University of California, San Diego
M–Th 12:30–1:50, Sequoyah Hall 147
Office hours: M W 11:15–12:15, SSB 472
Sociology is the scientific study of society — of people, organizations, institutions, policies, cities, and countries, the ways in which they interact, and the outcomes they create. This course will introduce you to questions, hypotheses, research findings, and arguments on some important and topical issues.
Assigned materials are to be read or viewed before class.
August 1 (M)
August 2 (Tu)
Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “America Is Exceptional … and Ordinary,” The Good Society.
Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “How Do We Know?,” The Good Society.
August 3 (W)
Video: Robert Reich and Jacob Kornbluth, Inequality for All, 2013, 91 minutes ($3-4).
August 4 (Th)
Reading 1: Lane Kenworthy, “Tolerance,” The Good Society.
Reading 2: Haeyoun Park and Iaryna Mykhyalyshyn, “LGBT People Are More Likely to Be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority Group,” New York Times, 2016.
August 8 (M)
Video: Black-ish, “Hope,” season 2, episode 16, ABC, 2016, 24 minutes ($2).
Reading: Quoctrung Bui and Amanda Cox, “Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings,” New York Times: The Upshot, 2016.
August 9 (Tu)
August 10 (W)
Reading: Nicholas Kristof, “Why I Was Wrong About Welfare Reform,” New York Times, 2016.
Video: Frontline, “Poor Kids,” season 31, episode 5, PBS, 2012, 68 minutes ($2).
August 11 (Th)
Reading 1: Lane Kenworthy, “Families,” The Good Society.
Reading 2: Judith Shulevitz, “How to Fix Feminism,” New York Times, 2016.
August 15 (M)
Reading 1: Yuval Levin, “The Real Debate,” The Weekly Standard, 2012.
Reading 2: Lane Kenworthy, “Civic Engagement,” The Good Society.
August 16 (Tu)
Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Longevity,” The Good Society.
August 17 (W)
Reading: Paul Krugman, “Delusions of Chaos,” New York Times, 2016.
Video: Eugene Jarecki, The House I Live In, 2011, 110 minutes ($3-4).
August 18 (Th)
Reading : Lane Kenworthy, “What Good Is Education?,” The Good Society.
Essay 1 due: Monday, August 22, in class
August 22 (M)
Reading: Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, “Human Work in the Robotic Future,” Foreign Affairs, 2016.
August 23 (Tu)
Video: Al Gore and David Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006, 96 minutes ($3).
August 24 (W)
Reading: Edward Glaeser, “How Skyscrapers Can Save the City,” The Atlantic, 2011.
August 25 (Th)
Reading: Hanna Rosin, “The End of Men,” The Atlantic, 2010
August 29 (M)
Video: Alex Gibney, Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream, 2012, 54 minutes (free).
August 30 (Tu)
Reading 1: Lane Kenworthy, “Religion,” The Good Society.
Reading 2: Robert P. Jones, “The Evangelicals and the Great Trump Hope,” New York Times, 2016.
August 31 (W)
Reading: Christian Larsen, “Broken Societies: Inequality, Cohesion, and the Middle-Class Dream,” Juncture, 2013.
Essay 2 due: Thursday, September 1, in class
September 1 (Th)
Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Happiness,” The Good Society.
Final exam: Friday, September 2, 11:30-2:30
Here’s what you should get from this course:
Approaching issues scientifically. Many of the issues we’ll look at are front-and-center in popular discussion, journalistic coverage, and political debate. This discussion would be better, and more helpful to policy makers, if it were more informed by science. Approaching an issue scientifically means, among other things, considering empirical evidence rather than relying mainly on theory or ethical beliefs, looking for data rather than anecdote(s), looking for multiple sources of evidence (“If hypothesis A were true, what else would we expect to observe?”), and thinking about whether some types of evidence are more useful, and thus should be weighted more heavily, than others.
Asking important questions. For any issue or topic, there are multiple questions we might want to answer. Many are of interest, but some are more important than others.
Understanding argument and evidence. For each class day, you will do the reading or watch the video in advance. In class you’ll be quizzed on the information in the reading or video. Try to understand the question(s) the author is trying to answer, the answer(s) she gives, the key pieces of evidence, and the way the author reasons from the evidence and other considerations (laws, ethical views, etc) in reaching a conclusion.
Dealing with complexity. The substantive issues we’ll examine are big and complicated. Social scientists have struggled to understand the nature of the problem(s), to identify the main cause(s), and to figure out the most useful solution(s). The process is often like detective work: the story is seldom simple, and rarely do we have the exact evidence we’d need in order to be strongly confident about our conclusion. So we must ask an assortment of questions, use various types of data, and think systematically.
Comfort with quantitative data. A generation ago there was a scarcity of numerical data. Now we have an abundance: data are everywhere. That’s a good thing, because data are key to answering important questions about society. You will encounter lots of quantitative data in this course, often in graphical form. If you aren’t already comfortable interpreting such data and reasoning from them, by the end of the course you should be.
Verbal communication. The discussion section for this course is designed to foster discussion about the substantive issues we’ll cover. Your discussion section grade will be based entirely on your participation. We’ll also (I hope) have a good bit of discussion during regular class meetings.
Written communication. You will write two essays. Both are short, so I expect the quality of writing to be very high. Good writing usually comes from extensive editing. Write a draft. Then edit it. Then edit it again. And again.
Concision. Information and opinion are plentiful these days, so brevity is a valuable skill. The essays are short, so you’ll need to focus on the information and argument that is most relevant or useful.
Independent research. The two essays are on topics not covered in the course. You’ll need to do some outside reading, decide on your proposal or position, and assess the degree to which evidence supports it.
Developing a good argument. The course materials and lectures are designed to expose you to ways of developing and conveying effective argument. Keys include focusing on a specific question, formulating a clear proposal or position, making use of relevant evidence, addressing potential objections and counterarguments, and communicating simply and clearly.
Substantive knowledge. Last, but not least, the course aims to improve your understanding of the issues we cover.
The course readings and videos are available via the links in the schedule above. You’ll also need an iclicker, which you can purchase at the campus bookstore.
Course grades will be determined as follows. See below for details.
- 15%: discussion section attendance and participation
- 35%: quizzes
- 20%: essay 1
- 20%: essay 2
- 10%: final exam
Each of these will be graded on a scale of 0 to 100. So your numerical course grade is calculated as: (discussion section attendance and participation grade x .15) + (quizzes average grade x .35) + (essay 1 grade x .2) + (essay 2 grade x .2) + (final exam grade x .1).
Your letter grade for the course will be determined as follows:
- 97 and above = A+
- 93–96 = A
- 90–92 = A–
- 87–89 = B+
- 83–86 = B
- 80–82 = B–
- 77–79 = C+
- 73–76 = C
- 70–72 = C–
- 60–69 = D
- below 60 = F
There will be no extra-credit projects or assignments.
Section A01, Tu Th 2:00–2:50, Sequoyah 147
Office hours: Tu Th 3:00–4:00, SSB 429
Attendance and participation in discussion section is required. Your discussion section grade will be based on your participation. Attendance may also affect your grade. You’re allowed to miss one section meeting without penalty. If you miss two, your discussion section grade will be reduced by 5 points. If you miss three, it will be reduced by 15 points. If you miss four, it will be reduced by 25 points. If you miss more than four, your section grade will be zero.
Each day in class, beginning August 3, you will take a short quiz on the reading for that day. Each quiz will have five multiple choice or true/false questions. You’ll answer the questions using your iclicker. There will be 17 quizzes; only your highest 14 grades will count.
Quiz grading: If you answer at least four questions, you’ll get 50 points (even if you have no correct answers). You get ten additional points for each correct answer. So if you answer four or more questions, your grade is 60 with one correct answer, 70 with two correct answers, 80 with three, 90 with four, 100 with five.
You must register your iclicker with TritonEd. To do that, go to tritoned.ucsd.edu, log in, choose this course, and click on “Register iclicker” in the blue menu bar. If you get a new iclicker at any point during the quarter, register it immediately.
For technical support with iclicker registration and use, contact Educational Technology Services, APM 1313, email email@example.com, tel 858.534.2267.
You can take a makeup if you have to miss a quiz for any of the following three reasons: (1) holidays or special events observed by organized religions (for students who show affiliation with that particular religion), (2) absences pre-approved by the UCSD Dean of Students (or Dean’s designee), (3) extended illness (this requires a doctor’s note). If you miss a quiz for one of these reasons, contact me no later than the day of the quiz to schedule a makeup. I will need written verification of the circumstances.
You cannot take a makeup if you miss a quiz for any other reason. This includes faulty iclicker registration, forgetting to bring your iclicker to class, stolen or lost iclicker, iclicker malfunction, dead iclicker battery, needing to arrive late to class or leave class early, oversleeping, minor illness, transportation problem, family or friend’s special occasion, family problems, family illness, needing to study for another course, etc.
Here are my recommendations for how to prepare for the quizzes: (1) Take notes on the reading or video. Study those notes rather than re-reading or re-viewing the materials. (2) Evidence is important, but don’t get overly bogged down in detail — exact numbers, precise dates, and so on. (3) Don’t overthink the quiz questions. Don’t assume I’m trying to trick you. (4) It may help to study with one or more other students in the class.
You will write two short essays. The assignments:
- Essay 1: What’s the most useful thing we could do to improve US immigration policy?
- Essay 2: What’s the most useful thing we could do to reduce inequality of opportunity in America?
Due dates are listed above. An essay turned in late but within 48 hours of the deadline will be penalized 25 points (out of 100). An essay turned in more than 48 hours late, or not turned in at all, will receive a grade of zero.
Turn in a hard copy and upload your essay on TritonEd. Emailed essays won’t be accepted. To upload it on TritonEd, go to tritoned.ucsd.edu, log in, choose this course, and click on “Upload essays” in the blue menu bar. Your essay won’t be visible to other students; this is just to allow a check for plagiarism and length.
Grading will be based on the following:
- Answer the question.
- Refer to relevant evidence. Opinion and logic are fine but insufficient.
- Address potential objections to your position.
- Write clearly.
- Use proper grammar and punctuation. (Use of first person — “I” or “me” — and of contractions is fine.) Adhere to the following length, formatting, and citation instructions. Length: Each essay should be 1,500 words (excluding footnotes), plus or minus no more than 100 words. Formatting: The essays must be typed single-space on 8½-by-11 paper with 1-inch margins on top and bottom and 2-inch margins on each side. Use 11-point or 12-point font size. Sources and citations: Consult at least five sources of your choosing. Use footnotes (not a reference list or bibliography) to give credit to anyone from whom you borrow evidence or argument. The footnotes aren’t included in the word count. I’m not picky about the formatting of the footnotes, but be sure to include the author(s), title, and year; don’t simply list an internet address.
If you need help with writing, consider seeking assistance from the UC San Diego Writing Center.
Don’t plagiarize. If you aren’t sure what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, see the UC San Diego Library’s guide to preventing plagiarism.
The final exam will cover all of the course material. The date and time of the exam are listed above.
Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to UC San Diego policy on academic integrity.
SPECIAL NEEDS AND ACCOMMODATIONS
Students who need special accommodation or services should contact the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), University Center 202, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 858.534.4382. You must register and request that the OSD send me official notification of your accommodation needs as soon as possible. Please meet with me to discuss accommodations and how the course requirements and activities may impact your ability to fully participate.
SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Information here, other than the grade and attendance policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.