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Let's get social.

Sociology: where you learn that you can totally tell your teacher that you didn't do your homework because you've been systemically oppressed.

Okay, so maybe that wouldn't fly with your teacher. But this course will give you insight into all the ways society influences your attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior.

Shmoop's introduction to sociology is a semester-long elective, aligned with Florida social studies standards, that covers the major topics in the field of sociology. From culture and socialization to the role of technology in connecting modern society, we'll explore the ways in which you're just one cog in the wheel of the educational machine. (That does not mean you can slack off in our course, by the way.)

By the end of this course you'll know

  • what exactly makes up a culture. Hint: it has nothing to do with Picasso and Mozart.
  • how you were socialized to think that girls like pink and boys like blue.
  • the biggest social institutions at work in the United States.
  • how power, authority, economies, and politics work. They're complicated.
  • what makes us all different: race, religion, ethnicity, social class, age. They're also complicated.
  • how the wheel of social change gets going.

And a lot more.

So for anyone who has ever wanted to stop class to debate gender in music videos, point out the difference between prison and jail, or finally share a chart that explains why bacon-covered mac and cheese can be high-culture, we welcome you.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Building a Foundation

Let's introduce ourselves to the field of sociology. Sociology, it's nice to meet you. During this intro class we'll be discussing the not-so-basics: the development of the field of sociology, research methods, its big boy founders Marx, Comte, and Durkheim, paradigms, the sociological imagination, and all that fun stuff. 

Unit 2. Culture, Socialization, and Groups

What is "culture"? Well, it's not wearing a top hat and monocle to the opera—and this unit will expound upon that. Unit 2 is about the way people tick, especially when they're in groups. We'll dissect sub-cultures, group identity, socialization, cliques, primary and secondary groups, and if you're formed by your innate nature or the circumstances around you. At the end of this unit, not only will you be a culture know-it-all, but you'll be able to form a whole sub-culture of peers who've been nurtured to be interested in culture too. (...You'll understand this joke soon, don't worry.)

Unit 3. Race, Religion, and Gender

Have you ever felt exasperated while filling out forms or paperwork about all the categories you're arbitrarily stuffed into? Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion...what do all these things even mean? In Unit 3, Shmoop will get to the bottom of some very tricky issues: the differences between major world religions, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and prejudice and discrimination. What you'll find will shock you—mostly because so many of these things aren't biological; they're social constructions.

Unit 4. Social Structures and Social Control

Shmoop doesn't have any beef with dreaming, but Unit 4 is going to debunk a lot of the ideas about fairness and social mobility you hold dear. "Social stratification" is the way that societies tend to divide into systems of social standing, and this unit focuses on how inequality is perpetuated through de facto discrimination, economic stratification, and the way we sanction crime and deviance. Plus, we'll also discuss how you're basically trapped into the same fate your parents and grandparents had before you. Turns out the "American Dream" probably isn't any more real than that dream you had about a world of giant orange penguin-people.

Unit 5. Politics and Power

Let's look at Politics and Power as more than "What makes a Democrat and a Republican?" (Though don't worry—we'll address that.) The world is run on an ornate system of power and authority, and Shmoop is here to address that with you. We'll discuss the secret strategies of voting, systems of government and types of leaders, and global injustice, stratification, and poverty. You know—lightweight stuff.

Unit 6. Agents of Social Change: Technology, Social Networks, and Your Future

Facebook, television, Instagram: this unit is all about agents of social change, from urbanization and population growth to the miracles of the media and technology. We'll take those glorious insights about social groups, power, and stratification and see how those concepts combine in the case of collective action and social change. The course is capped off with the opportunity to research a social issue of your choice.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 3: Types of Societies

In this lesson, we're going to take a tour, Magic School Bus-style, of the different kinds of societies that humans have come up with.

(The kinds we've come up with so far, anyway.)

Humans have transformed in mere thousands of years from fire-worshipping hunter-gatherer societies to Google Glasses-worshipping societies. We guess you can tell, then, that societies love to break the rules. They've taken on—and continue to take on—many forms in different times and places.

At this point you're probably asking the following:

  • Why does this matter? 
  • BTW, can Shmoop get you a free pair of Google Glasses?

The answer to the second question is a straight-up no; the answer to the first is a little more complicated. If you recall from our glorious second lesson in this unit, society and culture need one another to exist. Society can't continue without a shared culture, but culture doesn't exist unless people create and share it. Pretty deep, right?

Two views of Little Italy New York City, from 1900 and 2012. How do you say "gentrification" in Italiano?
(Source 1; Source 2)

Oh, and speaking of non-existence…It's around this time that we should give you a sociology PSA (Public Society Announcement): Just because a society isn't around any more doesn't we shouldn't study it. Historical sociologists look at all kinds of data—from public records and super-secret diaries to archaeological relics—to understand the cultures of societies that no longer exist.

To be better than Dr. John Hammond in that not-quite-hidden Jurassic Park reference above, be a savvy societal sociologist. Be less interested in exactly what happened; instead, use modern sociological theory to understand how past societies worked. After all, despite all the trash we talked about cultural relativism, history can be best understood comparatively.

So let's get all our facts straight so we don't end up with a magical island overrun with past human (and dinosaur) societies.

  • Course Length: 18 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Course Type: Elective
  • Category:
    • History and Social Science
    • High School

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