Course 109: Becoming Deviant
Leader: Matt Silberman
Description: Sociologists assume that the way we learn to engage in unconventional behavior is similar to the way we learn to do what society calls "normal." Who we become largely depends on the relationships we have with others, not only in early childhood, but throughout our lifetime. Some of us become social outcasts. How does this happen? Why does this happen? Why do some people become addicts, become mentally ill, or become delinquent?
We will begin the class with an examination of the basic process by which we come to know ourselves, with an emphasis on the importance of intimate relationships in early childhood and the labeling process in adolescence and beyond. In order to understand how our experiences may lead to unconventional ways of being, we will explore a variety of examples, such as drug dependency, hyperactivity, and eating disorders. We will also ask: what purpose does the existence of unconventional behavior serve for society as a whole?
The second half of the course will focus on controversies concerning three social issues: alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, and sexual identity. How do we explain the American approach to the regulation of alcohol and drugs? How do we explain the recent increase in the number of Americans being treated for various forms of mental illness? How do we explain our history of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?
Biography: Matt Silberman taught sociology for 40 years at Bucknell University, leading courses on law, crime, and deviance. He was also Coordinator of Legal Studies at Bucknell and webmaster for the Sociology of Law section of the American Sociological Association for 15 years. He has spent most of his career doing research on correctional institutions.
Materials for Course: Weekly readings will come from handouts.
Number of Participants: Minimum 8; Maximum 15
Location: Spring Run Conference Room
Meeting Time: Tuesdays, February 26 through April 2, 10 - 11:30 a.m.