artist who supplies us with the work of his visions is that we interpret it through our own visions and usually change it in the process. The philosophy of solipsism suggests that we are limited to our own interpretation, and cannot get beyond it.]

In this next section, we're going to take a brief look at the theory of why we laugh and what we laugh at. We start with Henri Bergson's Rire (1961).

Why We Laugh

I have chosen to cite Henri Bergson's work in this book because it was Bergson whom I read [this very volume, in fact] during my college years. Bergson taught at the Sorbonne in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century. His philosophical lectures were so popular that they were filled by members of society as well as by students. He is sometimes criticized for that popularity. Yet such criticism suggests that his lectures were fun, one of the factors that led me to choose his work for this book. Another reason for my choice of Bergson was my desire to give you some sense of history, some sense that the ideas and issues we confront are not new. There is a richness of tradition that we often lose in the modern university when we limit ourselves to research and writings of the most recent decade. I believe that it is important for you to realize that French society in the 1920's was immersed in a discussion of how and why we laugh. Other cultures in other time periods have pondered the same issues we ponder today.

"The comic acquaints us with the workings of the human imagination, and more particularly, of the social imagination, which is collective and popular. Springing from real life, related to art, comedy has something to tell us of each, art and life," (p. 2).Bergson.

Thus comedy and laughter have much in common with sociology and psychology. What we laugh at, what seems funny to us, is an important clue to our mores, our values. The young man who played the hero in "Masks", in a TV interview, said that having played that role his entire life was changed. The jokes that used to be funny were no longer funny. Consciousness raising. To laugh at the infirm seems cruel only when we can identify with the infirm. Only if we can expand our sensitivity to those unlike us. We are going to look at humor, laughter in our society, as one way of collecting data about ourselves.

There is an old saying in our culture, "No harm, no foul." Or "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Wrong. It is the exaggeration we laugh at; and it can hurt, for it labels, and it excludes. We laugh at violence when that violence is so extreme that it assumes the comic proportions of exaggeration. But we cannot laugh at it, if we can see the human results. Car chases where seventeen cars are wrecked. They are fun. Fun in the way that little boys like to smash their toy cars. The exaggeration makes it unreal.

Violence is another side of the comic coin. In "Beverly Hills Cop," a small war is waged. But that violence does not provoke the terror of war. For it is "just joking." We believe that it is questionable how far we as a society can go with violence as humor. There is a very real danger that the young do not understand that we are "just joking."

We wrote this some years ago. Now, at the threshold of the Twenty-First Century, we find that others have come to agree with us. Today we worry about the violent child and the safety of our children in their schools.

There is a great deal of anger out there. There is a very real possibility that one of those very angry people is going to breathe real fire on the real joker who said the wrong oppressive thing one last time.

Bergson described laughter as society's punishment for those who deviate from the norm. A gentle punishment. Sometimes carried beyond the gentle, becoming cruel. But nonetheless qualitatively different from violence as punishment for deviation.

Though we worry, those of us who are old enough, about the effects of all this comedic violence on the young, it is important to balance that worry with the perspective that violence in the media, on MTV is at least accounted for to some extent by the need to grow our fantasies larger than life. Most of our children do not mistake these mythic violent cars and gangsters with real life. From their perspective, it's all in good fun. Punch and Judy were violent. Grimm's Cinderella is gory beyond belief. Violence has always been there in fantasy. The judgment as to whether we have gone too far will probably not come in our time. Play, fun, laughter -- what's all this have to with learning?

Can Learning Be Fun?

The answer is "YES!!!" (believe it or not!). Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of the more traditional modes of teaching and learning are quite painful and not the least bit fun. We would like to turn that notion around. Learning should be and can be fun. We're going to try to make it fun for you. It is fun for us. One way to make learning fun is to be an active learner. We don't lecture. That would make you a passive (and sometimes sleepy) learner. You can't learn much sleeping. So -- you must be actively involved as you read through this text and experience the course we have created just for you.

There is an aspect of knowledge that is frequently forgotten in the modern rush to credentialing -- the aspect of laughter and play. Play is an essential component of man's (and woman's) behavior, too, often, like youth, wasted on the young. Laughter is curative. And there is a legitimate component of laughter and play in the work of scholars. In playing with knowledge, we twist it, and turn it, discover its funny angles, and in the process, make it thoroughly our own. This is hard work, but work of our own choosing, work that bears the reward in the end of genuine understanding and the ability to use the tools and data we've acquired. It is that reward that Alfie Kohn seeks for us when he calls grades harmful and punishing. An "A" is no valid substitute for the genuine empowerment of real knowledge; a test is no valid substitute for the accomplisment of using the tools of knowledge we've gained.

In these days of crowded classrooms and harried publication schedules, the sacred play between scholar and student is often relegated to the final years of collegial socialization in doctoral programs. And as the budgets for all schools have shrunk in recent years, even that cherished and essential play has been lost as professors in schools that can no longer afford the technical help needed, rely on their graduate students to get that essential work done, with little time left for scholarly play. (Stanford study reported at Queen's College in 1990.)

In writing Theory, Policy, Practice of a Career, we chose to share our collegial laughter and playfulness. We enjoyed writing the book. It was hard work, compressed within an impossible time schedule. But it was possible because of play. We hope you'll enjoy the tone of the book and be encouraged to play with the knowledge yourself, making it now your own. We remind you, that as women, some of our laughter is directed at the foibles of the historical caricature of the white male. We assure you it is only in fun, we like men -- as a matter of fact, between us we've even married a few. And as we will point out, the state in which the world finds itself today is due to the foibles of all. The real culprit is the privileging of subjectivity, which explains why some white males are so surprised to learn that they are blamed for the state of the world. It wasn't their subjectivity that was privileged. But more on that later.

Sometimes our laughter may reflect a kind of humor others might characterize as "female," in much the way we speak of "English" humor. We wondered occasionally if our male colleagues and students would always be privy to the socialization patterns that lay beneath our play. Maybe not. But we've shared male laughter and play for a lifetime; and we believe a glimpse of our own souls will enrich, not detract from the usefulness of the book.

What we chose not to do was to encumber the text with he/she throughout. Occasionally, out of a sense more of support for a cause than out of literary validity, we did use a he/she. But most of the time we simply used he or she and alternated them in various situations throughout the book. We invite you to imagine that any he could conceivably replace any she, and any she a he, except where physiology itself would render the exchange ludicrous. After all, the controversy over the use of "he" rose primarily over the valid complaint that "she" never got equal time. We have assumed the license of using "he" and "man," since we gave "she" and "woman" equal time.

About Learning

Our philosophy is "learn by doing." You take on an active role in the learning process. The more energy that you put into this text, the more you will get out of it. George Leonard said, "To learn is to change. Education is a process that changes the learner." He (1968:16) also added that "Education, at best, is ecstatic." (But how many times has this happened to you in your years of schooling? Not very frequently, right?)

It is our hope that you will experience the "ah ha!" in learning. Surprise is the unexpected that strikes one with wonder or the shock of recognition. Learning is the task of discovering. Have you ever been stuck on a puzzle like the rubric's cube and sat determined to solve it or else? Looking at the puzzle of social life from a different angle may yield an altogether different solution.

Similarly Abraham Maslow, in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (1971), discusses the concepts of self actualization and peak experiences. Self actualization refers to experiencing fully, vividly, selflessly with full concentration and total absorption -- the process of actualizing one's potentialities at any time. Have you ever made that perfect strike in bowling when your team really needed it or the game winning home run when things just seemed to "click?" These are examples of self actualization. Getting lost in the present -- have you ever read a book that you could not put down and you lost total track of time? (We've been "hooked" on those Harry Potter books lately. Fun stuff). A peak experience is a generalization for the best moments.

One thing that we are rarely taught in school is that it is okay to make mistakes. All too often, the right answer is sought and we are scolded for giving the wrong answer. Someone once said, "People who never make mistakes are those who never do anything." Peter Drucker adds to it: "Nobody learns except by making mistakes. The better a man is the more mistakes will be made -- for the more new things he will try."

Learning is a profound human experience. To bring more depth to that experience, we review some of the research on what learning is and how we may best manage it for our ourselves.

The Learning Curve

The learning curve is one way of understanding the learning process, and how we learn.

(Graph of learning curve). Note the S shape of the curve. Note that the long near-horizontal line at the start of the curve represents latent learning. For some of us that section of the curve is nearly flat. This explains those awful grades some people complain of when they take a test, are sure they "know" the material, and discover on the test that they just don't seem to know what they thought they did. And yet they studied, and they feel that they learned.

The problem here is that their performance and the grade do not seem to reflect any learning. That's why we call this phase of the curve the "latent learning" phase, latent in the sense of hidden. Since research has shown that there very few of our accomplishments come from "one trial" learning, we have recognized that there is a variably long period of learning when, in fact, learning is taking place, but not at the level at which the tests are measuring it.

Ever heard a tune you were sure you had heard before, but couldn't recognize or identify it, just vaguely seemed you'd heard it before? "Something" happens with each learning experience, but only when those experiences come together to provide recognition or recall are they in a state that we can effectively measure. So you were right. You had learned something, but the learning didn't "register" on the testing instrument.

Each of us has a different style, a different pattern of learning. We believe that learning is an essential part of who we are, and that much of our discomfort in school is a searching to discover the learning part of ourselves. The latent part of the learning curve offers a good example. Some people learn just a little, and then are delighted to show off what they have learned. Their performance is not stellar, more than a little rough around the edges, but they've learned to accept that. They know that they'll make mistakes, but in making them they will learn to perform better. They aren't afraid to make mistakes. So their latent learnng curve would go up a little with each new piece they learn.

We once knew someone whose only phrase in German was "Das ist eine schwarze Katze." "That's a black cat." Not much to show off. But she said it in so many different ways, with so many different nuances, she could fool people into believing that she could speak German. She was willing to try; she was willing to show off.

We know another someone who was so afraid of making mistakes that she would not speak a word of a new language until she could speak it nearly fluently. That wasn't a choice. If someone spoke to her, or asked her to say something in the language, her mind went blank. She could not. Not a good sign for test-taking, at least not in the early stages of learning.

We also knew a famous scholar and writer of French. He failed French the first five times his parents made him take it. Then one day, he spoke it fluently and never looked back. These are all individual patterns, based as much on who we are as on the material we are trying to learn. Learning how you learn is a part of getting to know yourself. We are a very achievement-oriented society in the U.S. Failing on a test, or on a goal, even one we set for ourselves, can be devastating. Learning will be much more fun if you will spend a little time with yourself, learning how you learn.

Consider vocabulary. We've all been through the "ten words a week" in school and in all those many self-help books. For me, they never worked. My vocabulary was stuck on one level. I was sure I would never master all those esoteric words. Then one day, quite by accident, I placed a check mark next to a word I looked up. Of course, I had to look it up again, and disgusted with myself, I placed another check mark, and yet another, each time I looked that word up. About the 17th check mark I discovered I knew the word! It was mine! I was using it! I could recall its meaning for a test! Those seventeen marks became my way of measuring what I had learned in the latent phase. I could thumb through the dictionary and say with confidence that if there were 5 marks there, I was about 5/17ths of the way to owning that word! I stopped clucking at myself for not remembering. So, of course I didn't remember the word. I was only 8/17ths of the way to owning that word. I could have passed a multiple choice recognition test on picking out its meaning, but I still had to go through more of looking it up to recall its meaning on a short answer test.

Along with discovering that I could measure my learning, I learned to forgive myself for what I had not yet learned. I hope that my technique for measuring my vocabulary learning will work for you. But the important thing is learning to understand your learning, as it fits you, and only you. Alfie Kohn insists that real learning must be motivated from within us, and so he insists that grades punish, for they take away the genuine joy of learning that your 7/15ths there.

Another important piece of learning theory for understanding our own learning selves is the taxonomy of educational objectives that Bloom and Krathwohl published years ago for both cognitive and affective learning domains. The levels of learning they identified in the cognitive domain are:

These levels are a clue as to how well-constructed multiple choice tests are designed. You may know the material well enough to recognize the correct answer, or even to recall the definition of a word. But multiple choice questions can include qualifiers that force you to apply that knowledge to a specific situation to get the right answer. Then they're measuring your ability to use the knowledge, not just to recite it back. You need practice with such higher level cognitive exercises, because they will become more and more common with your advanced classes, and with graduate and professional exams, like the GRE, the LSAT, and the MCAT, among others.

Editing stopped here. Edited passages are underlined. jc August 27, 1999.

Learning is messy! Performance is neat. (Yvonne Lenard.) The process of discovering ideas or actions, trying them out, failing and trying again is messy.

Horror Story #1: Everybody knows this one. Albert Einstein as a boy, failed math! Does this mean that the mind which conceived of relativity could not perform math at that level and/or that time? Or does it imply something about motivation to perform and/or latent learning? Not everyone thinks in linear fashion. Some minds grasp the whole more easily, as Einstein may have.

Have you ever taken a course where you were in the state of confusion during the first few days and then suddenly it all came together making sense? This is a good example of latent learning. Sometimes a new idea or concept just vegetates in the mind until one day you experience "ah ha!" (discovery and realization). Latent learning means that you understand, but learning has not yet reached performance level (the ability to apply theories is the performance level). So,if at first, a new concept or theory introduced in this book doesn't seem to make much sense, perhaps you are experiencing a bit of latent learning. Don't worry if you don't get it the first time or even the second time. Don't be discouraged -- simply keep trying. We constantly remind our students -- "persistence pays!"

The Affective Component in Learning

When you are learning something new, it can be fun, frustrating or downright maddening. Why is that? Do you ever wonder why so much emotion is attached to learning? Well, Bloom (1956) mentioned this emotional side of learning. He called it "the affective domain." Edward T. Hall (1959) also discussed the "out of awareness" learning that goes on. Some courses that "hit close to home" like race and ethnic relations or gender courses strike a sensitive chord with students. To illustrate, in recent years, the diversity movement on university campuses across this country has lead to an emotional powderkeg. From our own classroom observations, a course begins at the affective level and by the end of the semester, most but not all students are able to understand the subject matter on a more technical level after having learned to apply theories and concepts to explain a phenomenon rather than responding emotionally. Minimally, students learn to argue more logically, rationally, and analytically rather than emoting an argument from the gut level. What we have observed reflects the student's relationships between knowledge and social experience.

The recognition of the affective component of learning requires our greatest attention. Hall (1959), emphasizes the power of affect in learning. He is an anthropologist, not a learning theorist. But in his cultural analysis of language and learning, he offers a significant model. The greatest affect is attached to out-of-awareness learning. Affect is reduced as one approaches a technical level. In pondering Hall's anthropological approach and Krathwohl's affective domain of learning, we need to move away from the affective level and onto a technical level when teaching. More often classes are stalled at a very gut-level. Learning can be divided into technical, formal and informal. The most affect is attached to out-of-awareness informal learning. The least affect is attached to the technical level. Giddens (1984) considers the most important role of the sociologist is making people aware of out-of-awareness aspects of the social context.

Krathwohl, Bloom and Masia (1964) describe the components of affect in learning as follows: 1) receiving, 2) responding, 3) valuing, 4) organization, and 5) characterization by a value complex. One feels great joy and pride in what one has learned. We try to teach students that the angry defense of their position is natural; the professor has just contradicted something they believe to be true. The appropriate response is to listen attentively and try to come up with a reasoned response to the professor's position. This takes a lot of practice. Each student will find her well-reasoned response attacked. Gradually the students learn not to take their natural emotional responses to contradiction, and to listen to the question.

Krathwohl et al. (1964) helps us to understand the affective domain which begins with receiving (awareness, willingness to receive, and controlled or selected attention). This is perhaps the most difficult first step in teaching/learning -- to encourage students to let go of their prejudices at least for the moment so that they can move to a more technical level in learning. In other words, students must be open-minded enough to receive the new information -- the theories and concepts introduced in the course -- in order to escape their more emotional gut-level pronouncements.

Some students are more open-minded than others. Some are more willing and eager to learn new things, while others hold onto even more tenaciously their world view. Such close-minded students are uninterested and are just "doing time," (to borrow a corrections term) in the course. They enter the class with a negative mindset and leave making no changes or adjustments. It is important to note that one is not expected to perform "miracles" in one semester. And, there are others who are caught in between, truly struggling with the new information and trying to make some sense of a very confusing world.

Within the affective domain, Krathwohl et. al (1964) also focus on interest, appreciation, attitudes, values, and adjustments. There is such an emotional outpouring while learning something new and different that a sensitive chord is struck by students who are seriously grappling with the highly charged issues of the 1990s and beyond. As the teacher, the affective component of learning mustbe recognized. Admittedly, along the way, the students want to "kill" you. All the affect of learning comes out -- in class discussions, in their writing, and finally, in their evaluation of the course. But in the long run, real learning takes place. What actually happens is that students are trying to keep analytic skills in place under stress and pressure, but as a result, more often the emotional, gut level reactions surface. If we do our job well with our students we take their anger. They may appear to be ingrates but those working "in the trenches" do not seek their gratitude, (if it's gratitude that you're searching for, you shouldn't be in the trenches!).

To repeat, we do not adhere to the traditional "professor lectures while students quietly takes notes" type class. Our basic philosophy is "learning by doing" where students are encouraged to take an active role in the learning process by examining past issues, present situations, and future visions. The more a student puts into the class, the more she will learn. Hans Mauksch once told us: "Education is all about the interactive sharing of power." In other words, the professor must become "decentered" (she must quit "hiding" behind the lectern). One way to accomplish this is through cooperative learning.

Cooperative Learning

Through a cooperative learning environment, students become active learners taking an interest and being responsible for their education. The nature of the interaction between the professor and her students as well as between the students themselves is qualitatively different in our courses, compared to what goes on in the more traditional university lecture halls. By working in small groups on a variety of tasks, students are in a cooperative classroom rather than a competitive one, (Bennis & Shephard, 1956; Johnson, Johnson, Holubec & Roy, 1984; Slavin, 1983; Cohen, 1986). Such a cooperative atmosphere encourages students to become each other's teacher. We insist that students teach each other and ask another. We believe students "can make it" if provided a climate of learning which engages their interest. (Unfortunately, and all too frequently, courses do not interest students). In cooperative learning, genuine sharing and caring relationships develop. (Which classes do you remember the most? Usually they are ones where relationships are established. Remember how we all "suffered" together through statistics or whatever other course, you can think of?) There is an interactive sharing of power. We're all in this together!. The professor serves as a facilitator or what we like to call "a gentle guide." Such relationships are particularly important for first-generation college students who do not have the support or understanding at home from parents and other family members.

The missing element for most of our students is the social learning that goes on at the "dinner table," a sociological perception of the ideal traditional family, parents and children spending "quality" time, most often at the evening meal, around the dinner table. Dinner at six, with the whole family engaging in the polite social intercourse, sharing the events of the day, still holds a fond place in the American psyche, even if we do seem to have lost the family itself, (Takata, Arnold and Williams, 1991). What we call the "dinner table" (or intervention) is the missing element into the social learning that prepares the students to respectfully but firmly disagree with authority, to dare to believe in themselves and each other as resources. It is this continual practice of dealing with significant others, with those in authority.

Students need dinner tables all along the way. These dinner tables provide 1) basic skills, 2) analytical reasoning to overlearning and thinking on your feet, 3) learning to deal with authority, 4) feeding the interest while building academic skills to fully exploit that interest, 5) teaching reliance upon disciplined thought, 6) providing role models, 7) providing controlled crises, 8) providing a forum for performance that builds self-esteem, 9) providing a safe place for learning, and 10) teaching learning theory and developing realistic expectations. In other words, through mediation and opportunity, the classroom is socially constructed as a kind of dinner table.

Thus, cooperation, not competition is stressed (Slavin, 1983; Johnson, Johnson, Holubec & Roy, 1984; Cooper & Mueck, 1990; Shevin-Sapon & Schniedewind, 1991). Because this is a different approach compared to most traditional university courses, learning cannot take place without readjustments of behavioral patterns on the part of the students and professor. Traditionally, the professor is a powerful authority figure who talks down to the students. It is important to note that in a cooperative learning there is a very different relationship between the professor and her students, which is more egalitarian. Power is shared. These readjustments in behavioral patterns are not easy for either the professor or the students. Many years of socialization must be undone. For example, students sometimes catch themselves looking to the professor for the "right answer." Bruner (1966) once said, "Instruction is, after all, an effort to assist or to shape growth," (p.1). The professor serves as a facilitator but often can become an agent of change along with her students.

In a cooperative learning setting, there is mutual trust and respect. There is growth for both the students and the professor. Mauksch stated, "students must become our teachers in order for us to teach." Education is the interactive sharing of power. In Cooperation in the Classroom, Johnson et al (1991) summarize the components of cooperative learning as: 1) positive interdependence, 2) face-to-face promotive interaction, 3) individual accountability/personal responsibility, and 4) interpersonal and small group skills.

What Is Sociology?

What are we getting ourselves into? What is sociology? Why sociology? The strength and beauty of this discipline is the diversity of sociological viewpoints. Because people see sociology from many different angles, there is a wide variety of definitions of sociology. The word itself is built on the Latin word, "socius" meaning roughly "associates" and on the Greek word, "logos" meaning, "word," "study," or "science". Quite literally, sociology means the science of social relationships. Other definitions of sociology are the study of human social behavior, the study of society, and the science of dealing with social forces. One important thing to remember is that sociology is multi-faceted (Boughey, 1978). Perhaps, one definition of sociology that sums it all up is "the application of scientific methods of inquiry to the puzzle of social life," (Boughey, 1978:3).

Sociology is a relatively new science which had its origins in the thought of the late 1800's. The word "sociology" was first coined by Auguste Comte. He is often times referred to as the "Father of Sociology." (We wonder who the "Mother of Sociology" is?) Just think about it -- sociology is about two hundred years old. It is very much an "infant" science and you are exploring uncharted territories. Consider yourself a "sociological pioneer."

Now you ask: why sociology? Sociology is a way of looking at the world and questioning it. Sociological perspectives are being put to practical application in such fields as race relations, urban planning, education, industrial relations, criminal justice, and business management.

Again, keep in mind that sociology is an "infant" science and does not promise to solve all of our major social problems overnight. The methodology of sociology still remains relatively unsophisticated compared with that of some other sciences like physics or biology. Sociologists have yet to establish "Laws of Society" like the laws of gravity. We can't remember who said it, but he certainly put it succinctly: "Sociologists find themselves so embroiled in the social changes of our society, that far from having the right answers, they don't even know which questions to ask."

During the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, sociologists have been vulnerable to "pot shots" from all directions. Why has sociology become the academic punching bag? In the August 12, 1992 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education headlines read: "Sociologists confront questions about field's vitality and direction: Department closings and cutbacks put members of the discipline on their guard." In this article, Coughlin (1992:A7) notes: "In 1986, the University of Rochester shut down its sociology department. During this same period, Washington University in Saint Louis followed suit, closing what had once been one of the most prestigious programs in the country. This past year, the sociology department at Yale University was threatened with a 40 percent reduction in faculty positions. The department at San Diego State University is in danger of losing seven tenured professors." In a February 1992 Newsweek article titled "Sociology's Lonely Crowd: Like good grad students, let's count the problems," faculty were outraged by a proposal at Yale University to cut its sociology department by forty percent.

Some of the demise of sociology could be its broad, diverse areas of specialization. It is after all quite interdisciplinary. Perhaps sociology is too interdisciplinary but on the other hand, some have accused sociology of being a series of narrowly, over-specialized turfs. In fact, there is a debate as to what the "core" of sociology is. So the debate continues -- what is sociology? If sociologists cannot agree, how can we expect the public to know what we are all about? This leads to the next problem -- sociology's poor public image. There are lots of jokes about sociology being somewhere in between "social work" and "socialism." Whatever that might mean. In the State of Wisconsin there was a "battle" of occupational turf which took place in 1991. Wisconsin's Assembly Bill 125 sought to license the categories of social worker (4 grades), marriage and family therapist, and professional counselor, protect titles and mandate payments for services to persons in those categories. The American Sociological Association (ASA) strongly supports those trained in sociology to put their knowledge into practice, and was therefore, deeply concerned over Assembly Bill 125. A.B. 125 failed to consider or include the discipline and profession of sociology. It would have the effect of preventing sociologists from making a livelihood by following the profession for which they have been trained. Such legislation would have created artificial barriers between the social and behavioral sciences. Sociological practice has been part of American sociology since its inception. Today 24% of the ASA membership are practicing sociologists.

Of course, sociologists fought back and we're not going to take this "attack" lying down. For example, in the November 1992 issue of Footnotes which is published by the ASA, a series of articles focused on improving sociology's image -- "Strengthening the position of sociology within the university" and "Some virtues of sociology."

Sociological Concepts and Theories

Why sociology? Sociology can offer theories, research tools, and concepts. Sociology can provide some valuable insights into the human predicament. One predicament that you might find yourself in right now is making sense of today's ever changing job market. This is where sociological concepts, theories and methods can be of tremendous help to you now.

What comes to mind when the word "theory" is mentioned? (Run and hide!). What's your reaction to the word? (I know after teaching sociological theory for several years, many sociology majors dread what they perceive to be a dull, dry, boring, and abstract course in sociological theory. How wrong they are!!) Theory is fun!

What is Theory?

Theory is the vehicle of all understanding in science. Theory is a way of answering the question why? As Turner (1986:4) puts it: "Theory is a process of developing ideas that can allow us to explain why events occur." The goal of all science, then is to develop plausible theories. Turner (1986) sees "theory as constructed with several basic elements: concepts, variables, statements and formats. (In this section, we acknowledge Turner (1986) for his very simple and concise explanation of theory construction.

According to Turner (1986:5), "concepts are the basic building blocks of theory. Theories are built from concepts. Concepts denote or point to phenomena; in doing so they isolate features of the world that are considered, for the moment at hand, important." What are some examples of sociological concepts? Turner (1986:5) states: "Concepts are constructed from definitions. A definition is a system of terms." In order to bring a seemingly abstract concept down to earth, often times concepts are operationalized. According to Turner (1986:6) an operational definition is "a set of procedural instructions telling investigators how to go about discerning phenomena in the real world that are denoted by an abstract concept." In other words, we are talking about the practical application of the concept -- how is it used and applied. To illustrate, the concept of "lower class" has a variety of definitions so if you are trying to replicate a study someone else did on the lower class, you would have to use her definition. The study you are trying to test or replicate may arbitrarily define lower class as " an individual who makes less than $5,000 a year." This definition may seem arbitrary. it is. But the important point here is that someone else can come along a try to replicate, test, apply the theoretical concept because of its operational definition.

Concepts are related to each other with theoretical statements. The ultimate goal is to understand how phenomena or events are related to each other. For example, Einstein's famous formula E =mc2 allowed physicists to see and understand the relationship among energy, light and matter. This formula was a theoretical statement -- it linked concepts to each other and informed scientists of their relationship. The statement is abstract. Of course, the statement may not be true. Rarely, do theoretical statements stand alone. They are usually organized into systems of statements. Just as concepts are related to each other, so statements are interrelated. This has lead to a concern with the forms of theory or theoretical formats. The three formats that Turner (1986) discusses are the axiomatic (the highly abstract, grand theory), the causal process (cause and effect) and the classificatory (typological).

According to Turner (1986:24-25), "what distinguishes good theoretical statements from the bad ones is that they are created to be proven wrong. A theory, in principle, that cannot be proven wrong is not very useful. It becomes a self-sustaining dogma which is accepted on faith. A theory must allow for understanding of events and hence, it must be tested against the facts of the world. If a theoretical statement is proven wrong by empirical tests, science has advanced... By successively eliminating incorrect statements, those that survive reflect the more accurate picture of the real world." A good example, is Columbus' theory that the world was round instead of flat.

From the perspective of ideal scientific theory, sociology has a long ways to go. According to Turner (1986:32), "a great deal of sociological 'theory' is really a general perspective or orientation for looking at the various features of the social world."

We will focus on the most general perspective in sociology -- the most widespread and influential perspectives. In sum, it can be said that sociological theorizing is in its intellectual infancy (maybe that explains the image problems of sociology); yet our analysis of its major orientations will demonstrate that theory in sociology has great potential. There are many different sociologies, and not just one (Boughey, 1978). In this course, we will be reviewing the majorclassical and contemporary sociological perspectives.

We invite you to become a creative sociologist. Don't take the world as a given, but always seek a more true position. Things are not always what they seem. Dig deeper and go beyond the surface.

The Sociological Imagination

The very first sociological concept that we would like to share with you is the sociological imagination. Sociology is one of man's (and woman's) major sources for making sense of the the next millennium. The most immediate task for sociology is to provide a framework for understanding today's social world, both in our public and private lives. Often times, we feel so isolated that we believe that we are the only ones in a particular bind, but if we look beyond ourselves, we will probably realize that what we are trying to deal with is something that others are experiencing just the same. Sociology can help us to understand why we behave as we do. Understanding one's private experiences is one way that sociology can help us, especially in the context of the larger society.

biography <-------------------------------------------------------------------------------> history

personal troubles <------------------------------------------------------------> public issues

micro <------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->macro

C. Wright Mills (1959) coined the term, "sociological imagination" from a book with the same title. He (1959:3) said, "Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both." In other words, we are seldom aware of the intimate connection between the patterns of our own lives and the course of world history.

Mills states: "It is not only information that we need -- in this Age of Facts, information often dominates our attention and overwhelms our capacities to assimilate it," (1959:5). In this age of information explosion, Mills observed the difficulties we have in trying to make sense out of tons of data inputted into our brains daily. Whether it is through the World Wide Web, E-mail, television, radio, or newspapers, we need to figure out how to cope with such an overload of information.

"What we need; and what we feel we need, is a quality of mind that will help us to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and what may be happening within ourselves," (1959:5). In other words, the sociological imagination allows you to look at the larger picture in terms of your own biographical situation. Mills explained how an individual can "gauge his own fate only by locating himself within his period, that he can know his own chances in life, " (1959:5).


Perhaps, the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between "the personal troubles of milieu" and "the public issues of social structure." Troubles occur within the character of the individual and within the range of his immediate relations with others. Issues have to do with matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of his inner life. Thus, the sociological imagination is "a quality of mind that seems most dramatically to promise an understanding of the intimate realities of ourselves in connection with larger social realities," (1959:15).

To illustrate the intersections of personal troubles and public issues, let's examine the increase of divorces in recent years. If you are experiencing a problem marriage, you might feel very isolated in that yours is the only marriage that seems to be on the skids. But if you look at the big picture, divorce is prevalent with 50% or more of marriages ending in divorce. Certainly divorce does not carry the same social stigma that it did in the 1950s. Changing partners seems to be more of the norm rather than the exception. Divorce has become an increasingly public issue as people are trying to deal with such things as the bi-nuclear family. The same goes for unemployment. You might be laid off or having trouble finding that first position in your career field. You might internalize the problem and wonder: "What's wrong with me? Why does it happen to me?" But, in reality, many thousands of unemployed persons are experiencing the same feelings. The larger picture might tell us much more about the deindustrialization of America and other effects on the economy. What we are trying to say here is use the sociological imagination in making sense of the world around you. Examine not only the small picture but the big screen as well.

The Interdisciplinary Nature of this Text

Allusions occur throughout the book to many disciplines. All of them contribute to the knowledge base on which sociologists built to address social problems. Some areas in sociology combine two disciplines; for example, political sociology and social psychology. Within sociology there are areas of specialization within the subject matter that range from the executive board room to the ghetto slums, suicides to singles' bars, religion, and race relations. What academic discipline studies these topics and almost every other aspect of our lives? Sociology does!! One of the exciting aspects of sociology is that you can say "sociology of ________" and fill in the blank. There are now sociologies of science, medicine, law, economy, politics, sports, religion and so forth. Sociology interfaces with many other aspects of our social life; for example, sociobiology. The other liberal arts, in turn, build upon the knowledge base of sociology to address the problems generic to their disciplines. Disciplines like individuals, produce new knowledge through such exchange, climbing, as it were, "on the shoulders of giants."

When All Else Fails

The primary objective of this textbook is to assist you in developing the capacity to think sociologically. This textbook introduces you to essential concepts, theories and topics in sociology with emphasis on issues related to the job market, and career development. Another objective of this textbook is to provide you with an intuitive grasp of the sociological perspective and a consistent framework from which to understand and interpret social life. Theory, Policy, Practice of a Career will give you a taste of the sociological curriculum demonstrating throughout the practical application of such knowledge. To wet your appetite for more sociological knowledge is another objective. No career advice will hold through the wide diversity of social and political situations daily encountered in the world of work. What will hold up is the sociological theory on which the advice is founded and the sociological methods of acquiring and validating.

We tried to design Theory, Policy, Practice of a Career to guide you through theory, let you play a little with that theory, get comfortable with it, and then apply it to your own needs in the area of careers. So you'll find a pattern to our presentations. First, we briefly describe some theory relevant to the problem at hand. Then we apply that theory to examples, explaining the step by step application. Then we provide exercises for you to practice similar applications.

The problem is that the process looks easy. You'll be able to walk right through our examples and say "Of course." But unless you've had some practice at analysis and evaluation, it's not as easy as it looks. Only by using what you learn, can you make that knowledge your own. You can look at a sculpture and get the message right away, but you're still a long way from Michelangelo. We suggest that you read through the text and examples, discuss them if possible, then read through the exercise. At that point go back to our examples and use them as models to guide you through the exercise. We strongly suggest that you work back and forth from examples to exercise, as you'll find you see a little more in the example each time. (Michelangelos, please disregard this advice, if you have already successfully completed the exercises. This notice has been sent by computer to all readers without regard to prior learning or ability).

Essentially, we have asked three things of you in the exercises: 1) That you examine carefully our examples, analyzing the several component parts of the sample application. 2) That you evaluate each component as to its effectiveness in the example, and its transfer value to the exercise. And 3) that you synthesize an answer to the exercise on the basis of your analysis and evaluation (any other knowledge you bring to the situation).

This can be fun. It's exciting when you begin to see the connections. You'll be as proud of your successful answers as you were of your first successful fingerpainting of yourself. (Same principle: you analyzed what made you a person, evaluated what you liked in color and shape, and then synthesized that analysis and evaluation into your parents' first proud possession of your art work. So this time could you bring home a job, please?)

And now for those of you who can't resist those headlines -- "Can This Career Be Saved?" we offer a Career Forecast in an Appendix to each chapter. Before you start the chapter, answer 12 simple questions on career development; then check the scoring on the following page to see how well you would have fared in the career world. That's your pre-test. Once you've finished the chapter, go back and try again to see how much better you'll fare now. That's your post-test.

As you set off on what we hope will be a rewarding adventure, we'd like to share our favorite passage on King Arthur (White, 1978:14-15):

"No," he said. "Nobody can be saved from anything, unless they save themselves. It is hopeless doing things for people -- it is often very dangerous indeed to do things at all -- and the only thing worth doing for the race is to increase its stock of ideas. Then, if you make available a larger stock, the people are at liberty to help themselves from out of it. By this process the means of improvement is offered, to be accepted or rejected freely, and there is a faint of hope of progress in the course of the millennia. Such is the business of the philosopher, to open new ideas. It is not his business to impose them on people." "You did not tell me this before . . . You have egged me into doing things during all my life. . . The Chivalry and the Round Table which you made me invent, what were these but efforts to save people, and to get things done?" "They were ideas," said the philosopher firmly, "rudimentary ideas. All thought, in its early stages, begins as action. The actions which you have been wading through have been ideas, clumsy ones of course, but they had to be established as a foundation before we could begin to think in earnest. You have been teaching man to think in action. Now it is time to think in our heads." "So my Table was not a failure -- Master?" "Certainly not. It is an experiment. Experiments lead to new ones. . ."

We suggest you re-read this passage whenever you reach a point of despair along your career path. You may have begun with action, trying now this, now that, to mold your career to your dreams. Sometimes you fail to realize the dream. King Arthur did. But such endeavors are not failures -- they are experiments along the way. At such moments it is time to think in your heads, to ask what you have learned from that experiment, to return to theories on which your actions are founded -- and to begin new experiments.

And don't get discouraged. Aucassin, on his knightly errands to rescue Nicolette, fell off his horse about 28 times before Nicolette finally rescued him, [Aucassin et Nicolette. 12th century French romance. Considered by critics to be the first parody of the novel of chivalry. But then, on the other hand, it just might be the first example to come down to us of a woman telling it like it probably was].

Surely it can't get worse than that!


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