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Sociology is about equality?

I teach my classes in the building that houses the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Western. Every day as I walk to class I pass by the deparmental office.

A couple of days ago, I noticed that one of the glass display cases outside the departmental office had a sign on top that read “Sociology is about equality.” Inside the glass case was a copy of the Declaration of Independence, along with other material, no doubt related to either Sociology or equality (I simply don’t remember at the moment).

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought Sociology was about people and the groups they belong to. Sure, equality might be factored in as a characteristic of social groups (or lack thereof), but can you really say that “Sociology is about equality”?

It reminds me of when my Dad used to complain about the motto of the Strategic Air Command: “Peace is our Profession.” Dad would say,”Peace might well be their goal, but SAC’s profession is war.”

That’s the problem with these pithy sayings. In both cases (SAC and the sociologists), they’re trying to wrap up something more complex in four short words. In SAC’s case, I understand where they were coming from (as it happens, my first Air Force assignment was in a SAC unit).

In the case of our sociologists, I can only imagine. I suspect it’s related to desired dispositions of students. Given that equality can mean different things to different people (think Affirmative Action, for example), I’m not exactly encouraged

2 Responses to “Sociology is about equality?”

  1. Robert Says:

    I really am worried about this trend toward putting social justice issues at the core of an academic discipline. You’ve no doubt heard of the college in the northeast (I want to say Brooklyn College) that up until recently required — required! — its education majors to sign off on a statement that they believed in “social justice”. Which of course can only be properly defined by the people who are in power in the department, and there can be no disagreement on that.

    AACU is pushing this particularly hard — the recasting of American higher education as “liberal education”, which means education focused on liberal social values. Not that I particularly have anything against a lot of liberal social values, but this is not the right way to approach an academic subject, by defining it in such a way as to cut off any attempts at debate about the core issues.

    I’ve noticed the same thing in our sociology department — the entire subject is organized around the idea that inequality is bad.

  2. David Says:

    Yikes, I just went to AACU’s website. I was unaware that they were being so transparent:

    Because liberal learning aims to free us from the constraints of ignorance, sectarianism, and myopia, it prizes curiosity and seeks to expand the boundaries of human knowledge.

    One can only guess what we’re “ignorant” of, what “sects “we should fear, and what it is that our “myopia” is keeping us from seeing.

    I’ve been cogitatin’ on this whole issue of broadening education, based on some recent experiences and encounters on campus. I hope to turn it into a post or series of posts soon.

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