Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. ~Noam Chomsky
Revolution is but thought carried into action. ~Emma Goldman
My approach to teaching sociology reflects my favorite college professor’s counsel to “keep one foot in the library and one foot in the gutter.” In other words, learn the theory and methods offered by academia but do not lose sight of people’s everyday lives. My pedagogy emphasizes mediating these gaps to interrogate popular myths and inspire solving social problems. I love teaching sociology because it allows me to foster this kind of critical thinking and encourage a community of learners to grapple with the complexities of social life with the direct aim of striving toward equitable social change. Key to this process is a student-centered approach aimed at working with the variety of backgrounds and learning styles in each course. I have found that responding with a range of teaching methods enriches the terrain upon which the sociological imagination grows. Diversifying my teaching also fosters greater confidence from students as I facilitate the process of how to break down individual barriers to sociological learning and increase human empathy. In brief, this collective practice confronts many taken for granted assumptions, sensitizes students to other people’s social position, and links their personal experiences to larger social processes.
To balance the library with the gutter I challenge students’ opinions with theoretical, empirical, and ethnographic readings of the social world that we collectively investigate in the classroom. This often leads to despondency given some of the entrenched structural inequalities they encounter through this learning process. As a counterbalance, I imbue my courses with assignments and activities that help students develop a political imagination capable of thinking through the different ways to advance social equity. I remember as an undergraduate how exciting sociology classes became when I could connect my learning to everyday life and struggles to realize the democratic ideals of liberty and equality. Therefore, I encourage intellectual debate that builds on outside experiences as a method for envisioning real utopias. The explorative melding of social science with socially embedded critical thinking builds a foundation for students to confidently turn their imaginations into action.
I am passionate about teaching sociology because it helps students cut through the assumptions informing public discourse on pressing social problems, while offering methods for unpacking how best to civically engage.