Timeless: How this Election Reminded Me of the Value in Sociology

By Colton Hattersley

When I was a freshman, I came to UT Dallas as a political science major. I had convinced myself that I loved politics, and was told that the only way to be Pre-Law was to major in political science. By the end of my freshman year, I realized that neither of those statements were true.

Politics weren’t my passion, and I found myself unhappy in the classes I was taking. I still had a devotion for the law and for justice, but that wasn’t rooted in a love for the systems that are meant to ensure those things. At the end of the day, the reason I was waking up each morning was a desire to fight for the rights of humanity. I saw sociology as the best way to understand and tap into that.

It’s been a few years since I switched my major to sociology, and I can’t help but chuckle at the irony that has come about in the status quo. Regardless of political ideology, it’s hard to deny the fact that current events related to the 2016 election have brought about a series of sociological implications that should lead to fruitful academic discussions.

I thought that entering the discipline of sociology would free me from the political sphere that I was immersed in through political science, but I was wrong. Seeing concepts from my sociology classes come to life in the real world has been wonderful, but also opened my eyes to the intersectionality of many academic disciplines. It reinforces the idea that an interdisciplinary education is valuable, and I am thus thankful that the sociology degree plan enabled me to take courses throughout many disciplines in EPPS.

What are some of those concepts that I mentioned earlier? Here are just a few – if you want to see more, you’ll have to take a class with any of the wonderful faculty we have in the sociology program.

  1. Conflict Theory – In Classical Social Theory (SOC 3303), one of the first major sociological theories that you learn was coined by Karl Marx. He discusses the constant conflict that society is in due to an economic struggle between the bourgeoisie, the wealthy, and the proletariat, the poor. This conflict was highlighted fairly consistently by Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. Rhetoric surrounding the plights of the lower and middle classes in the face of the wealthy parallel that of Marx, reinforcing the notion that sociological theories can still apply to society today.
  1. Organization and Mobilization – In Contemporary Social Issues (SOC 2320), we learned about the ways that social issues become social issues, and how different parties manage to organize and mobilize. The current political climate is by far the best example of how this works, as we’ve seen continued mobilization in the form of protest marches. Whether we’re talking about The Women’s March, the March for Life, protest rallies concerning the travel ban, or the March for Science that is in the works, individuals across the political spectrum have worked to provide a space for their ideas and values to be considered across society.
  1. Education Inequality – In Class, Status, and Power (SOC 4302), we spent a sizable amount of time looking at how disparities in education can have lasting impacts on overall success and mobility. Over the course of Senate confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education, these issues were forced into the spotlight. Though Mrs. DeVos has spent years advocating for types of education reform that would prioritize the right of parents to send their children to private or charter schools through vouchers, the lasting implications of this action have been testified about, widely reported, and brought to people who may have never considered them.

In a few months, I will cross the stage and accept my diploma, reflecting that I’ve earned a degree in sociology from UT Dallas. The education I received over the course of my college career is incredibly timely, in spite of some concepts being hundreds of years old. Even though there is much uncertainty around the future of our communities and nation with the new president in office, the things I’ve learned give me hope that progress will not be stopped. If you’re needing more hope, take a sociology class or two! You won’t regret it.

 

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