Syllabus

Americans, it is often said, don’t like to think in terms of social class. Class conflict is almost always portrayed as a highly undesirable situation. Our political culture encourages everyone to think of themselves as "middle class." Public discussions of inequality are often dismissed by pundits and politicians as "class war." None the less, Americans do experience social class — through family, work, leisure, and participation in, or exclusion from, public life. We are going to explore the sociological study of class stratification, in order to get some sense of the way our lives and contemporary institutions are structured by class-based inequality, including how race, ethnicity and gender intersect with economic inequality. We will look at both social theory and empirical studies of class phenomena.

This semester, we will cover some foundational material on class stratification and then focus on two advanced topics: the reproduction of the class structure through education; and, gentrification in Brooklyn.

Grading will consist of four parts: (a) a term paper (worth up to 40 points); (b) a presentation of term paper research (worth up to 10 points); (c) a review of the assigned readings for one week (worth up to 10 points); and, (d) participation, including online discussion forums and in-class group work (worth up to 40 points).

The term paper will combine theory and empirical research on a topic relating to class stratification. The essay must include at least eight sociological sources, including journal articles, book chapters, and reports from government agencies. The term paper must identify a sociological question about social class stratification and then synthesize the sources (including, in some cases, analysis of empirical data) in an attempt to answer that question. Students will present a brief summary of their key ideas in class at the end of the semester.

The reading summary will be posted on the course website (as a forum topic) prior to the start of class for that week and will be used to guide the discussion. Students will be asked to give a brief presentation in class of their summary. Because we will use the summary for our in-class discussion, if you do not post your summary prior to the start of class, you will not be able to make up the points.

The online discussion forums will require regular contributions on topics relating to the readings as well as current events. Every week, there will be at least one forum in which to participate. Students earn two points for responding to questions I pose, and two points for responding to comments from other students. The in-class group work includes collaborative reflections on the material under discussion. Each is worth two points. Since these exercises are linked to in-class discussions, if you miss a meeting in which one of the assignments occurs, there is no opportunity to make up the points.

Grades will be assigned according to the following scale: 100-98 = A+, 97-93 = A, 92-90 = A-, 89-86 = B+, 85-82 = B, 81-80 = B-, 79-75 = C+, and 74-70 = C.

Our required texts include:
1) The American Class Structure in an Age of Growing Inequality, 8th edition, by Dennis Gilbert. Sage, 2011. [ISBN 9781412979658]
2) Ain't No Makin' It, 3rd edition, by Jay MacLeod. Westview, 2008. [ISBN 9780813343587]
3) Gentrification and Inequality in Brooklyn, by Judith DeSena. Lexington, 2009.
Additional readings will be assigned. Students should do the assigned readings in advance of the class meeting in which they will be discussed. See the schedule page for discussion dates.

Consult the Brooklyn College Bulletin and the university policy [PDF] for regulations regarding academic integrity. If you submit work for credit that is not your own, you will receive a zero on that assignment. Academic dishonesty is grounds for failure in the course. Additional penalties may result, at the discretion of the college.