Thursday, June 2, 2011
High School Sociology in the Real World
My senior year of high school I took a sociology class from this great woman. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I don't remember her actual name, but everyone called her Yoda. Don't consider this insulting, she didn't actually look or talk like Yoda, but she was a very intelligent (and short) woman who was capable of really grabbing her students' attention.
In college one of my majors was Anthropology. Sociology and Anthropology are rather similar studies, but curiously this high school class was what steered me away from the Sociology route to favor Anthropology. I think it was because I didn't care as much about present social issues as I do about those that occurred in the past. Reading back through that sentence, that sounds really stupid. Shouldn't I be more concerned with modern social issues that are affecting my present and future? But I guess I've always been more of a history buff than anything else. Anthropology is a nice balance between history and sociology.
But I digress...
Back to this Sociology class: One of our final papers in the class was to take a social norm and turn it upside down in a public setting. Yoda cited many examples of past students' projects, including:
1. One year, a student asked one of his teachers if he could use the restroom in class. When the teacher consented he walked over to the classroom's trash can and relieved himself into the receptacle, much to the entire classroom's amazement. What everyone didn't know was that he had strapped an IV bag and tube around his leg and wired the tube through the fly of his pants (his mother was a nurse). Curiously, the kid got detention for this little prank, but he got an A on the paper.
2. Another year, a student went shopping at Tuesday Morning (sort of like a dollar store) and tried to barter for her purchases instead of paying cash for them. To her amazement, both the cashier and the store manager took her request very seriously and almost allowed the trade, but in the end they determined that it was "against store policy."
Earlier in the day before receiving this assignment, I had just been complaining to my friends about all of the PDA couples in the hallways of our high school. NOBODY CARES that you two are in a relationship and capable of expressing it. WE DON'T WANT TO SEE IT. Just post it on Facebook and leave it at that.
This venting turned out to be the perfect topic for my project. I wanted to see how these couples would react if, instead of averting my eyes and trying to ignore their presence, I walked right up to them and watched them do their thing. I selected three reliable couples that were punctual and constant in their PDA practices so they'd be easy to track down. Across one week, I located each couple and watched them. The results were quite interesting:
Couple 1: This was a devout and passionate couple. Dear Couple #1 did not miss a single beat as I stood there.
Couple 2: Thankfully, this couple noticed me, or I would have had a very uninteresting paper. It took them about 45 seconds (which seemed like forever to me), but they eventually looked up, gave me a disgusted yet uncomfortable look, and walked away with their hands still intertwined.
Couple 3: These two were my most entertaining. Their usual meeting spot was in a more secluded nook in the senior locker hall. Right after lunch I went to their spot and waited for them. Sure enough they arrived, but they didn't notice me waiting around the corner. As soon as they began their reunion from what I'm sure was a grueling 50 minutes of separation, I walked up next to them, leaned against a locker, and watched. Mind you, this was rather awkward for me, and definitely out of my comfort zone, but it was in the name of science! and I worked to keep a calm appearance. After a few minutes the couple noticed me and asked if they were blocking my locker. "No," I smiled, "You guys are just fine." And I continued to watch. Here's the fun part: they almost went back to their kissing! This would have made for an interesting turn of events, but instead the girl smiled shyly at the guy, they glanced back at me with a confused and disgusted look, and continued on their way down the hall.
I find such experiments to be quite interesting. It's so fascinating to see how people react when their social habits are challenged in some way. This was just something I was reminiscing about earlier today...
Question: When has one or more of your social norms been turned upside down? How'd you take it?