"Apathetic, Active, or Antagonistic": A History of the American Sociological Association's Involvement in High School Sociology

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

The American Sociologist

Publication Date

Spring 2004

Abstract/ Summary

The role that the American Sociological Association (ASA) has historically played in reforming high school sociology courses has been alternately apathetic, active, or antagonistic. Apathy marked the time period between 1905 and about 1960, and again during most of the 1970s and 1980s. The Association played a much more active role during the New Social Studies movement of the 1960s, and has also been actively involved since the late 1980s. But even in its activity, the ASA has been antagonistic toward high school courses and teachers. During the 1960s, and again since about 1989, the ASA has pushed solely for the teaching of sociology as a scientific discipline. This approach has proven problematic for two reasons. First, it directly contradicts the traditional objective of the social studies curriculum—citizenship education. Teachers are much more concerned about molding good citizens than exposing students to the nuances of scientific inquiry. Second, it ignores the well-documented fact that high school sociology teachers typically have little training in, exposure to, or experience with formal, academic sociology. For that reason, they have had great difficulty satisfying the demands made by academic reformers. I conclude that the ASA must address these two issues and several others if it is serious about improving secondary sociology courses.