Everyday life is often said to be the laboratory for sociology. This is certainly so, but it takes some direction to see the sociology around us. That is the goal of this book - to show beginning students that sociology can distinctly illuminate public issues. News reports of these issues rarely mention sociology, but there is conspicious sociology in the news. Indeed, most public issues directly interest sociologists, and just as they draw our professional attention, publick issues can prompt student interest in sociological thinking.
The subject matter of our introductory courses includes much that is familiar to student-crime, the family, politics, religion, and organizations. This familiarity, however, is both a blessing and an obstace to our efforts as teachers. We can refer to the social world and assume that there is common understanding and interest. Yet students are often so "close" to the subjects of our discussions that they may not recognize their sociological importance or question their own preconceptions. As sociology instructors, then, we need to draw on students' natural curiosity and help them understand their world in a distinctive way.
We hope this book will stimulate in students what C. Wright Mills called a "sociological imagination" - that is , an ability to see private troubles as private concerns. By applying sociological analysis to familiar public issues, we want to show students that a sociological imagination can be valuable, both personally and intellectually. As students engage these issues, we hope that the principles of sociology will become more clear and exciting.
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