"It's Not Rocket Science!": High School Sociology Teachers' Conceptions of Sociology

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

The American Sociologist

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Abstract/ Summary

Since academic sociology's birth in this country, sociologists have not been shy about pub licly praising and ridiculing the discipline. Though sociologists have been the primary par ticipants in the seemingly endless debates about sociology's proper subject matter, methods, and purpose, there is another group that has also struggled over the past 95 years to formulate a conception of the discipline?high school sociology teachers. At this point, we know virtu ally nothing about what the thousands of high school teachers who offer sociology each year, actually think about the discipline. This paper uses questionnaire and interview data collected from high school sociology teachers to examine their thoughts on four topics: (1) sociology's strengths, (2) its weaknesses, (3) whether high school students are capable of understanding the discipline, and (4) appropriate course objectives. The results indicate that high school teachers view sociology quite differently from academic sociologists, and that their concep tions are based primarily on "textbook sociology." I conclude by discussing the far-reaching implications of teachers' current thinking about the discipline.