Crowdsourcing a New Syllabus: Teaching Contemporary Stratification

Along with speaking, writing, researching, consulting and mocking professional pundits that wear ascots, I also teach.

I am very excited to be writing a syllabus for a stratification course, to be taught in the Spring. I took to Twitter earlier today to crowdsource some of the excellent sociology tools that have floated across my timeline recently. As usual, the tweeps astounded me with their generosity. Academics who scorn social media have no idea what they’re missing out on. After some feedback from undergraduates about their needs I am proposing to ratchet up a basic class/status/power course for more advanced students. For the moment I am calling it “Contemporary Stratfication”. The description and objectives:

Course Description and Objective

This course is built upon a basic sociological principle: groups and resources in society are organized and stratified according to class, status, and power. We will study sociological explanations of a variety of social phenomena related to the question of “who gets what and why?” In the first part of the course, we will consider general trends in inequality in the U.S., the causes and consequences of stratification, and the question of why social inequality exists as both a process and a system. We will examine these issues at the individual, organizational, and global level. There is a particular focus on contemporary stratification post- “The Great Recession”.

In the second part, we will focus on contemporary class, racial/ethnic inequality, and gender inequality. This includes discussions of contemporary issues like long-term unemployment, structural changes in labor market, rising student loan debt and education costs, and the privatization of public services as mechanisms for status reproduction and inequality. The objective of this class is to develop your “sociological imagination”, that is the ability to see the processes and structures that order how we live, learn, work and participate in the national and global citizenry.

And here are some of the resources I will be drawing upon for contemporary case studies:

Sociological Cinema offers range of mass media examples of classic sociological principles:

Jessica Sherwood has an online resource of sociology videos and news clips:

The Anna Julia Cooper Project has resources on Race v Class debates:

Current Events, examples of sociological imagination applied to news events:

Wendy Christensen’s resources on gender, class inequality:

Good current event reads on stratification:

The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed

Thirteen Economic Facts about Social Mobility and the Role of Education

Does the Rise of the Super-Wealthy Require New Global Rules?

2 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing a New Syllabus: Teaching Contemporary Stratification

  1. This sounds like a really great and important class. Strangely, just before coming across this post I tweeted, “Bored bordering on angry with narratives where ‘we’ = users of social media and ‘alive’ = areas with high internet connectivity.” There exists online all of these narratives, these visualizations based on social media metadata (tweets, usually), that are supposedly telling us something about “us,” but these narratives completely elide those who are not data points. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since the release of the new Google Maps, which through mining your personal data will customize your experience of physical space so as to filter out anything foreign to your already existing interests (see Badger, Morozov). Likewise, visualizations that purport to show where cities are “most alive” but are nothing more than maps highlighting and privileging privilege itself (see this). Been meeting to write on this for a while, but wanted to pass along these few thoughts in hopes they may be of use here. Really looking forward to the final syllabus!

  2. Would love to see the final syllabus myself. This may be my own academic biases, but spare a thought for some of the classics: Du Bois (double consciousness), Gramsci (there’s a great summary of his work by Kate Crehan called “Gramsci, CUlture and Anthropology”), and Malcolm (the autobiography, plus “The Ballot or the Bullet” and “Speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity” aka “By Any Means Necessary”). Plus Angela Davis on prisons, but also there is a great interview she did for Frontline (

    I also think you might like to consider the first chapter of Graber’s “Debt the first 5000 years” the whole of which is available free from this site:

    following on from this (because as I get older, I find myself more and more inclined towards reading people who offer solutions rather than just the grim analysis, I’d also like to recommend this interview with David Edwards by Derrick Jensen. Edwards’ work can be found in the book “Burning all Illusions” but the interview is a great starting point for debates about what individuals can do to address privilege.


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