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Old 05-19-2011, 02:11 PM
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My experience these days of sociology, as a formal discipline, as just about entirely on the Internet. Occasionally I dabble, for I am retired now and I have made of dabbling an art-form; I dabble in this rich and variegated academic field which nearly fifty years ago I had just entered in the last year of my teenage life. I remember well that first year of the formal study of sociology; it was a year which ended in early May of 1964, just before I got a job checking telephone poles for internal decay with the Bell Telephone Company of Canada. In about February or, perhaps, March, a tutor joined the sociology staff. He was able to explain the mysteries of the sociological theorist Talcott Parsons better than anyone. And at the time, Parsons occupied a position in the empyrean of sociological godheads. It was an empyrean at the very centre of that introductory course in sociology. If one wanted to pass that course in sociology one had to have a basic understanding of Parsons. That was no easy task.

Everyone admired this tutor as if he was some brilliant theologian who had just arrived from the Vatican with authoritative pronouncements for us all to write down on our A-4 note paper to be regurgitated on the inevitable April examination. He was an Englishman, if I remember, rather slim and a good talker. And Parsons, for all of us, was about as intricate and complex, as elusive and variable, as you could get and still stay in the same language and on the same earthly plane. I was able to pass sociology that year by the skin of my teeth.

For a year after that I had no contact with sociology, except for a short period of time toward the end of my second year at university. I got to know a young woman of 27 who had one son and who studied sociology. I took her ice-skating in about February of 1965. I can’t quite remember how I met her, but for two or three months I went to the occasional lecture with her in sociology. She had a passion for helping Africans and I had a passion for her. Our mutual passions interlocked nicely and it was this reciprocity that led us to join together in third year sociology.

I took six courses in sociology that year, 1966-7, enough to bring the dead to life, or is it the living to death or, perhaps more accurately, I should say enough to kill any of my enthusiasms for honours sociology in a 4th year. In retrospect it was fortuitous that Canadian universities begin in mid-September with exams starting in mid-April. With the Christmas break, the week off for Easter and exam study--the student is left with only six months of lectures, reading and tutorials. That is about all I could stand of reading sociology. It was all I could stand at the time due to a number of factors not the least of which was some of the intricacies of my bipolar disorder. The cold Canadian winters kept sociology all on chill: nothing like a brisk walk at 10 below zero to class in sociology 1A6 to examine the essence of Marxism, if there is/was an essence, or the complexities of functionalism and it had then, as it has now, many complexities especially the Parsonian brand. From August Comte the founder of sociology, or one of the founders, to the 1960s in a quick hit, that was the core of the syllabus in sociology theory 3A6. It was not as quick as I would have liked. Part of me always wanted to take it seriously and part of me found it such a burden of words that my already incipient depression, the first complex episode of my life-long bipolar disorder, just got another kick-start on its way

Anyway, I got through my third year and found myself with a BA bracket sociology end-of-bracket. I did not get my degree until November because, when the transcript came out in June, I found sadly that I was four or five marks short of a passing grade, 60%. I had to pay a visit to the Head of the Department, a gentle spirit who frequently imbibed a white wine, a beer or was it a claret? He taught me sociological statistics. This was the most mysterious of all arts in this youthful discipline which by 1963 was about 100 years of age with roots going back into the dawns of time in the western intellectual tradition. I remember, yes, as if it was yesterday, sitting in his class writing down as much as I could in the hope of unravelling it leisurely at home in a quiet evening where I lived over a restaurant in the small town of Dundas. Dundas was 15 minutes away on a good hitch-hike---and good hitch-hikes were important at 10 below zero with a cold wind blowing. Of course I never did, unravel it I mean; night after night I’d ponder these mathematical symbols in the hope that sincerity and effort would pay off. In this case they did not and here I was eight weeks after the end of the year asking him for a few marks. He came to the party, probably because it was late afternoon and by then he’d already had a few and he was one of those drinkers who got friendlier after knocking back that few.

I had periodic dalliances with sociology after that graduating year of 1966. At teachers’ college, 1966/7 we had a sociology unit. I had to go to a teachers' college to get some practical qualification because sociology was good for absolutely nothing insofar as a career was concerned. I could have tied it to social work as well as teaching, but untied to anything about the only use it had was at a bar in the evening, with your girlfriend discussing your(and her) inner life, driving a taxi and sitting around filling in time reading books. However useful sociology may be in this private domain, you could not take it as far as the cornerstone of a career unless, of course, you just wanted your BA to get you into some commercial game like: selling insurance, working for the public service in some capacity in some department as a novitiate or, indeed, one of many other fields/jobs in which I had not the slightest interest.

I came to teach sociology in 1974 to trainee teachers in Launceston Tasmania and again in 1975 to library technician trainees in Melbourne. In 1976-78 in Ballarat it was part of the syllabus for engineers and social science majors. When I lived in Katherine in Australia’s Northern Territory I taught it occasionally in adult education to evening classes and in Port Hedland Western Australia to students in management courses. In the early 1990s in Perth I taught sociology in Certificate and Diploma courses. In 1997-8 I taught sociology theory to human service workers. Now after nearly fifty years, 1963-2013, I find myself finally finished combing library shelves through books which I first saw two months before President Kennedy was assassinated(23/11/’63). These shelves have expanded immensely in that half century; there are 1000s of new volumes to keep the eager beaver busy into perpetuity. Some of the material is highly stimulating and some as dry and coagulating as a sewer after a long period of no rain. Many of the books are still as fat or fatter, and I find I can not spend more than an hour in a library hunting them down. An immense fatigue sets in toward the end of my first hour in the library and I must scoop up my allotment of seven or eight books to read in the leisurely quiet of my home with a cold or a hot drink in my hand depending on the time of year and where I am living.

I look forward in my dotage to a long and happy life with this strange field I chanced upon nearly half a century ago when I was trying to avoid the world of work and its deadening and so often predictable stamp of boredom. I was also trying to work out what package of courses would get me that BA in three years, that essential ticket to go somewhere, somewhere I knew not exactly where. The labyrinthine channels of sociology one can travel in forever; the library shelves are, as I say, getting more extensive; it is a burgeoning field as are all fields now. The river of sociology, now in its middle age, perhaps, or still in its youth, will flow on into its third century while I get old. Now that my days are long and I am freed from the work-a-day world and its routines I play among the waters of sociology; I bath myself in its endless streams, having learned how to avoid drowning in its heady froth. I will only sample its choicest and its freshest glasses of refreshment. For I am now an accomplished connoisseur of its mysteries, at least some of the mysteries which do not totally elude me---and there are many of them. I am now old and on an old-age pension. I am ready for my final sociological hour in the evening of my life.

Ron Price
Updated: 23 January 2011

PS Two years and two weeks after writing the first edition of this essay I retired from full-time teaching in general and from teaching sociology in particular. I retired the same month and year that the famous Canadian hockey player, Wayne Gretsky, retired from ice-hockey: April 1999. By March 2011, as I write the latest revision of this essay, I had also been retired from teaching in any form: part-time, casual or volunteer. I found myself teaching sociology in a School for Seniors until 2005. My final hour with sociology on the internet and its many forms of teaching and learning had begun. I had six years, 2005 to 2011 in this world of cyberspace.

married for 43 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 10 and a Baha'i for 51(in 2010)

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Old 07-06-2011, 04:45 PM
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Location: Caleta Olivia - Santa Cruz - Patagonia Argentina
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Users Flag! From argentina

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Smile Hi!

Wow Ron! Congratulations!
What a Story!
Certainly Sociology is an interesting field. I'm a (Argentinian) Social Worker, got my degree last year, and I'm doing some research work now.
Me and my mentor are intending to inquire into marxism tradition in Latin-american Social Work, specially through the perspective of George Lukacs.
We find this perspective particulary clear for to analyze social problems and the various kind of responses they recieve.
Anyway, the subject is way deep to express it here, and I guess my knowledgments of english ,aren't that complex for to explain such things (yet).
Well, write back or PM me if you want, so we can share about ourselves.
I'm 27, Arentinian, my wife is 26 and she's finishing her degree on Initial Education, we're planning to move to Aus in a few years...
Best regards....

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