A 12 year old is in a sociology class?

Compared to a lot of other disciplines found in college, sociology does not have a big profile at the high school level or in the public at large. So I was surprised when I ran across this bit from the Charleston Gazette:

US Airways Flight 1549, which pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger splash landed in the Hudson River, made its way to the West Virginia Turnpike, en route to a permanent museum exhibit at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C.

Dozens of people parked their cars along Exit 99 at Greenbrier Street or stood on the overpass to get a picture, video or eyewitness account of the Airbus 320 as it passed through Charleston at midday.

“I wanted to be the first person in my sociology class to see it,” said Haley Browning, 12, from Madison.

Browning said she has been interested in the plane since hearing about its near-tragic landing in 2009 and plans to do a project on it for school. Her mother, Judy, and sister, Jayln, were in Charleston and decided to stop and see if they could spot it.

I guess it would be interesting to see a large airplane being hauled by truck but I’ve never been one to chase “famous” items. But it was much more interesting to read about a 12 year old who is enrolled in a sociology class. Since kids who are 12 years old are typically in 6th or 7th grade, it suggests she has a middle school sociology class. How many of those are there in this country? I wonder if the content of a middle school sociology course could help teenagers make some sense of and feel better about the typical middle school troubles.

Explaining the mean girls (and boys)

A study from the most recent American Sociological Review is getting attention because of its finding that popular kids in middle and high school are more likely to be mean:

[A] paper released Tuesday in the American Sociological Review, which found that the more central you are to your school’s social network, the more aggressive you are as well — unless you’re at the top of the heap, in which case you’re more likely to give your peers a break.

“By and large, status increases aggression, until you get to the very top,” said the study’s lead author, UC Davis sociologist Robert Faris. “When kids become more popular, later on they become more aggressive.”

Three larger trends seem to be converging in this research: analyzing social networks of teenagers/emerging adults while also looking into bullying/aggressive behavior.

The network analysis is based on a measure common now to sociological surveys and research:

Faris and UC Davis sociology Professor Diane Felmlee followed almost 4,000 middle and high school students in three North Carolina counties, asking each child to name their five best friends. They were also asked to identify up to five people they bullied and five classmates who picked on them.

The researchers mapped each student’s popularity based on their personal relationships and compared it to aggressive behavior.

I’m curious to know if this analysis would also apply to adults.

Quick Review: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Two reasons I watched this movie: I’ve read the books the movie is based on and it was free at the library. Two quick thoughts on the film:

1. The books are much better. There was a clever character to the books whereas the movie was just another fairly formulaic kids movie. The books often made me laugh out loud while the movie did not.

2. There is a genre of high school movies – this could be considered “high school movie lite.” It had similar themes including what it means to be cool and dealing with family members and featured plenty of pop/rock music. There were typical characters including the overly-machismo gym teacher and the older goons. If you have seen an average middle school movie, you’ll feel like you’ve seen most of this movie before. It just so happened that the main characters were younger.

Overall: read the books for the real Greg Heffley.

(The film got mixed reviews from critics: it is 53% fresh, 40 fresh out of 75 reviews, at RottenTomatoes.com.)