Is sociology worth it in this day and age? Yes or no?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Luciano700, Jan 5, 2019.

  1. Luciano700

    Luciano700 Member

    I had an interest in sociology literally since what? 3rd grade, but didn't even start hearing the name itself until more recent

    But yeah is it worth it in this day and age? I may going to be getting some sort of right leaning or left leaning bias? Let me know if anyone has had experience in it

    I hear it has been hijacked so politically that it isn't even worth it, but I don't know so.
  2. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Personally I think it's a fascinating field of study, for a number of reasons. The controversies you point toward are one of the reasons. You might have to develop a "point of view" You might have to be able to defend it. Intellectual stimulation. Is there a lot of junk? You bet. That's true in lots of fields. But regardless of that, you've asked a question . . . "is it worth it?" It's a simple enough question but what does it actually mean. Will it get you a job? A BA in Sociology? No, not really. Night manager at Starbucks. Hey do you know how to make those cute little swirls in the cream on top? A BA in Sociology is not going to prepare you for any particular jobs. Even if you get a PhD, the market is saturated and competition for teaching jobs is intense. What chance does Lucky have with his online PhD? Slim, at best. There are a few programs around. Not especially cheap so keep an eye of ROI. Once upon a time I'd say, "Get your BA in Sociology and then go to law school. That's a bit dicey today. If I was walking out of a school with a BA in Sociology today, I'd be thinking about Journalism as a career, but that's not even close to be a sure thing either. The only other thing that comes to mind is the BA in Sociology followed by a career in human services. Psychology grad school somewhere and get your counseling license.
    Random thoughts over my first cup of coffee...
  3. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    Is it left leaning? Generally, yes (moderate to extreme). Is it fascinating, yes.

    Kizmet gave you good advice. The job market is mostly PhD level and very tight. If you are fascinated by it and passionate about it, by all means study it but be aware of the job situation, look for ways to get in the field, network with academics, and have alternatives in mind to traditional academia.
  4. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    Like Kizmet, I am not sure I understand your question (i.e. what does "worth it" mean?).

    I would agree suspect it cannot be monetized as well as other fields of study. I friend started a BA in sociology form LSE and I remember it seemed very interesting. I did just see a resume from someone with a sociology background who is in organizational development / HR for a large company in the US.

    It is possible to study something for joy and interest with the "option" to monetize at some point.

    As far as political leanings. I think we need to differentiate bias from academic consensus. Academic consensus around a position that is "left" on a political spectrum, for example, does not necessarily indicate bias but rather the result of inquiry in the field.
  5. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    I agree with everything said so far, except I can think of one job market for bachelors degrees in subjects like sociology. That's teaching what secondary schools call "social studies". Here in California they have 'multiple subjects' and 'single subjects' credentials. The multiple subjects credentials are typically for lower elementary grades, the single subjects credentials for secondary schools. The latter require a major in a relevant subject and completion of specified coursework.

    University teaching will be very hard, you need to have a PhD (and be the right race/gender).

    Almost always hard left. Back in the 1960's, sociology was one of the most popular majors for young "student movement" activists. The push then was to make sociology "relevant", a word synonymous with 'politicized' the way they used it. Today, those same activists are all tenured professors who control the intellectual outlook of their departments, graduate admissions and entry into the profession. Conformity is more important in their world than intellectual acuity.

    It's certainly no longer an objective unbiased search for knowledge. (If it ever was.) Sociology emerged in 19th century France as part of an 'Enlightenment' inspired social change program that imagined that if the methods of Newtonian physics could just be turned to social problems, all sorts of obscurantism could be swept away and a social utopia created. The 'Age of Reason'. Sociology has always had a social-change agenda. It was strongly influenced by Marxism back in the day (it's left its mark) and today it seems to be all about race-gender identity politics and what they term "social justice". If you disagree with any of that, you aren't not just intellectually wrong in their eyes, you are morally evil.

    While I don't have a lot of fondness for sociology or sociologists, I do have some philosophical interest in the subject, in the intellectual problems it raises such a social ontology and in whether it could ever qualify as a 'science' in the same sense as natural science, or whether it's just too fundamentally subjective and interpretive for that to be possible. Verstehen, hermeneutics and all that. So I prefer to consider sociology from outside, from a philosophy of social science perspective.
    Luciano700 likes this.
  6. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    And what is the "right race/gender?"
  7. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I completely agree. As a real world example, I recently had an exchange on Twitter with Sara Goldrick-Rab, an academic sociologist who's made a name for herself writing on issues of the costs of higher education. The topic was whether residential colleges and universities should provide room and board to students over holiday breaks for no additional fee. One of the points made by the proponents of this proposal was that it would be revenue neutral because the costs would be made up for by improved student retention. Now, I didn't challenge any of this -- in fact I actually think it's a good idea! -- I simply had the audacity to ask whether there were any studies that confirm that particular point of revenue neutrality, and for this alone she became unpleasant, challenging me personally and dismissing any need for such studies, as to her it was so obviously the right thing to do.

    Now, I realize the plural of "anecdote" is not "data". But given everything I've read from academic sociologists, I was completely unsurprised by her hostility. Hers was not a scientific response, it was an ideological, even quasi-religious response. If you go into academic sociology, be prepared either to adhere strictly to the orthodoxy of far-left intersectionality or face the unpleasant life of a heretic.
  8. Phdtobe

    Phdtobe Well-Known Member

    I think you should go ahead and study sociology. You will save yourself many years of grief , regret, dissonance etc because it will be almost impossible to turn off your interest in sociology. My guess you were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth so you will be forced to find ways of monitizing your knowledge. Keep in mind that businesses are social organizations, and many of them are more complex than societies. My advice is to diversify your skill set of sociology, with another related field such as organizations behavior, management, hr, etc.
  9. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    That's an interesting question. My bachelor's degree is in social science, so it included a lot of sociology coursework (and anthropology as well as psychology) but I do not work in social sciences, so I can't speak about the industry, but for sure it's liberal leaning, no question, and your classes will be. But that doesn't mean YOU have to change YOUR politics. I'm about as far right as a girl can be without wearing camo - but I think it depends on what you want to do with the degree.
    Edit to add: in general, social sciences is in the bottom quarter for pay - you can study just about anything else and earn more. Even mid-career professionals who have professional degrees (like a social worker) are not killing it financially. I like the suggestion of using it as a stepping stone degree (which is what I did) because you can study the topic without the pressure to pursue it as a career, however, be careful that the master's or doctorate you're aiming for doesn't have certain undergrad requirements you can't meet in that degree and you'll be fine.
    PS You can get a degree in liberal arts as well, it's not specific to social sciences, but you can do that for about $5000 all in from Thomas Edison State University, and a good number of your courses can be in social sciences. I paid just under that for mine.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
  10. sube

    sube Member

    The friends I went to college with who got a BA in sociology ended up as social workers (low pay, high stress work). My BA is in psychology and while it was an interesting degree and I have no regrets, it isn't very practical on its own, meaning if you wanted to go into the field, you'd have to get at least a master's. Sociology is the same, depending on what you want to go into. I ended up going into a completely different field.

    I would agree with what Phdtobe suggested and diversify. Maybe get your BA in sociology and a master's in HR or I/O psych.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
  11. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    It must be true because I read it on the internet

    "A degree in sociology can qualify you for a career in human services administration, counseling, journalism, public office, law enforcement, corrections, social work or education, to name just a few. It could also be a great starting point on your way to an advanced degree in psychology or public research."
  12. Phdtobe

    Phdtobe Well-Known Member

    I am not surprise because many of the softer courses in business are combinations of the fields you mentioned. A degree in sociology, psychology, philosophy etc is definitely a good jumping off point to prepare for other careers. Even harder courses like economics are influence by philosophy, psychology, and sociology. Corporate Strategy is now big business; my guess it is easier with a sociology background.
  13. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    I agree. Sociology is so thoroughly politicised that it doesn’t even recognize it any longer. By that I mean, it possesses such a leftward orientation that there’s little or no internal dialogue that might highlight political biases within the discipline. Studies are conducted with presuppositions so foundational that they can’t not influence outcomes, but those presuppositions are so much an assumed part of the way the world works or how a group must be motivated that they slip through unnoticed.

    And before someone plays the role of Steve Foerster’s debate/sparring partner, no, I am not going to seek or cite any quantifiable studies to support my observation. Instead, I refer questioners to the article discussed on this forum last year about fat-shaming otherising squirrels: A laugh at the expense of academia is good for the soul.
  14. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    Steve, it's too late to edit, but although I failed to remember and then mangled the context of your comment above, I was trying to make a point at the expense of Goldrick-Rab's intolerance, not take a shot at you. My mistake, and I should know better than to post before my cup of coffee.

    I hope everyone still gets a chuckle out of the squirrel thread and linked article!
    SteveFoerster likes this.
  15. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    My Social Sciences degree works for me because it's not my professional qualification, it's more of a foundation upon which I stand my other credentials.

    As far as the actual study, well, I went into it wanting to better understand humanity, and myself, and I left with a very bitter taste in my mouth. I thought I was going to learn science (it's in the name!) and wound up being fed thousands of pages of political propoganda.

    There is plenty of value to understanding human behavior, but I am of the opinion that the contemporary paradigm in the field of Sociology is less about discovering truths and more about recruiting activists.
  16. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    I have never studied Sociology in a big way but I am happy enough to stipulate that it is a left-leaning discipline at this time. I feel the need to point out though that if this is the case then it came to be that way, in part, by having right-leaning people abandon the field. Sometimes right-leaning people speak about these matters as if this evolution was something that was done to them as opposed to being a process in which they participated themselves. If it's important to you that something ends in a certain way or goes through a certain process then you need to be involved in having that happen. If you are not involved in any way they you really can't be credibly upset that some other group of people took the project to a different ending. Thanks for rediscovering the "conceptual penis" article. It's a funny/sad example of how things have gone to a crazy place in that world.
  17. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    This. And it's sociology AND psychology. The overwhelming bent is not to understand, but to evangelize - promote- justify - defend- whatever you want to call it. It's essentially a snowflake machine.

    I've taken Social Psychology (almost 10 years ago) so I'm interested and decide to watch my son's Social Psychology lesson last week. The unit title is called Stereotypes, Prejudice, & Discrimination. (ok, no problem yet- teach me).

    We then begin to learn about the differences between sex and gender. (odd location to place the biological definition of sex, but ok, I'll bite, because they're going to sell gender as flexible, I see it coming....but in the context of discrimination, so I'm fine with that).

    For a full 2/3 of the lesson, there is no discussion of stereotype, prejudice or discrimination. Instead, the indoctrination of "intersex" - having an extra X or Y chromosome (again, biology, no problem) but "Scientists now acknowledge that because of intersexed conditions, there are really more sexes than just male and female. If you count all the different possible intersex conditions, you might say that there could be 20 different possible sexes, or more." (Now wait a minute. Since I can do math, I would argue that no combination or permutation of X and Y can make more than 20 possible sexes, is this fiction or are they just bad at math?) So now that they've undermined your biological understanding of sex taught to you in Bio101 (male/female is a lie), they're coming in for the punch.

    "While most people think of sexual orientation as being the categories of heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, many researchers believe that sexuality is actually more like a continuum or sliding scale that can change through life, and that most people fall somewhere in the middle of the scale, indicating at least a little bisexual interest."

    I wonder who these researchers are, my guess is that they're NOT scientists, they're social scientists. But to tell my son that everyone is bisexual (which by default promotes the idea not only that it is normal, but that NOT being bisexual would be ABNORMAL) is not an understanding of "sociology" the academic discipline looking at society through a neutral lens- it's the promotion of a new agenda. Sociology, when done right, looks at the society as an informant. Current sociology is attempting to change society, and THAT is wrong. EVEN IF I agreed with the ridiculous lesson they presented, the notion of influence over informing undermines their credibility as an academic discipline.

    EDIT to add: the question from the chapter quiz- just in case you missed their point in the lesson.

    Alfred Kinsey proposed a controversial idea that sexual orientation should be considered as a continuum or scale, instead of a group of categories. This theory implies that, statistically, most people will be at least a little _____?
    Your Answer

  18. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I think it's perfectly reasonable to teach students about this "idea" (theory? hypothesis? law? something scientific at all???), but to do so uncritically and on the basis of the authority of unnamed researchers is intellectually offensive. If liberal arts courses were doing their job correctly, this is exactly the kind of poorly presented material that students would be learning how to NOT trust.

    Welcome to today's academic world of self-parody, where their quality standards are unabashedly lower than those of Wikipedia:

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  19. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    I think that a lot of very good and relatively unpoliticized work in what might broadly be called 'human science' is currently coming out of 'cognitive science'. In my experience, generally speaking, the more abstract a university subject is, the less politicized it is. We still don't have radical social-change mathematics (yet). The natural sciences are relatively untainted by the intellectual rot (so far).

    Which of course leaves the so-called "social sciences". Are they now, and have they ever been, sciences in the same sense that physics and molecular biology are? Which of course requires that we clarify how we are using the word 'science'. What qualities distinguish 'sciences' from areas of academia that aren't sciences or scientific? And as I suggested up above, the 'social sciences' might have always had a bit of an ideological edge, intended from the beginning to bring about "progressive" social change by application of the supposedly invincible methods of science to areas of more direct human concern.

    Which suggests that another subject for people interested in 'human science' to to consider is philosophy. Personally, I still like philosophy. Or at least philosophy in its Anglophone "analytic" variant. It remains less politicized than many of the 'social sciences', perhaps because it addresses areas of interest by asking fundamental questions at a very high level of abstraction. Obviously some philosophical specialties are better than others in that regard. It's hard to politicize something like philosophical logic. But little or nothing of any intellectual value has ever come from feminist philosophy or race/class/gender theory, currently very popular intellectual black holes (in my opinion at least).

    So a prospective philosophy student would have to choose his/her specialty with care. Prospective graduate students should familiarize themselves with who is publishing what, and whose philosophical views they find most interesting or valuable. Departmental rankings, even in something like the Philosophical Gourmet Report are based on where the star professors are teaching, a single big name can bump up a department, and that star professor might hold very strong views that a prospective student might not be comfortable with. (And it's just a fact of academic life that you aren't going to survive in a doctoral program if you are perceived as trying to undermine the reputations of the department's professors.) So it might be best for such a student to seek a department with more appropriate professors for his/her prospective area of specialization, even if it's a somewhat lower ranked department. That's one (of many) of the reasons why I take university rankings with a massive grain of rock salt.

    Here's a book that I purchased the other day that approaches the subject of human behavior in a way that I like. Rather than casting moral condemnation on all the authors' perceived political enemies, it inquires into the nature of moral agents, the relationship of moral choice to desire, emotion and reason, and moves on to virtues, responsibility and eudaimonia. It approaches a subject (ethics) that could easily be politicized and moralized, and instead treats it intelligently and straight.

    So I haven't entirely given up hope about the value of higher education, not quite yet.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  20. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    I loved the one class in sociology that I took. Cultural anthropology had to be my favorite college course. I liked it so much I took two more classes in anthropology. It put me firmly into the 5 year graduation plan but I never regretted that. I wanted to get a job out of school though and so majored in Computer Science. I still read books about sociology and anthropology for entertainment though. I highly recommend expanding one's horizons in college. I have to be more reserved though in recommending majors in those type topics.

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