As I mentioned before, I teach stratification.
I approach syllabi kind of like I approach the Constitution. It is a living, breathing, collaborative document constantly under revision for attention to different voices and standpoints. The trick is always balancing that against a necessary framework that cannot be totally negotiated away. There is some appeal to authority always present. I have to teach Marx and Weber, for example. That’s non-negotiable and necessarily imposes an U.S.-centric authority to sociology that guides the negotiation of voices within the framework. I’m always interrogating that.
With the freedom of solo-teaching (let us praise a deity here for the end of my TA days) I am trying to apply a lot of what I have learned from the many great teachers and pedagogical theorists I engage on twitter and in “real life”. One, reflective practice revealed that I privilege linear thinking and writing. To address this I am experimenting with a social media track for writing assignments. I hope students that prefer a more multi-media mode of learning will take this option to use visual media, video, and divergent thinking in lieu of papers.
Also, it is obvious that I think there is a great deal of pedagogical value to using digital spaces in teaching. However, as a black woman I am sensitive to how these spaces can be dangerous for some students. Therefore, while I will use twitter and blogs to engage some class content I am not requiring students to use these spaces from personal accounts. I’m trying to balance autonomy and innovation here. Social media engagement will not be included in grading.
I also have a thing for the sociological imagination and contemporary social problems. Throughout the syllabus I try to apply these classical theories to how we live in this moment. So, I draw on my social media connections here a great deal. We will be talking about feminism, class, race, and Lean In, for example. We’ll also spend some time in my wheelhouse when I pair a truncated version of my higher ed and stratification lectures with an analysis of unpaid labor, adjuncts, internships and the prestige economy.
I am in debt to so many generous scholars online. Many of them show up on my syllabus, including a huge hat-tip to Lisa Wade for sharing a pre-release version of her forthcoming book that I will be using in my intersectionality lectures.
It’s still a work in progress. As am I.
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