Utah is prepared to revolutionize higher education.
Training Future Activists
Academic sociology is a workshop for professional leftists.
The Florida Board of Governors’ recent decision to omit introductory sociology from the list of social science core courses in the state college and university systems was met with outrage by the heads of several sociology departments in Florida institutions. They claimed that sociology is a scientific field that gives students vital knowledge for their civic education and professional futures concerning “the social causes and consequences of human behavior…[and] patterns of organization and change in social life.”
The profession’s national organization, the American Sociological Association (ASA), responded to the Florida Board’s decision with its own statement, consonant with that of the Florida sociology chairs, defining sociology as “the scientific study of social life.”
I am a professional sociologist, with nearly a quarter century of experience in the field and a scholarly record of publications on the history of the discipline. I know that the Florida chairs and the ASA are not telling the truth.
The truth is that most of what is presented today as sociological knowledge to college students, in Florida and everywhere else, is straightforward political propaganda from the far Left. The discipline has devolved in recent decades into little more than academic cover for the dissemination of a radical ideology.
Sociology has never been a science. It has, in its best historical moments and incarnations, aspired to that identity. The first half century of the discipline’s existence as a formal entity in institutions of higher education boasted many thinkers who approached the study of the human world with objective rigor and methodological and theoretical tools modeled on those in the natural sciences.
By the start of the second half of the twentieth century, though, this perspective in sociology was under broad and sustained attack. Marxian perspectives were the first of a succession of “critical theories” that came to have more and more influence in the discipline. Feminist theories and partisan cultural political agendas around race masquerading as academic subjects followed. By the nineties, American sociology was dominated by these perspectives.
These “critical” perspectives on society are not scientific and do not aspire to science. By and large, the discipline is dedicated to refining and justifying ideologically-weighted outlooks on social questions. American sociology as reflected on the official page of the ASA consists of 53 recognized sections or sub-disciplinary topics of interest. Professional sociologists join and pay dues to sections as evidence of their commitment to exploring those topics.
Only two of these sections have more than 1,000 members. They are “Race, Gender, and Class” and “Sociology of Sex and Gender.” Three of the top four sections (“Racial and Ethnic Minorities” is fourth with 928 members) are straightforwardly concentrated on identity politics and inequality.
The organizing themes of the ASA’s national conventions demonstrate organized sociology’s preoccupation with promoting leftist identity politics. In 2024, the convention will focus on Intersectional Solidarities: Building Communities of Hope, Justice, and Joy. Preceding years’ themes include Bureaucracies of Displacement (2022), Emancipatory Sociology: Rising to the Du Boisian Challenge (2021), Power, Inequality, and Resistance at Work (2020), Engaging Social Justice for a Better World (2019), and Feeling Race: An Invitation to Explore Racialized Emotions (2018).
You can also find on the webpage a series of short “curated videos” representative of “some of the most pressing topics today.” These most pressing topics include “Complaining While Black” (which discusses racial disparities in complaints about police); “When Courts Embolden Police Misconduct”; “Shackling Children’s Futures” (on how incarceration impacts the children of imprisoned men); “Studying While Hungry”; “One Misfortune Away”; “Polluting the Voiceless”; “Do Men Matter More?”; “The Complexity of Gender Identity”; “Learning to Hate” (which concentrates on white supremacist and anti-LGBTQ groups); “Guns: Weapons or Tools?” (which examines “how gun owners are socialized to view guns as tools for self-defense”); “The Gospel of the Flag” (“explores differences between Christian nationalism and private religiosity”); and “Strangers in a Familiar Land” (discusses “discrimination [against] Mexican migrants”).
The ASA also has on its webpage a statement, produced in the wake of the George Floyd case’s national coverage in 2020, on race and racism in the U.S. It condemns American society, which it describes as focused on ruining the lives of American blacks. “Racism is…systemic…[and] pervasive in our society,” the statement explains. “It is embedded in everyday practices and policies…. It is a fiction that hard work on the part of minority groups is enough to overcome the consequences of systemic racism.”
This is sociology in contemporary America. It is generally indistinguishable from political activist movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, or MoveOn.
The Florida Board of Governors is correct that this discipline offers precious little useful contribution to the project of, as stated in the Florida Board of Education webpage, instilling in students “knowledge of America’s civics, particularly the principles reflected in the United States Constitution, so as to be capable of discharging their responsibilities as American citizens.”
Sociology in 2023 aims to turn students into bitter social justice warriors. It is really that simple.
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