Mrs. Savino Mulcahy's Course Website

"People make CHOICES.  Choices make HISTORY!" (Facing History and Ourselves)  Choose wisely!

What is Sociology Anyway? Why should I care?

What is Sociology? by Elisa Padilla

Sociology is the social science that studies groups of people and the society they inhabit.  Whereas Psychology studies the individual and how they are impacted by society, Sociology focuses on how groups create and even define a society.  Sociologists generate theories about social issues such as the role of gender roles, crime, age, racism, and culture through three theoretical perspectives:  Functionalist, Conflict and Symbolic Interactionist. Over the course of the semester you will learn to view various themes in sociology through those theoretical perspectives.  This course serves as a good introduction to the study of Sociology and will give you a solid foundation if you choose to take a Sociology course at the college level.  This course meets New Jersey Department of Education Core Curriculum Standards for Active Citizenship in the 21st Century.

Sociology Course Expectations

Download and read the Course Expectations for this course.  After you have a thorough understanding of what is expected of you and what we will accomplish this year, proceed to the registration phase.  You will be expected to register to use this website as well as receive e-mails concerning homework assignments and school updates.  You need to properly register which means listing your given First AND Last name, no nicknames.  You will be expected to check your e-mail regularly, at minimum of 2 times per week!

Intergenerational Studies

As a component of the Cranford High School Sociology program, students regularly meet with Senior Citizens from the community and discuss issues relevant to both groups.  During the Friday sessions, both students and Senior participants engage in insightful and reflective conversation on aging, finances, family, crime and education.  These sessions have become a highlight of the course for both students and Senior participants alike.

Theoretical Analysis Papers

During the course of the semester, films and television shows will be used to provide you with a means to analyze for content.  For each film/show you will complete a viewing sheet which has been specifically drafted for that media.  You are expected to thoroughly complete the viewing sheet and will use it as a means to collect evidence to prepare you for your Theoretical Analysis Paper. 

A Theoretical Analysis Paper enables you, the student, to demonstrate your understanding of the key concepts of each sociological theme.  The main objective of the Theoretical Analysis Paper is so demonstrate your ability to evaluate a theoretical perspective, create your own theory to support that perspective and use evidence to support your theory from  a sociological stand point.  

Sample Paper

Be mindful of the deadlines for each paper!

Intro to Sociology

The Sociological Perspective Sociology is the scientific study of social structure, examining human social behavior from a group, rather than an individual, perspective. Sociologists focus on the patterns of behavior shared by members of a group or society. The sociological perspective enables us to develop a sociological imagination—the ability to see the relationship between events in our personal lives and events in society. Using our sociological imagination helps us to make our own decisions rather than merely conform, and to question common interpretations of human social behavior.

The Origins of Sociology Sociology is a relatively young science, beginning in late nineteenth-century Europe during a time of great social upheaval. Intellectuals such as Auguste Comte, Harriet Martineau, Emile Durkheim, and others began to explore ideas for regaining a sense of community and restoring order. After World War II, however, the greatest development of sociology has taken place in the United States. Two early contributors were activists Jane Addams and W.E.B. DuBois, who helped focus people's attention on social issues.

Theoretical Perspectives Sociology includes three major theoretical perspectives. Functionalism focuses on the contributions of each part of society; the conflict perspective looks at conflict, competition, change, and constraint within a society; and symbolic interactionism considers the actual interaction among people. Each of these perspectives provides a different slant on human social behavior, so by considering all three perspectives together we can see most of the important dimensions of human social behavior.


Thinking Like a Sociologist: Ideal Types and Sociological Perspectives

Sociological Perspectives

Sociology 101 - Weber, Durkheim, Marx & Mills
Sociology 105 - Radical Max Weber
The Life and Work of Jane Addams
Cameron Russell: Looks aren't everything. Believe me, I'm a model.


The Basis of Culture Culture consists of the knowledge, language, values, customs, and physical objects that are passed from generation to generation among members of a group. It defines how people in a society behave in relation to others and to physical objects. Although among animals most behavior is determined by instincts, human social behavior is learned. Sociobiologists try to find a relationship among heredity, culture, and behavior.

Language and Culture One very important medium for transmitting and teaching culture is language. The hypothesis of linguistic relativity states that our idea of reality depends largely upon language; that is, our perceptions of the world depend in part on the particular language we have learned.

Norms and Values Two essential components of culture are norms and values. Norms are rules that define appropriate and inappropriate behavior; folkways, mores, and laws are three basic types of norms found in societies. Norms must be learned and are enforced through sanctions. Values are general and broad ideas shared by people in a society about what is good or desirable. They have a tremendous influence on human social behavior because they form the basis for norms. In the United States, examples of basic values include equality, democracy, and achievement and success.

Beliefs and Material Culture Along with norms and values, beliefs and physical objects also make up culture. Beliefs are part of the non-material culture. People base their behavior on beliefs, regardless of whether these are true or false. Material culture consists of concrete objects which gain meaning through the context in which they are placed. Sometimes in a culture, a gap exists between cultural guidelines and actual behavior. Ideal culture refers to cultural guidelines publicly embraced by member of a society, while real culture refers to actual behavior patterns.

Cultural Diversity and Similarity Cultures change over time according to three major processes—discovery, invention, and diffusion. Although cultural diversity exists within all societies, people tend to be committed to their culture—a behavior called ethnocentrism. However, some cultural traits called cultural universals can be found in all societies.


sociology class lecture Culture

Does language shape how we think? Linguistic relativity & linguistic determinism.

10 Surprising Ways To Offend People In Other Countries
Breaking Folkways 2013
Breaking Social Norms Experiment


The Importance of Socialization Socialization is the cultural process of learning to participate in group life. It begins at birth and continues throughout life, and without it, we would not develop many of the characteristics we associate with being human.

Socialization and the Self All three theoretical perspectives agree that socialization is needed if cultural and societal values are to be learned. Symbolic interactionists, however, have the most extensive interpretation of the relationship between socialization and human nature. They use a number of concepts—the self-concept, the looking-glass self, significant others, role taking, and the generalized other—to explain the processes of socialization.

Agents of Socialization Various agents influence the socialization of a person, namely the family, school, peer groups, and mass media. For children, the peer group is the only agent of socialization not controlled primarily by adults.

Processes of Socialization Symbolic interactionism views socialization as a lifelong process. Learning new behaviors and skills is important to socialization, and it occurs through four major processes—desocialization, resocialization, anticipatory socialization, and reference groups.


Agents of Socialization

Sociological Research: Socialization, Spanking and the Pragmatic Use of Research by Dan Krier

GI Jane Full Movie

Social Structure & Society

Social Structure and Status The underlying pattern of social relationships in a group is called social structure, and it helps us to know how to act in various group situations. The major elements of social structure are statuses and roles. Status describes the position a person occupies in a social structure; it may be ascribed or achieved.

Social Structure and Roles An expected behavior associated with a particular status is called a role. Roles describe behaviors—rights are behaviors that individuals expect from others, while obligations are behaviors that individuals are expected to perform toward others. Conflict or strain sometimes results when a person has too many roles to play.

Preindustrial Societies Societies are categorized as preindustrial, which can include hunting and gathering, horticultural, pastoral, or agricultural; industrial; or postindustrial. The culture and social structure of a society are greatly affected by the way the society provides for basic needs. For example, hunting and gathering societies are small and nomadic; they are based on cooperation and sharing with little concept of ownership or status.

Industrial and Postindustrial Societies Industrial societies differ from earlier societies in that they depend on science and technology to produce basic goods and services. In postindustrial societies the economic emphasis is on providing services and information. Some sociologists believe that the transition from an industrial to a postindustrial society has increased social instability.

Social & Global Stratification

Stratification is a hierarchy of positions with regard to economic production which influences the social rewards to those in the positions.

Class is large set of people regarded by themselves or others as sharing similar status with regard to wealth, power and prestige.

Primitive communalism characterized by a high degree of sharing and minimal social inequality. Slavery involving great social inequality and the ownership of some persons by others. Caste in which an individual is permanently assigned to a status based on his or her parents' status. Estate in which peasants are required by law to work land owned by the noble class in exchange for food and protection from outside attacks.

Openness is the opportunity for individuals to change their status. Caste stratification systems are closed whereas class stratification systems are more open. The degree of equality is the degree to which the social structure approaches an equal distribution of resources. Hunting and gathering societies are typically very equal with inequality developing in later stages of agriculture and industrialization.


Social Class in the United States of America_ Social Stratification and Divisions (1957)
Marx's Social Theory on Class Structure


Group Identity - Ingroup and Outgroup Formation
10 Infamous Prison Gangs
High School Social Groups | WHYY Afterschool

Deviance, Crime & The Legal System

Deviance and Social Control Deviance refers to behavior that departs from societal or group norms, but it is difficult to define because not everyone agrees on what should be considered deviant behavior. Deviance may be either positive—involving behavior that overconforms to expectations, or negative—involving behavior that underconforms to accepted norms. All societies employ various means of social control to promote conformity to norms.

Functionalism and Deviance According to functionalists, deviance has both negative and positive consequences for society. A negative effect of deviance is that it erodes trust; benefits of deviance to society can be that it acts as a temporary safety valve and increases unity within a society or group. The strain theory and control theory of deviance are based on the functionalist perspective.

Symbolic Interactionism and Deviance Symbolic interactionists support the differential association theory of deviance—that deviance is transmitted through socialization. This perspective also yields the labeling theory, which states that an act is deviant only if other people identify it so. Symbolic interactionists also distinguish degrees of deviance—primary deviance describes isolated acts of deviance by a person, while secondary deviance refers to deviance as a lifestyle and a personal identity.

Conflict Theory and Deviance The conflict perspective looks at deviance in terms of social inequality and power. The rich and powerful use their positions to determine which acts are deviant and how deviants should be punished. Supporters of this theory believe that minorities receive unequal treatment in the American criminal justice system.

Crime and Punishment Crime statistics in the United States are gathered by the FBI and the Census Bureau. Juvenile crime—legal violations committed by those under 18 years of age—are the third largest category of crime in the United States. Various methods are employed to try to discourage crime, including deterrence, retribution, incarceration, and rehabilitation.


What the Cluck? Social Deviance Project

Law and Social Controls (1949)
Breaking Social Norms and Folkways

Inequalities of Race and Ethnicity

Minorities, Race, and Ethnicity Sociologists have developed specific definitions and characteristics to differentiate the terms minority, race, and ethnicity. A minority is a group of people with physical or cultural traits different from those of the dominant group in society. A race is people who share certain inherited physical characteristics that are considered important within a society. An ethnic group is one identified by cultural, religious, or national characteristics. Negative attitudes toward ethnic minorities exist in part because of ethnocentrism.

Racial and Ethnic Relations Generally, minority groups are either accepted by a society—which leads to assimilation, or they are rejected—which leads to conflict. Patterns of assimilation in the United States include Anglo-conformity, melting pot, cultural pluralism, and accommodation. Three basic patterns of conflict are subjugation, population transfer, and genocide—the most extreme form of conflict.

Theories of Prejudice and Discrimination To a sociologist, prejudice refers to widely held preconceptions of a group and its individual members. It involves a generalization based on biased or insufficient information. Racism is an extreme form of prejudice. Prejudice usually leads to discrimination. Functionalists recognize that by fostering prejudice, a dominant group can create a feeling of superiority over minority groups and thus strengthen its own members' self concepts. According to conflict theorists, a majority uses prejudice and discrimination as weapons of power to control a minority. Symbolic interactionists believe that members of a society learn to be prejudiced.

Minority Groups in the United States Minorities in the United States continue to suffer from what sociologists call institutionalized discrimination. This type of discrimination results from unfair practices that are part of the structure of society and that have grown out of traditional, accepted behavior. It has caused some racial and ethnic groups to lag behind the white majority in jobs, income, and education. Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and white ethnics are the largest minority groups in the United States.


Jennifer Lee and Dalton Conley discuss the difference between race and ethnicity
Redefining Race and Ethnicity in the US

Inequality of Gender and Age

Sex and Gender Indentity All societies expect people to behave in certain ways based on their gender. Sociologists are part of an ongoing debate over whether biology or socialization plays a greater role in gender differences. Most argue that gender-related behavior is not primarily the result of biology, but rather that through socialization, members of a society acquire an awareness of themselves as masculine or feminine.

Theoretical Perspectives on Gender Since functionalists argue that any pattern of behavior that does not benefit society will eventually disappear, they believe that the division of responsibilities between males and females survived because it benefited human living. They recognize that today, however, the traditional division has created dysfunctions for society. Conflict theory looks at the reasons why gender differences continue to exist. They see traditional gender roles as outdated and inappropriate for the industrial and postindustrial era. Symbolic interactionists focus on the process of gender socialization.

Gender Inequality Although significant progress has been made, women continue to be subject to prejudice and discrimination—or sexism. Women 

face occupational and economic inequality, and various laws even show a bias against women. Women also hold a relatively small proportion of important political positions.


Girl's rant targets gender roles, toys
'You Can't Be a Princess'

Age Stratification

Ageism The relatively low regard for older people in American society is based on ageism—a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify prejudice and discrimination against a certain age group. According to functionalists, elderly people are treated according to the role the aged play in a particular society. For conflict theorists, competition over scarce resources lies at the heart of ageism—elderly people compete with other age groups for economic resources, power, and prestige. Symbolic interactionists believe that negative images of older people are products of socialization just as are other aspects of culture.

Inequality in America's Elderly Population Large segments of America's elderly live either in poverty or near poverty. Given their limited economic resources, any power held by older people is gained through the political process—particularly voting and political interest groups.


Ageism: A short documentary

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