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School and Society 1 – Session Eleven
Today’s Agenda
1. Reflective Response
2. Conformity (Dead Poets’ Society)
3. Single Stories
4. Important Sociological Concepts to Understand
5. Body Break & Social Break
Reflective Response
• Share your Reflective Response to the readings with each other.
• Use one or more of your discussion questions to deepen your thinking.
Single Stories
Chimamanda Adichie passionately and clearly teaches us the “danger of a single story” in
her 2009 TED Talk.
Single stories can include stereotypes, ideologies and, what sociologists call, cultural
hegemony. Stereotypes are overly simplistic generalizations about a subgroup of peoples.
Those that “stick” often are constructed by people with power and used to limit
opportunities for the stereotypes’ subjects. Ideologies are sets of ideas that shape how
people make sense of the world around them. Depending on the social power of those
holding and employing these ideologies, they can have significant impact on social
structures and the life chances of others. Cultural hegemony is a system beliefs, norms, and
values, shaped by the ruling-class, that justifies the status-quo as natural or normal, and
thus makes it invisible. These discourses shape what is knowable and sayable in any given
In your small groups decide upon a single story specific to perceptions in Manitoba. Jot
down your exploration of the selected single story. Create a poster to represent your ideas,
with the chart paper provided, for an informal poster presentation towards the end of
today’s session. Use the following steps as a guide:
The Story: Explain the single story you chose. To do this, outline its narrative and logic.
What is the story? What social inequality or issue does it attempt to explain?
Start the Story Earlier: Analyze where the story originated. Who created the story? What is
the function/dysfunction of the story? What happens if you start the story here/earlier?
How does the narrative shift?
Explore its Impact on Identity, Perceptions of Others, Social Relations, and Social
Institutions: How does the story affect people’s sense of self? How does it affect the way
people understand each other? How does the story affect contemporary social relations?
How does it contribute to the perpetuation of inequality in society? How has it become
Listen to Alternative Stories: What is the story told by the subjects of the story? How does
the story shift if you listen to these testimonies? What happens to the story if you follow the
perspective of those most oppressed by it/and or those able to see through the narrative?
Change the Story: How can the story be changed? What can you do in your daily life to
contribute to shifting the narrative? What can be done on a broader scale?
Adapted from:
Important Sociological Concepts to Understand
Study the following concepts carefully in preparation for our next activity:
Alienation (Seeman, 1972; 1983)
Powerlessness (sense of a lack of control over events)
Meaninglessness (the incomprehensibility of social affairs)
Normlessness (social norms that regulate conduct have broken down)
Self-isolation (withdrawal from social affairs)
Self-estrangement (self-alienation; a loss of intrinsic motivation/sense of pride)
Note: Discuss relationship between these types of alienation and the goals of
Sociological ambivalence (Merton & Barber, 1969)
Competing demands for time, energy and interest
Incompatible attitudes, beliefs, and activities
Originates within the social structures to which we belong
Authority (Spady, 1977; Clifton & Roberts, 1993)
Three mechanisms of control:
- Power; Persuasion; Authority
With authority, people comply with demands voluntarily and they at least initially withhold
judgment regarding the legitimacy of these demands.
Types of authority
Institutional authority can be either traditional (bound in the traditions of schools) or
legal (rights and obligations of those who teach)
Individual authority can be either expert (knowledge of content/pedagogy) or charismatic
(ability to make social-emotional connections with students)
Activity: Dramatic Concepts - In groups of four or five, theatrically represent as many of the
above concepts in bold as you can within five minutes. We will try to name them, by calling
out, as you perform.
Conformity at School - the Survival Answer - 1950's