This upper-level course is designed for a small group of students, up to 35. In the class, I seek to build studentsí knowledge of sociological perspectives on the family while strengthening their written and oral communication skills. The class is discussion based, and driven by student participation. I encourage critical thinking about how data on the family are collected, analyzed, and presented as "fact." Students also employ critical thinking skills in a final term paper project that is developed over the course of the semester, on a topic of their choice.
We are all experts of sorts on the family: We have lived in families, observed family dynamics, and compared our own family experiences with those of others. Families have been at the center of our personal and emotional lives. This course will provide an opportunity to look at something familiar (the family) in a new way. We will focus on the family as a social institution — set of structured social arrangements for meeting certain human needs — and we will examine the larger social forces that shape those structures. We will use a comparative approach to families, emphasizing their diversity both across time and space and within present-day U.S. society — paying particular attention to how social inequality shapes family experiences. By the end of the semester, you should be able to place your own personal experience of families in a larger social, cultural, and historical context.