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Self in Society

February 18, 2010   When you go to college, sometimes you fall in love with a major. Personally, I love Communications and Women's Studies. But, every once in awhile, you fall in love with a professor.

Professor Dan Chambliss of the Sociology department is one of those professors who I love. In fact, I think a lot of students feel the same way — most individuals take his classes based solely on the fact that he is teaching.

This semester Professor Chambliss is teaching one of his favorite courses ever — Self in Society. He calls this class, "the course about me."

While the course description doesn't exactly say that — (Emphasis on the nature of the self, the life world as experienced, the taken-for-granted nature of social life, roles and bad faith, and the routinization of everyday life) — every application of these theories to real life comes from his actual life. So far we have a pretty good history of Professor Chambliss's dating life, career as a swimmer, and awkward moments as a professor.

While I was a little wary of the class when I got the book list — mostly big philosophical texts — my doubts were relieved on the first day of class when Professor Chambliss made the following statement: "Of any course I have ever taught at Hamilton and other schools, this is the course that will stay with you. More alumni have come back to me and told me that this class has helped define who they are as people as well as change their entire outlooks on life and society." That is a big statement to make! But knowing Professor Chambliss, I know he won't let me down.

Somehow, through his anecdotes and enthusiasm, I have come to find Jean-Paul Sartre and Erving Goffman to be VERY INTERESTING!

We manage somehow to have very vibrant discussions in a class of 60 kids. Today we talked about Sartre's idea of bad faith. Each person who raised their hand had a different take on the essay we read, brought new ideas to light and made connections between this reading and other readings in the class. While this probably doesn't seem that exciting to an outsider — the best part of talking in Professor Chambliss's class is the reaction you get from him when you say something he likes.

For instance: While you are talking, he will slowly start to smile, nod his head, point at you, and say "yes...yes...YES...YES!!!" Pretty soon, everyone is raising their hand — unable to contain their excitement for the text. Our hour-and-fifteen-minute class sessions fly by in what seems like minutes.
Some people think laughter is contagious, but Professor Chambliss has taught me that learning is contagious. Time to go read some more Sartre!