Tuesday, October 11, 2016

One Question Everyone Asks:Why?

It's halfway through my last class of the day and I just want to leave. But my professor is going on about equality between men and women. Then he says something that perks my ears: a statistic. "Women earn less in their careers than men," he states. In my head I am already poised against him, wondering where he is getting this fact from and if it's reliable. So I whip out my smartphone and Google it.

Nathan Pulmer explains a similar account, but from a different perspective. In his blog post, Why a Student Yelled at Me & I Thanked Him for It, Pulmer describes a student who confronted him on one of the class topics. The student was so pleased to have found a piece of evidence that proved his professor wrong, yet he was the one who ended up being incorrect (as it reveals latter in the story). Why was the student so pleased at the chance to prove his professor wrong?

From a young child through to when you graduate, high school or college, you go to school and learn from various teachers. Your only job is to learn, and in a traditional system, all knowledge comes from your teachers. If you listen to your teachers, you get a gold star. But if you do something the teacher doesn't like, you get a star taken away. Now these stars have no actual value, but we are taught their value by our teachers and our peers. This is the start of a long process embedded within the education system: socialization.

Teachers are smarter than us - according to the education system that is. It is not uncommon to blindly read the textbook or listen to the teacher and think there words and ideas are novel. The interesting observation always missed, though, is when we start asking "why". Why is the teacher right?

Putting the Pieces Together

Pulmer analyzes disproportionate relationships within his post. He specifically hits on how when you look at one group a certain conclusion can be made, but if you look at it in proportional to a larger whole, your conclusion is more accurate. While this is an important topic, it was not as interesting to me as the other sociological ideas bubbling within his post. Why did the student challenge him? Why did the student challenge him after class instead of in front of everyone? How does a calm demeanor affect the conversation in respect to a defensive demeanor?

Earlier in this post I hid a bit on the topic of asking "why". I merely pointed out that it is common, and I challenge you to take it further. What has led us to ask why? Is it to rebel against the system? Does it have a purpose?

I liked Pulmer's approach to sociology. He starts with a story and then brings light to different points as they come up. Then at the end he wraps it all up and leaves the reader with a few questions. It's a nice approach to use, but as you may have noticed reading this post, my brain has trouble working on only one train of thought.


Tying all the ideas together, the education system teaches students to believe their professors and teachers. Whether it is taught or not, though, I think many students eventually start to ask why in response to many concepts taught. This is step one to being a sociologist, and from what I have learned over the years, it helps you understand the topics even better. As you can see from Pulmer's post, both the student and the teacher benefited from the encounter. The teacher learned more about how the class viewed the topic and the student understood there was more to evidence than what just meets the eye.

Food for Thought

  1. How is creativity affected by the modern American school system?
  2. Why do we ask "why"? Does it have a social purpose?
  3. How often do you go in-depth when listening to others? How often do you hear one side or the other and blindly believe them?


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bats, Birds, and Socioloy

Most people would say that bats and birds are quite different. And upon first inspection I would agree, they do appear different. Bats fly at night and eat fruit, while birds fly during the day (because they cannot see in the dark) and eat insects. But could these two seemingly random animals be analogous to something today? What if Stellaluna is trying to portray different cultures and how they interact?

Stellaluna wonderfully illustrates a concept within sociology called socialization. Stellaluna is a bat who gets separated from her mother after an owl attacks them. Stellaluna manages to escape the encounter, but has no where to go besides a bird nest. Desperate for food, she forces herself to eat the insects they eat. This is the first action of socialization. Typically, bats eat fruit. However Stellaluna is forced to eat insects in order to survive. She also might notice the other birds eating the insects and might think that it is the right thing to do. This can be compared to the norms within society trying to compel others to act a certain way.

After some time, Stellaluna starts to teach the other birds her own ways, such as hanging upside down from a branch. This could be someone in today's culture trying to show others their way of life and how it differs. But just like Mama Bird in Stellaluna, society shuns those who are different and essentially makes them socialize as a member of their population, aka enforce the norms.


Eventually Stellaluna reunites with her mom and finds her bat family. When she reunites, she learns about how bats are supposed to behave and what they are supposed to eat. The bats make a point about perspective, saying that what is upside down to a bird is actually right-side up for a bat. This scene helps to bring light to the sociological issues present in the story.

After Stellaluna realizes her true nature, she goes back to her bird family, wanting to show them how cool it is to be a bat. But unfortunately, the birds cannot see at night and Stellaluna has to rescue them from falling to what may be imminent death. It is after this moment that she and her bird family make a profound sociological discovery: we are all very similar, yet there are some differences that go deeper than the norms, like Stellaluna being able to fly during the night while her bird family cannot.

Now let's take a look at some of the deeper points within the story. First, notice Stellaluna's color: she is white/beige; but isn't she a fruit bat? Typically fruit bats are a black or darker color, rather than a creme or lighter color. Could Janell Cannon be trying to build on the white supremacy that is common in today's American culture? Is Stellaluna slowly building on the idea that whites are better, despite other cultural norms? I think the answer is that she might be.

Second, let's take a look at the bird family: three young kids, one mother. Why is there only a mother? It's a bird family, so that makes sense, but can there be any sociological reasons? I think there is. Janell Cannon, whether she tries to or not, is ingraining in children the idea that mother's should take care of their kids. This is a cultural norm that has been around for many centuries, and is further reinforced in the story. Interestingly the mom is also a rule maker and enforcer, which is different than society presents women. However Mama Bird is a single mother and rules still need to be, so we see her with this slightly male role.

Lastly, I want to make a point about the end. In the end, both Stellaluna and her bird family reunite and become one happy family. This is often portrayed in children's books, this idea of a happy ending where differences can be set aside. But it is not always the case in society. I think Janell Cannon is trying to present the ideal norm, where everyone is at peace and in harmony, despite its practicality in real life. I do agree that it is good to have that, but it is interesting that we have so many stories which portray this idea to children.

That's it: bat, birds, and sociology. Who knew they went together?

  • Cannon, Janell. Stellaluna. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993. Print.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Data As Evidence

Education is valued highly in today's society. One could start by looking at the lengthy list of job requirements around them to see this correlation. But does that mean one needs education for employment? Could family dynamics influence employment?

First, let's take a look at the data. Around 18-22% of the Southeastern United States is in poverty, while comparatively the rest of the US sits at around 10-15% (Population in Poverty, 2014). 40-50% of the children in the Southeastern US are in a single-parent household, whereas the surrounding areas are within 30-40%, decreasing as one goes west (Children In Single-Parent Families, 2014). While the Southeastern US has a higher level of enrolled students between the ages of 3-5 years old (Children Age 3-5, 2012) and fewer children held out of education due to poverty (Young Children Not In School, 2010-14), they have one of the highest rates of students not graduating on time (High School Students Graduating On Time, 2009-10). The southern US has the largest percent of the population having parents without an associates degree or higher (Families... Where No Available Parent Has An Associates Degree Or Higher, 2012). The Southeastern US also has the lowest education ranking (Education Rank, 2014).

Figure 1. Population in Povery, 2014

When I first saw the correlation I began to think through the different reasons that might explain it. After stumbling past different graphs, I found some that provided me with an explanation. The families in the Southeastern US are more likely to be in a state of poverty. This causes the parents to push their children to go to school so that they do not follow in their footsteps (make a better life for them). Since many of the families in the Southeastern US are living in a single-parent household this causes different family issues; these issues arise and the students end up dropping out of high school or doing worse in high school for this reason. These unrealistic expectations from the parents cause the children to not be as educated as well. Or it could be that the education system is poor in quality down there.

The main problem I see in the Southeastern US is education. Neither parent typically has college experience, yet the parents tend to push their children to attend school. Whatever social pressures might exist down in the South, maybe farming or other natural societal causes, students end up not graduating on time. One possible cause is the fact that there are more single-parents down South. This could cause more stress for the students involved. But perhaps there being more heat and more sunshine affects this too. That is for another study, however.

Knowing what region of the US is the poorest, or the least educated, might not be that useful to some, but hopefully it serves to broaden your perspective. The more light we shed on this topic the easier it will be to address the issues.

Works Cited

Sunday, July 24, 2016


First up I want to apologize to my friends. I am only just remembering who I am, and it's because of my friends that I can always find my way back home. You see, when we leave our friends and try something new we always leave a map to guide us back. Friends are a part of you, and if you know how to look for, you can see parts of yourself in each of your closest friends.

I started out with an apology, but now I want to say thank you. I don't have many really close friends, but the ones that have stuck around in my life keep showing me how to grow, how to learn, how to never stop pursuing God. Sometimes I get confused, sometimes a run in the wrong direction - and you know who is there when I want to come back home? My friends.

Recently I was in a not so great relationship. It got to the point where I started to doubt who I was. Luckily I have an amazing God who stepped back and showed me how he has always been working in me: through my friends. When I looked at my friends and how I acted when I was with them I could piece my personality and together. It sounds weird, not going to lie, but take a moment a look at your friends. Do they build you up? Do you have a desire to be with them, a desire that makes you miss them when they leave, almost like you're missing a part of yourself? When you catch up with an old friend, is there something special about it?

True friendship is rare - it takes work, lots of it. But in the end, if you surround yourself with friends that build you up, motivate you to grow, and teach you how to see things differently, it is worth every moment. Here's to my friends, the ones that have stuck it out, the ones who have been with me for the long haul, and the ones that are only just getting to know me.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Love: all we have left

United States of America. E Pluribus Unum. One nation.

Take a moment and stop everything. Don't open Facebook, resist the impulse to check your Twitter feed, and just - stop.

When is the last time you invited your neighbor over for dinner? When was the last time you asked your co-worker how their family is doing? When was the last time you showed that you care?

If the answer to all of those is something along the lines of "never", you're in the same boat as me. I know I don't have this figured out, but I know that it is what America needs more of. In today's culture our lawn has become a green moat and our house is a little island. But if you look back twenty or thirty years ago, you treated your neighbor like your next of kin. You hung out with them, spent time with them, helped them when their lawnmower or car broke down - whatever happened to this society? Where did it go?

Today everyone is on edge. You can't say anything that might be racist, you better be accepting of all LGBTQIA+ individuals, and you better not have an opinion (they are too judgmental). Does this seem odd to anyone? I think we have gotten to the point where we know hate is a problem, but we haven't turned to love. Love is not acceptance, it's not a feeling, it's not an action - it encompasses all of those.

America is supposed to be a united nation. If you look at the presidential campaigns and everything else going on right now you can see that is not true today. Hate has spread like wildfire through our country and it is tearing us apart. The only way left to reunite our nation is going to be loving one another. Love is knowing the people around you, enough to know their struggles, and still willing to stand next to them. Love is saying labels are stupid and listening to each other. Love is respecting that everyone is going to have their opinion and yours is not better than theirs.

And here's the greatest thing: love is free. So let's start something new and let's love one another. Let's so no to fear and let's invite each other into community.