University of California, San Diego
M-Th 9:30-10:50, HSS 1305
Office hours: Tu 11-1, 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.
August 6 (M)
- No readings
August 7 (Tu)
Progress, problems, and science
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “Progress,” The Good Society. LINK
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “How Do We Know?,” The Good Society. LINK
- Read before exam 1: Lane Kenworthy, 100 Things to Know, #41-60. LINK
- Read before exam 2: Lane Kenworthy, 100 Things to Know, #21-40. LINK
- Read before exam 3: Lane Kenworthy, 100 Things to Know, #1-20. LINK
August 8 (W)
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “Equality of Opportunity,” The Good Society. LINK
August 9 (Th)
- Watch before lecture: Robert Reich and Jacob Kornbluth, Inequality for All, 2013, 91 minutes ($3). LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Income Inequality,” The Good Society. LINK
August 13 (M)
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “Families,” The Good Society. LINK
August 14 (Tu)
- Watch before lecture: Ai Weiwei, Human Flow, 2017, 136 minutes ($4). LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Immigration,” The Good Society. LINK
August 15 (W)
- Read before lecture: Ross Douthat, “Liberalism’s Gun Problem,” New York Times, 2015. LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Guns,” The Good Society. LINK
August 16 (Th)
This exam will cover material from readings, videos, and lectures plus #41-60 of 100 Things to Know.
August 20 (M)
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “What Good Is Education?,” The Good Society. LINK
August 21 (Tu)
- Read before lecture: Hanna Rosin, “The End of Men,” The Atlantic, 2010. LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Inclusion: Women,” The Good Society. LINK
August 22 (W)
Sexual orientation and gender identification
- Watch before lecture: Katie Couric, Gender Revolution, 2017, 92 minutes ($7). LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Inclusion: LGBTQs,” The Good Society. LINK
August 23 (Th)
What does government do?
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “Social Programs,” The Good Society. LINK
August 27 (M)
Consequences of big government
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “Is Big Government Bad for Freedom, Civil Society, and Happiness?,” The Good Society. LINK
August 28 (Tu)
This exam will cover material from readings, videos, and lecture since exam 1 plus #21-40 of 100 Things to Know.
August 29 (W)
Balancing work, family, and leisure
- Read before lecture: Sara Horowitz, “Help for the Way We Work Now,” New York Times, 2015. LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Work-Family-Leisure Balance,” The Good Society. LINK
August 30 (Th)
- Watch before discussion section: Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Black America Since MLK, Episodes 1 and 2, PBS, 2016, 218 minutes (free: sign in with KPBS member email firstname.lastname@example.org and password kpbs2018). LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Inclusion: African Americans,” The Good Society. LINK
September 3 (M)
No class: Labor Day
September 4 (Tu)
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “Inclusion: the Elderly,” The Good Society. LINK
Research paper due: Wednesday, September 5, 9:30am
September 5 (W)
- Read before lecture: Michael Kazin, “America’s Never-Ending Culture War,” New York Times, 2018. LINK
- Read before discussion section: Lane Kenworthy, “Personal Freedom,” The Good Society. LINK
September 6 (Th)
Do election outcomes matter?
- Read before lecture: Lane Kenworthy, “Do Election Outcomes Matter?,” The Good Society. LINK
September 7 (Fr), 8:00am
This exam will cover material from readings, videos, and lecture since exam 2 plus #1-20 of 100 Things to Know.
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 a reading or watch a 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 or he 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 like detective work: seldom is the story 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 conversation about the substantive issues we’ll cover. Your discussion section grade will be based entirely on your participation.
Written communication. You will write a research paper. 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 research paper you will write is short, so you’ll need to focus on the information and argument that is most relevant or useful.
Independent research. The research paper is on a topic 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 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.
NO LAPTOPS, TABLETS, OR PHONES IN CLASS
You aren’t allowed to use a laptop, tablet, or phone during lecture. The best available evidence suggests that college students learn more when not using these devices. If you want to take notes, you’ll need to do so with pen and paper. If you need an exception to this policy, please see me.
Course grades will be determined as follows. See below for details.
- 16%: discussion section attendance and participation
- 20%: quizzes
- 13%: exam 1
- 13%: exam 2
- 13%: exam 3
- 25%: research paper
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 .16) + (quizzes average grade x .2) + (exam 1 grade x .13) + (exam 2 grade x .13) + (exam 3 grade x .13) + (research paper grade x .25).
Your letter grade for the course will be determined as follows:
- 96.67 and above = A+
- 93.34–96.66 = A
- 90–93.33 = A–
- 86.67–89.99 = B+
- 83.34–86.66 = B
- 80–83.33 = B–
- 76.67–79.99 = C+
- 73.34–76.66 = C
- 70–73.33 = C–
- 60–69.99 = D
- below 60 = F
There will be no extra-credit projects or assignments.
Section A01, MW 1:00–1:50, HSS 1305
Office hours: M 2:00-4:00, SSB 430
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 discussion section grade will be zero.
Each day in class, beginning August 8, you will take a short quiz on the reading or video for that day. Each quiz will have five multiple choice or true/false questions. You will answer the questions using your iclicker. There will be 14 quizzes; only your highest 11 grades will count.
Quiz grading: If you answer at least four questions, you will 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.
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.
Two pieces of advice regarding the quizzes: (1) Evidence is important, but don’t get overly bogged down in detail — exact numbers, precise dates, and so on. (2) Don’t overthink the quiz questions. Don’t assume I’m trying to trick you.
Each exam will have 50 multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions.
Answer the following question: What’s the most useful thing the United States could do to improve community?
Grading will be based on the following:
- Answer the question.
- Refer to relevant evidence. Opinion and logic are fine but insufficient.
- Address potential objections.
- Write clearly.
- Use proper grammar and punctuation (“I,” “me,” and contractions are fine), and adhere to the following length, formatting, and citation instructions. Length: 1,500 words (excluding footnotes), plus or minus no more than 100 words. List your word count on the first page, along with your name and the date. Formatting: single-space, 11-point or 12-point font size, 1-inch top and bottom margins and 2-inch side margins. 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 include the author(s), title, and year rather than just an internet address.
If you need help with writing, consider seeking assistance from the UC San Diego Writing Hub.
The due date is listed above. A paper turned in late but within 48 hours of the deadline will be penalized 25 points (out of 100). A paper turned in more than 48 hours late, or not turned in at all, will receive a grade of zero.
Upload your paper on TritonEd. Go to tritoned.ucsd.edu, log in, choose this course, and click on “Upload paper” in the blue menu bar. Emailed or hard copy papers won’t be accepted.
Submit the paper in a word processing program format (Microsoft Word, Google docs, Pages, etc.). Don’t submit it as a pdf document.
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.
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). 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.