Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Editor's Note: Know Thy-Student-Selves

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Editor's Note: Know Thy-Student-Selves

Article excerpt

The present, Spring 2011, issue of Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge includes nine UMass Boston undergraduate student papers: seven from two sections of the first year seminar, Soc. 110G: "Insiders/Outsiders," one from the course "Youth and Society" (Soc. 201), and another from the course "Elements of Sociological Theory" (Soc. 341), all taken during the 2010-2011 academic year at UMass Boston. The authors cultivate their sociological imaginations of the link between their personal troubles and public issues by exploring topics such as: difficulties with writing; struggles with overachievement; adolescent depression; pessimism; obsession with body self-image; pornography and love; drunken driving; feminine identity formation; and coping with personal traumas amid parental, sibling, and societal dysfunctions.

In his "Penning the Sociological Imagination: Writing about My Struggles with Writing," first year seminar student Thanh D. Pham critically reflects on his longstanding difficulties with writing, ones that go back to his high school years. He seeks to understand these difficulties beyond mere technical and formal issues having to do with grammar and composition, time management, learning "reading and writing skills," or procrastination; for him the difficulties are rooted in substantive as well as contextual factors involving social psychological matters. In other words, it is one thing to have difficulty writing about one's own and/or others' insider/outsider experiences of alienation; it is another to realize that one's or others' insider/outsider experiences of alienation in society have caused one's difficulties with expression and writing. Pham finds that factors such as one's feelings toward writing, early socialization, parental attitudes toward one's educational performance, the nature of course assignments and that of academia in general and its function in society--amid the socially constructed meanings of success and achievement internalized from one's culture--also have significant impact on one's attitude toward writing. He writes by way of conclusion, "... the difficulties that I face in writing were not caused by my inability to articulate my thoughts down on paper. The real problem was my mental attitude toward writing. I had little motivation in academics to begin with. But motivation alone is not the problem. Primary socialization and social expectations create academic pressure on every student. For example, under the pressure of meeting the parents' expectations a student experiences regression and distress.... These are the same pressures that all students face in their academic career" (p. 6). "By understanding my own problem with writing and how it is socially constructed," Pham concludes, "it is possible that I can find a way to overcome it" (p. 4).

Iris M. Rivas, another first year seminar student, in her "The Race Against Oneself: Opening Up to Overachievement Using A Sociological Imagination," explores her experience growing up as an overachiever. Here, again, she is concerned with understanding learning as a social psychological process, rather than one involving merely technical challenges that can be easily dealt with through one or another workshop or tutorial session. "As a child," Rivas writes, "I was a firm believer that it is better to go beyond expectations than to fall short of them. I have ever since carried this concept with me until today. I became morbidly afraid of failing, and found new ways to push myself to accomplish anything that was expected of me.... Though I am no longer as hard on myself now, I still very much deal with the relentless, overachieving attitude that I carried with me throughout my childhood and teenage years" (p. 11). Relating her experience to ethno-racial issues, Rivas further adds, "I knew, even at a young age, that I would have to work harder and push myself farther to break free from the stereotypes that, I believed, others would subject me to because of the color of my skin" (p. …

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