We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.”

- Dr Martin Luther King.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr was born on the 15th of January 1929. Our American colleagues and others might know that King had a degree in sociology and theology (of course!). As the Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Sociology notes, King remains “a public sociologist par excellence.” In celebration of the passing birthday of this pre-eminent sociologist and progressive activist, I made you this, with one of my favourite quotes by King. Here, he argues that education is not simply about accumulating knowledge, but rather to develop a sense of morality based upon principles of social justice and then acting upon these values.
As an applied and public sociologist, we can see how Luther’s sociological training influenced his “change management” leadership style, which David Frantz describes as:

building a vision, networking, communicating powerfully, identifying and dealing with differences, creating leverage to motivate people, and conceptualizing alternative strategic paths. (p.157)

If you’re still studying sociology and you wonder what you can do with a sociology degree, think about King as a model for what applied sociologists can achieve outside academia. 
Read more on Sociology at Work. High-res

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.”

- Dr Martin Luther King.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr was born on the 15th of January 1929. Our American colleagues and others might know that King had a degree in sociology and theology (of course!). As the Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Sociology notes, King remains “a public sociologist par excellence.” In celebration of the passing birthday of this pre-eminent sociologist and progressive activist, I made you this, with one of my favourite quotes by King. Here, he argues that education is not simply about accumulating knowledge, but rather to develop a sense of morality based upon principles of social justice and then acting upon these values.

As an applied and public sociologist, we can see how Luther’s sociological training influenced his “change management” leadership style, which David Frantz describes as:

building a vision, networking, communicating powerfully, identifying and dealing with differences, creating leverage to motivate people, and conceptualizing alternative strategic paths. (p.157)

If you’re still studying sociology and you wonder what you can do with a sociology degree, think about King as a model for what applied sociologists can achieve outside academia. 

Read more on Sociology at Work.

New Anti-racism Strategy in Australia

Australia will implement an anti-racism strategy from July 2012. In this post I sketch out some ideas as to how applied sociology might contribute to this process. The 2011 Mapping Social Cohesion Report shows that 14% of all Australians have experienced racial or religious discrimination. Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke (below) noted to SBS News that government and other areas of public service do not reflect Australia’s multicultural make up:

“We know that there’s an unconscious bias that exists in selection processes in employment, and you would have to say: ‘Where is the multicultural colour and look and style in the boardrooms and in positions of seniority across both government and the public service?’”

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has put out a discussion paper outlining their anti-racism vision. They are seeking for the public to get involved by commenting on the paper, attending public discussion forums and participating in the online survey, which I have done.

The survey is sociologically interesting - most of the questions are focused on individual experiences of racism and individual responses. For example: “Have you experienced racism? Did you speak up or take action? What did you do?” The survey also asks “Who is responsible for addressing racism in Australia?” I see that these questions are important to ask but they also reflect the individual approach to racism that Australia and some other countries adopt. Individuals are expected to sort out racism at the interpersonal level, but individual experiences of racism are perceived as being separate from institutional racism. Australia no longer has in place policies of racial segregation as it did for Australian Aboriginal and Indigenous communities, which were in place up to the mid-1960s. This included separate drinking water sources, social clubs and spaces, as well as not giving Indigenous Australians the clear right to vote until 1967 (via a referendum). Australia no longer practices overt discrimination in its official immigration programme (as it did during the “White Australia Policy" which ended in the mid-1970s). Yet a plethora of social science studies show that various forms of discrimination persist in schools, public service providers and in workplaces.
I see that sociology could make a powerful contribution to anti-racist submissions being sought, by addressing the compartmentalisation of individual, group and institutional racism. For example, Philomena Essed’s argues that the “everyday racism" that people encounter during their routine social interactions with other people show the link between individual and institutional racism. Seemingly innocuous, casual exchanges, such as continually being asked "Where are you from?" because you look "different", not take place in an anti-racist setting. (I’ve written about this phenomena here.) Anti-racist strategies often leave it up to individuals and groups to sort out everyday racism. They encourage empathy and interpersonal “tolerance” of differences. Empirical studies show that such strategies do not work in the long-term. Instead, institutional changes are needed. This certainly involves stronger sanctions for the media, schools, service providers and workplaces that allow racist practices to continue at the interpersonal level.
I’ll be watching the development of the National Anti-Racism strategy with keen interest. In the mean time, I would urge applied sociologists in Australia to lend their expertise to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s public consultation process. Let the rest of us know your thoughts on the process!

Images: HREOC and SBS News.

If we began to believe that Wall Street is expendable, perhaps we would regulate it properly so that it would do what it should do, and only that. It should provide a place for Americans to put their savings and channel those savings into the most productive investments, not a round-robin of one casino-like speculation after another.

Jeff Madrick, The Washington Post, 19 Nov 2011.

Jeff Madrick is an Economics columnist and author of Age of Greed (2011). His piece for The Washington Post last year that still captures my sociological imagination today. Madrick argues that while America cannot live without Wall Street, it has moved away from its primary function, to support small businesses and to engender economic growth to serve the public, rather than personal interests of an elite few… Madrick argues that American society needs to shift its thinking about Wall Street - to start thinking of it as “expendable”. Why is this view relevant to applied sociology? …I find Madrick’s analysis useful for thinking about: what does Wall Street look like if it was working as an equitable, transparent and well-regulated social institution? What social policies and social practices are required in order to shift its current practices? The first step is to go back to what Wall Street should be doing, then working out how to ensure that begins to happen.

Read more at my other blog, Sociology at Work.