Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael R. 1991. “Toward Rigor in the Undergraduate Sociology Curriculum: Some Thoughts on Change and Innovation.” Invited comments presented to the Roundtable on Change and Innovation in the Undergraduate Sociology Curriculum, Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 25.


Copyright 1991 Michael R. Hill


CHANGE IS OVERDUE in undergraduate sociology. The present situation is too often dominated by classroom charlatans, textbook sophistry, and mental torpor. In a science which confronts complex intellectual puzzles and deeply problematic social issues, we bore the average student nearly to death, we chase the brightest scholars from our midst, and we reward one-dimensional rote memorizers with good grades and glowing letters of recommendation. Given this stifling state of affairs, a change toward intellectual rigor in the undergraduate curriculum would indeed be a welcome and revolutionary development.

By asking for “rigor,” I do not mean more sociology statistics courses or the unthinking scientism that would limit sociology instruction to POET (population, organization, environment, and technology) curricula. I am not, however, opposed to increased math, logic, and writing requirements for sociology majors — as long as the courses are not taught by sociologists. What I do ask is for texts that challenge undergraduate students to read, comprehend, and apply the ideas, concepts, and points of view expressed by such contemporary sociologists such as Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, Erving Goffman, Jurgen Habermas, Alfred Schutz, and/or Dorothy Smith, and of such classical writers as Edith Abbot, Jane Addams, Emile Durkheim, W.E.B. DuBois, Sigmund Freud, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Harriet Martineau, Karl Marx, George Herbert Mead, Jessie Taft, and/or Max Weber. I have grown very weary of pabulum texts that summarize, simplify and distort such theorists rather than confront students with original readings from their works or, at the least, present students with well-reasoned arguments and clear prose at approximately the same intellectual level.