Now is the worst time to shrink the sociology curriculum

Updated July 8, 2020 at 9:38 a.m.

I HAVE been pleased to see so many trying so hard to learn more about systemic racism, anti-racism, white privilege, and how we can collectively change the system.

Amazon is out of stock of some of the most popular books on these topics. There is a hunger for knowledge and understanding that gives me hope for the future.

However, one need only spend a little time on social media to see how many people remain ill-informed about these topics. I’ve also been surprised by how many college educated people seem to know so little about systemic racism, resulting in defensiveness and denial. It tells me their institution of higher education failed them.

 As someone who has been teaching about systemic racism, the history of racism, anti-racism, and other issues of racial and ethnic stratification for over a quarter of a century, my calling as a sociologist has renewed relevance.

Sociology is the scientific study of human interaction, social phenomena, and social institutions. It is the field best equipped to expose social stratification, systemic inequality, and exploitative relationships within our institutions.

Many have been saying we need to listen to black voices to understand the experiences of systemic racism. They’re right. Sociology does that, and much more, as it looks to both qualitative and quantitative data to empirically demonstrate how different the black experience is in our society, as compared to the white experience.

For decades, sociologists have been examining and exposing the reality that African American males are much more likely to be to be arrested, to be tried, to be sentenced, to be imprisoned, and to be killed by police than white Americans.

And this brings me to my point. Higher education today continues to move away from the notion of education as preparation to be an informed and engaged citizen of our democracy and towards education as job training. Such narrowing of the educational experience and the human mind is doing a disservice to both students and our society by deprioritizing social sciences.

Here in Georgia, rather than increase students’ exposure to the critical lessons of sociology and the other social sciences, the University System of Georgia’s proposal to shrink the required Core coursework will reduce students’ exposure to these fundamental disciplines at a time when our country and our citizens need this education most.

Sociology is the primary discipline that examines issues of race, inequality, and social change, meaning a solid foundation in the area has never been more important. University administrators all over this country need to understand that their decisions will either hurt or help the movement towards social justice.

 Just as all college students are required to take classes in math, literature, government, and the biological sciences, all college students should be required to take a class in sociology. It is only the sociological perspective that scientifically exposes the realities of inequality and systemic racism.

Now is not the time to lessen the impact of our discipline. Now is the time to mandate it.

My own institution, Georgia Southern University, has been plagued by expressions of racism on campus, yet our administration has never conferred with any of our talented sociologists with expertise in this area.

There is no one way forward for our country to break from its racist past and present, but requiring that all undergraduates take at minimum an introduction to sociology class, is one powerful step in making tomorrow’s America a more educated, empowered, empathetic, and equal society.



Published July 8, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

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