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What one would expect from a college sociology textbook
on February 18, 2013
As a student taking an intro to sociology class, I have to disagree with the other reviewer who says the book is too dense. Sociology is (like many college subjects) a fairly broad field with some inherently complex concepts. But there's no need to dumb down the material to hide that from students, even in an intro course.
This is a 24 chapter textbook that covers everything from the origins/function of sociology to research methods to issues of ethics, culture, social inequality, social institutions, and social change. The book is thus broken down into 5 logically organized parts that walk the reader through the main areas of sociological thought and study.
I don't think the book is intended to be taught cover-to-cover in a single semester by an intro course. It's certainly possible (and I don't think the pace is too unreasonable at the college level), but like most texts, they're written in a sufficiently modular way with the understanding that different instructors will want to focus on different chapters, and many will skip at least a chapter or two (or only assign a small portion of those chapters as required reading).
Personally, I find intellectually challenging courses much more enjoyable than courses that are less intellectually rigorous. But even if you take the opinion that an intro course needs to balance enjoyment with the conveyance of knowledge in order to make the learning fun and encourage students to study the subject further, there's no reason why you couldn't simply break the text into 2 courses. This is commonly done for calculus courses (e.g. multi- versus single variable), and could be easily done with Macionis' book to teach at a slower pace or go more in depth into each topic.
Unless you write your own text, I don't think an instructor can expect textbooks to be written to their exact curriculum. A textbook author needs to consider that their text is going to be used by many different courses taught by different instructors with different teaching styles. The author can recommend a particular course structure, but ultimately the individual instructors are going to use their own lesson plans. So it's safer (and more economical for both the publisher and students) to provide a comprehensive textbook that covers more material than needed by a single course. It's much easier for an instructor to tell students to skip particular sections than for the instructor to add in missing chapters or sections.
And at around 650 pages, it's about average length for a solid textbook. Maybe it's too detailed or technical for a casual introduction to sociology meant for lay audiences, but a textbook for a course meant to lay the foundation for a sociology education needs to be this in-depth. And really, given how big the type is, the casual tone, and the abundance of images and visuals, no student reading at a college level should be struggling with the content, especially with an instructor explaining the more difficult/important concepts in lecture. The 12th edition also helps students relate better to topics by providing examples from popular culture and current events. So I really can't understand how someone can claim the book is too dense or difficult to read.
Finally, I just want to state that college textbook authors should cater to students with a genuine interest in learning instead of catering to the lowest common denominator to try to bait those with no passion for knowledge. I'm not a sociology major, but I did enroll in the class due to a genuine interest in the subject, and if anything the text has further fueled my interest rather than diminish it. If other students who are only taking sociology to fulfill a gen-ed. requirement are bored by the facts and theories presented in the book, then they should have signed up for a different course. My education shouldn't be dumbed down or diluted in a vain attempt to maintain their interest.