We need to talk. Things have just been getting a bit crazy of late. It’s not you, it’s not me, these things just happen. I used to feel so connected to you, I really understood you. Recently, things have changed though. You’re acting so erratic. You’ve been hanging out with all the wrong people and it’s really hurt our relationship. I feel so disconnected. Our relationship is so fragmented, so divisive. I’m afraid that this relationship has just started to atrophy.’
If I was going to break up with society, this is how I’d do it. There have been many times over the past decade that I have really wanted to just give up and run away from all of the chaos, but I can’t. I am a sociologist, of sorts. Sociology is my passion and despite this dysfunctional relationship I have with society at present, I want to make things better. I want to understand how society has become so polarised. And this is where, dear sociologists, I need your help.
Recently I was having dinner with my wife when she told me about an initiative she had become part of in her work. My wife works in quality in the Early Years sector and she had just been asked to write a blog on post-natal depression and its impacts on families for Early Years Wellbeing Week – a collection of contributions from leading Early Years practitioners all promoted under the #EYWellbeingWeek. She was very proud of her involvement, as was I. It’s been a huge step for her going back to work as we have 3 small children and she has had to battle with the age-old dilemma of balancing career and children (and she does it amazingly!)
‘I wish we had something like that for Sociology,’ I said, just off the cuff. ‘It’d be really useful in promoting sociology as a subject if there was a collaboration between all of the different teachers, students, academics.’
‘Then why don’t you do it?’ Her words hung in the air for a moment. I couldn’t. Could I? I’m just a teacher. A teacher who is passionate about sociology, but just a teacher. Then I thought about it some more. Why not? There are lots of people who might be up for that, I thought. Last year I’d done a little collaboration with Kate Flatley on some exam skills and other people were asking me to collaborate on smaller projects. What if I could do it?
Of course, over the course of the evening this idea started to evolve. By dessert, I was imagining myself giving a nobel prize speech having beaten Greta Thunberg into second place. Then reality started to kick in, it’s a stupid idea. Who’d be interested?
‘You won’t know until you ask?’
So I did. I sent out a tweet asking if anybody would be interested in collaborating on a project and there were some favourable responses. Most people asked what I was thinking of… and that’s when I had to really think about it. What did I mean? What was I going to do? There was a spark of an idea to get teachers, authors, academics and students together for a project that I wasn’t 100% sure of.
Over the last couple of days, that project has formulated. I remember reading an article on a collaboration between LSE and A level sociology teachers (click here), I saw lots of teach meets for different subjects and I recalled the work of colleagues who had worked in promoting Maths and Sciences. Seeing what else was out there, I started to understand what it was I wanted, and what I thought the sociology community needed.
Which brings me back to society. In my lifetime, never has sociology been needed as much as it is now. In the midst of the turmoil in Western society, there has been an absence of the type of critical thought that sociology can provide. As a sociology teacher, I strive to give students those skills, but often they are related specifically to the context of a specification, yet often the most rewarding times for me are when students use their knowledge of sociology to make sociology come alive in contemporary issues. Reading through the findings of the BSA collaboration with teachers, this is often a cause for concern. While A level Sociology increases in numbers, it’s image as being an easy subject is often waved around (not least at one FE college were sociologists are paid less than their science and business counterparts) and the achievements of teachers and students is devalued. The results of which lead to people not choosing to pursue sociology as a discipline.
What is the aim of this project?
The aim of my project is to collect together as wide a range as possible of contributions that show the importance of sociology to understanding 21st century society under a banner of #sociologymatters. For one week, I want to use that hashtag to promote the importance of sociology – although no date has yet been set, I would like to promote it alongside the proposed meeting of A level Sociology teachers and the BSA as outlined above.
What am I looking for?
I would like contributions from students, teachers, academics, authors that address how important sociology is for understanding contemporary issues. Some of the issues I thought that sociology may tackle are:
Representations of Brexit in Media
Mental Health (adult and child)
Poverty in Western Nations
Food Bank Usage
Proposed nationalisation of private schools
Zero Hours Contracts
Re-emergence of racism in media
Knife Crime, youth crime, gang crime
Representations in the media
Division – gender assignment, faith, sexuality and increasing aggression to minority groups
This is not an exhaustive list, which is why Sociology is so vital to understanding society. While some of these topic areas have root causes in areas of the specification, examining areas outside of the specification shows the contemporary relevance of sociology.
Benefits of #sociologymatters
The work produced can be collated on either one site, or have a site with links to each individual website/youtube channel. This can then be used to promote to students the relevance of sociology, set challenges for students to contribute themselves, or even to be used as a unique selling point for institutions on open evenings that are pushing the study of sociology. I will set up a blogsite for those that wish to contribute and will list details of all contributors to the project.
Contributions can take any format you wish. Blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, posters, essays, interviews or simple statements that outline the importance of sociology to contemporary society (this could even be a tweet or an Instagram post using the hashtag). Blogs no more than 500 -1000 words, videos relatively short 10-15 mins max. My plan is not to limit people’s contributions, but rather to represent a broad range of skills and talents to promote sociology in the best way possible. I would only ask they be accessible to students in the 14-18 range and that they demonstrate the ethos of sociological debates on issues.
This is a new idea and one I hope will evolve. A way of getting the sociology community together (albeit virtually) to promote how important sociology is to understanding the chaos of contemporary society. If people would like to engage in the project or to offer other ideas as to how this idea may develop please contact me:
@thesociologyguy on twitter
thesociologyguy on instagram
Thank you for your time and I hope you will be involved.