Anthropology, Sociology, Mythology, Nursery Rhymes, and What We Should Be Thinking Here

Far too often cultures clash because they do not understand the significant of the other. Interestingly enough, many cultural, religious, or spiritual realm norms of a past, present, or future society or civilization has deep meaning, and it is completely relevant. I’d like to send your mind on a quick journey and into a thought process of such topics, even if you are not one to care much for the subject.

You see, not long ago, I was talking with a gentleman in South Africa who specialized in Mythology, Fairy Tales, Dream Work, Personal Transformation Facilitation, Native American Teachings and Cultural Wisdom. Now you can imagine that most folks would look at this guy and say; “oh great, another nut case,” and if you did you’d have done what most might.

But, let’s talk about all this for a moment shall we? You see, Fairy Tales are interesting, and yes, Humpty Dumpty was pushed, and Indeed, I suppose there are underlining multiple themes running through Shakespeare’s plays too, as they were appealing to both sides, allowing us to laugh at ourselves in fiction without either side required to admit the realities. They make you think, had you ever considered that?

Can we use tales, allegories, stories, mythology, and analogy-like cultural quotes to teach our offspring? If you answered yes, you are correct and if you think about we do this every day in our culture, all cultures do. It doesn’t matter if you are quoting Confusions, Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Plato, Mohammed, or any cultures’ past notables; see that point?

Native Indians in the US are very interesting to study, have you studied the Aborigines of Australia, Islanders of the South Pacific, American Indians, Indians of the Americas too; if not you should go online and learn all you can, there is a lot of wisdom to be discovered, truly there is. What about the Eskimo, and other Northern American Indians, and the tribes of Africa as well? Yes, you will find more of the same, trust me, go research some of this online yourself.

My acquaintance [loosely used] was also a student of Jungian Psychology, well regarding the Jung psychological study of the subconscious mind, there might be undiscovered biological, scientific, or quantum mechanical explanations for some of that? For instance, do you have any thoughts on Rupert Sheldrake’s work with African Tribes knowing when the hunting parties had made a kill, even when it was 25-30 miles away, and they’d start up the BBQ pit in pre-preparation knowing this – that’s pretty amazing isn’t it?

This acquaintance was also into “BioDanza” which was a new term for me, but there is good information on this in WikiPedia online. Consider if you will large groups of people dancing in a circle holding hands, well, what else is going on during such a tribal like encounter with that group? Maybe more than scientists realize. How so you ask?

Well, maybe all this sociological and anthropological study that goes back 1,000 generations is onto something, maybe they could teach modern science a thing or too? Think not – maybe you like me question superstition, but it’s still worthy of study, and we need to explain how and why this works. With regards to “Biodanza dance experience”, I would say that if that group is bouncing up and down dancing, it might be akin to running, which tends to place an individual into an extreme endorphin rush.

What if groups of people are doing this, as they dance they are also, follow with me as I explain this, exiting the body into biorhythms which pleases the human cells, bacteria, brain, and immune system, in the areas of 1-5 Hz, and that is why the biodanza experience works? And if that is all it is, then, why add superstition to it. Also if many people are doing it at the same time, their minds are all working on nearly the same frequencies and biorhythms, so it should be expected the resultants of such a group dance?

In fact, in that case, the biodanza has great implications for success of the tribe group, group thinking, and working together in a strong family like group. Now then you might ask; why the mythology behind what is perfectly normal, why make it into such a huge revelation and add in all the other stuff, it just is. Sure, but realize even without understanding why it works, these groups, tribes, and cultures have been doing this for 10s of 1,000s of years, and science still hasn’t figured it out.

The Teaching of Sociology

I believe that there is a good case for the teaching of every social science. In particular I support the call for the teaching of sociology to all students in Grade 12 and above. At least one year of study will provide students with the knowledge and skills that will contribute toward their social and academic development. However, it can be offered as an elective to all others who wished to pursue it at a higher level of study. In some countries sociology is taught to students who are 16 and over on a voluntarily basis. I think it is much too important to be treated in this manner.

The Nature of Sociology

Sociology has been defined as many things. In its embryonic stages its founder Comte (1798-1857) thought it to be a natural science no different from biology, chemistry or physics. He believed that it was possible to predict human behavior and so control it in much the same way natural scientists controlled matter. Later on Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), another French sociologist, pioneered the use of statistical analysis in the study of suicide, a social phenomenon. Durkheim argued that in this way it was possible to determine the causal and correlation (al) relationships that exist between and among social variables. These he called ‘social facts.’ Suicide and marriage are examples of social facts because they have an existence outside the individual and their rates can be quantified so that their impact on human behavior can be ascertained via the use of inductive approaches.

Sometime later in Germany Max Weber (1964-1920) launched a scathing counter attack against the use of statistics in the study of human behavior. He claimed that the true goal of sociology is verstehen-interpretive understanding of the procedures people use to understand others during their interactions with them. In this way he provided the impetus for the development of the hermeneutic approach in sociology which proposed that the discipline was rather a social science aimed at understanding how behavior was understood using direct and indirect observation of social phenomena. Many others such as George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer and Alfred Schutz have followed Weber’s lead and have promulgated the belief that interpretive approaches and perspectives such as Symbolic Interactionism and Phenomenology.

During the 1950s a group of French philosophers (postmodernists) embarked upon a severe critique of meta- cognition or the thinking of generalizability. This has been the general or overarching principle of both the natural and social science dogmas. The main similarity between them is the proclivity to generalize about the nature and direction of human behavior. This has influenced the writings of others such as Lyotard and de Baudrillard whose works have been applied to the study of sociology. They have argued that in contemporary times (especially since WWII) perspectives such as Marxism have become irrelevant to our understanding of social life. For them life has become centered round signs and symbols. Material goods only become important in so far as they convey specific meanings- signs and symbols. Language is ever more important since it is oft times used to perpetuate a duality. For example the sexual power duality is reproduced in society through language. Because of the verbal portrayal of differences in power between men and women, women are perceived as evil and bad and men as good and rational and this acts as a form of legitimization of sexual politics.

As a direct consequent of these three major debates about the nature of sociology it is extremely difficult to define sociology with any degree of certainty. We know more about what it is not rather than what it in actuality is. Despite this though there is an informal consensus of sorts among its adherents purporting that sociology is a social science in much the same way that psychology, anthropology, economics and political science are.

I have even noted that not much is taking place in changing the face of sociology. It has become stagnated not merely because of the centrality of classical themes such as the role of the bourgeoisie in modern capitalism and the social factors contributing to structured inequality.

Additionally not much has taken place by way of creative innovations in methodological, theoretical and practical shifts or focuses. Despite this drawback though the discipline retains much relevance to social life and should be taught formally in all schools at least from Grade 12.

Some Benefits of Teaching Sociology

These are based on my experience in teaching sociology at advanced level (Grade 13 and higher) for over 10 years in the island of Trinidad.

It facilitates the all round development of the learner (providing ample opportunity for cognitive, affective and psychomotor development).
Students learn analytical skills which help them appreciate the nature of social structure and individual interaction both between and within societies (most importantly theirs)

An example of this is de-constructing or analyzing issues or problems

By practicing essay writing they (students) learn to organize and structure ideas logically (sequentially and chronologically if necessary). This is significant for building synthesis and critical thinking skills.
Skills of note-taking and note-making are enhanced. However, those of the latter should be emphasized since they allow for the development of student autonomy.
Students are allowed the opportunity to plan (for writing) and engage in abstract problem solving skills and competencies.
Twentieth-first century skills such as cooperation, team-work and project management can be and are developed and enhanced.
It provides opportunity for the enhancement of communicative competence since students participate in debates and discussion about research studies, theories and perspectives.
Students are impelled to become more culturally relative and less ethnocentric since they come to appreciate that culture cannot and should not be judged in relation to another. It meets the needs of a particular society or subgroup.
It teaches them about the nature and causes and consequences of different forms of inequality such as sex and gender, race/ethnicity, social class and age. Additionally, they learn to become empathetic about marginalized groups and individuals.
Students develop citizenship values and attitudes, and decision-making. This helps them to function effectively as members of democratic societies.
It allows for the appreciation of diversity in the presentation of ‘social reality’ so that they come to perceive the differences between universal and culturally specific features of social life.
It provides opportunity to view knowledge in a holistic way since sociology is so multi-disciplinary as is social work for instance.

Some Suggestions for the Effective Teaching of Sociology

Use students’ experience to help them connect the theories to real world or life experiences.
Use a combination of teacher-centered and student-centered approaches. Teacher-centered methods such as lecturing and note-giving are better to use for introducing topics, concepts and issues before deep understanding is developed via the use of child-centered methods such as projects, group work and field work.
Use a variety of resources in the same lesson. Pictures, diagrams and audio material are excellent.
Use cooperative learning strategies such as jig-saw to deepen student understanding and develop team work and shared responsibility.
Provide opportunity for problem-based learning in which students will solve real world issues through the collection of empirical data and analysis of findings from research.
Use the lecture method wisely. Do not talk for more than 15 minutes at any one time. Allow lectures to be interrupted by student activity since they like getting involved and having a say.
Employ a variety of assessment techniques in your practice such as portfolios, graphic organizers, poetry and song and role-plays.
Provide plenty of opportunity for the analysis of statistical data and report findings via graphs, tables, pictures etc.
Plan and provide for student participation in activities where students will simulate qualitative data collection techniques such as in-depth interviewing and systematic participant observation.
Provide greater opportunity for student dialogue and always provide constructive feedback.
Examine the best ways of helping students grow mentally, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
Invite guest speaker experts to shed light on diverse issues related to the content and everyday life.
Make a written plan of the activities for each lesson and change them only if necessary.
Use test and exam results to diagnose performance and provide accurate measurement of student performance.
Test only what was taught in terms of content and skills.
Practice chunking the content by breaking up large amounts into smaller manageable units in accordance to students’ age and maturity levels.
Ensure students participate in rubric and mark scheme design. This will assist them to understand the standards and benchmarks for academic excellence.
Cater for a variety of learning styles in your lessons. Knowledge of the differentiated classroom is an asset to good teaching.
Be firm but flexible.
Always move from the known to the unknown. Emphasise should be placed on effective concept teaching.

I proffer the suggestion that students should be exposed to an introductory course in the sociology since it will assist them in developing a variety of skills, talents and competences which are critical for life in a modern society.

This article sought to provide some useful guidance for teachers of sociology at any level of academia. It began with summation of the three major polemics in the nature of sociology namely positivist, interpretivist and postmodern. Following this it provided a rationale for its inclusion in the high school or college curriculum and ended by examining some guidelines or useful tips for teaching sociology

Bennie Berkeley has attained PhD in sociology with high commendation from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. At present he lectures in sociology courses namely Introduction to Sociology and Caribbean Social Structure. Additionally, he conducts methodology seminars for graduate students about to embark upon their research projects in social work and sociology. He supervises a number of students from a cross section of the social sciences including sociology (criminology), social work and mediation studies.

Arts and Entertainment News from Hollywood North

Boys Come… Boy’s Co.

“John Lennon & Yoko Ono Bed-In for Peace”

Ask any girl. Those rules were bent Friday night when I happened upon old flame David Goldman still going strong at his Boy’s Co exclusive opening of “All We Are Saying” – a fashionable evening featuring the original photographs of “John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Bed-In for Peace” by the late photojournalist Gerry Deiter.

These extraordinary photographs, providing the backdrop for the theme of the evening, were on display through the sagacity of the Elliott Louis Gallery’s owner Ted Lederer – who single-handedly dragged them out of Deiter’s vault for a first-time showing on May 26, 2004 – thirty-five years after John Lennon and Yoko Ono went to bed in a suite in Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, and invited the entire world to join them in seeking an alternative to violence and war in solving global political and social problems.

May 26, 1969. That month the battle of Dong Ap Bia, a.k.a. Hamburger Hill was exploding in the Vietnam War. Race riots occurred in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. French Foreign Legion paratroopers landed in Kolwezi, Zaire, to rescue Europeans caught in the middle of a civil war. U.S. National Guard helicopters sprayed skin-stinging powder on anti-war protesters in California. It was two years after the Summer of Love.

John and Yoko were in room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Early in the Bed-In, a reporter asked John what he was trying to do. John said, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Putting sounds to the thought, he rented an 8-track tape machine from a local music store and, on May 31 while in bed, recorded the first solo by a single Beatle,” Give Peace a Chance”, – the recording was attended by dozens of journalists and various celebrities, including Timothy Leary, Petula Clark, Dick Gregory and Canada’s Tommy Smothers.

Gerry Deiter was there for the entire eight days. He was assigned to photograph the Bed-In for Peace by Life Magazine but Life never ran the feature. Ironically, it fell victim to a bigger story – the death of Ho Chi Minh, leader of North Vietnam.

Deiter kept the negatives and transparencies locked away for more than 30 years. He had been living aboard a classic wooden motor yacht cruising the wilderness of the British Columbia coast photographing and writing when Ted Lederer, with the help of family and friends, prevailed on him to bring this archive to life and offer the work to the public at the Elliott Louis Gallery in 2004. This amazing work offers up 25 images in colour and black and white that celebrate John and Yoko’s example of peace and love.

What brought the Boy’s Co show together were Goldman and Lederer meeting up on the field where their sons play soccer. It was a confluence that allowed for a new generation to have a special glimpse of an older one.

Disenchanted fan, Mark David Chapman, murdered Lennon on December 8, 1980. The world is still at war. This retrospective clearly speaks to Lennon’s prescience.

Good on Deiter, Goldman and Lederer for keeping his mission in our faces.

Devorah Macdonald is a freelance writer living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her professional career began as a disc jockey in California, Seattle and her hometown of Vancouver BC.

Vancouver Magazine, in an article titled ‘Video Vixen’, hailed her as having “the best female voice in radio locally,” going on to compare her world-weary delivery with Linda Ellerbee, formerly of the ‘Today Show’ and the award winning ‘Nick News’.

A ten-year retirement devoted to creating three children, “one of each,” according to Macdonald, now allows time write on music, movies and television.