my post to a sociology list...
prior to teaching FT, i worked in the human services field for a total of about 15 years. i worked as a grant-writer, substance abuse counselor, facility director, family educator, trainer, administrator, and director of program evaluation in the fields of urban youth service delivery, substance abuse and family violence. i learned much.
one of the things i learned that is relevant to me as a sociologist is that social problems and social solutions to these problems are insitutionalized; i.e., the services that are offered to allegedly ameliorate the social problem(s) are simply insitutionalized responses and never truly end the social problem. if they were meant to do this, then every human service agencies' mission statement would be the same..." to end (social problem)." of course, most human service agencies do not have this as a mission statement and/or if they do, they don't really work towards ending the problem, because the problem is something that is far greater than any one agency can address. why? because any social problem results from the way the entire society is organized; fundamental sociology, yes?
i see this insight as being the main lesson for students to learn; they are not going to get this anywhere else.
from here, i think it is important for them to begin to understand how certain ideologies support the structures that maintain the problem(s). in other words, what do we say individually and collectively that allow us as a society to NOT change the way that we are organized? inasmuch as social organization creates and maintains the problems (and the responses), then it is the fundamental organization that must change. of course many students care about others, but they are going to be sucked into the maw of "adult" responsibilities like everyone else and are, in all likelihood, not going to make a career of human service work (and if they do, they are still NOT addressing the actual issue). can they increase their awareness of how they, like everyone else, maintain social problems simply by participating in the organization? i think so.
i think that young adults are able and willing to see their part and understand that it is not merely their part that contributes to the problem (so they don't need to feel guilty), but it is all of our parts that do (to the extent that we, collectively continue to reproduce the structures everyday); subsequently, it is fundamental organizational change which needs to occur. i also think that young adults are acutely aware of the hypocrisy, duplicity and ignorance that characterizes much of "adult" life and these insights should be validated by us (Bush says that Mike McConnell comes to him in August to tell him he has news about Iran's nuclear program and Bush doesn't ask him what it is???? And we are supposed to believe that and let that lie there??? My students know bullshit when they hear it and I am grateful that they do).
i also think that is important for them to understand that we are all under social control and this contributes to what maintains the structures from day to day. does anyone else think it odd that the only time we talk about social control is in reference to deviance as if it was never in effect any other time? students, like most people believe that they are autonomous agents that seemingly exist independently of other people and are not influenced by anyone else (like the GAP add..."be an original" -- with the 30 million other kids that wear GAP clothing).
to me the hope lies in the awareness that we can build a different society; that culture does change. the notion that social problems are somehow going to disappear by hard work, without any consideration of the fundamental social organization that perpetuates them, is inadequate and incomplete. i don't want to offer my students false hope; i want to offer them compelling information on what is happening.
rant suspended for now...