A Description of "Social Origins"

[Professor Small offers the following statement from Professor William I. Thomas, as information in regard to the practice in the University of Chicago in teaching the fundamentals of sociology.]

A number of the schedules, particularly that of Professor Dowd, as modified by Professor Ellwood, represent very well my idea of a first course. I agree also that absolute uniformity is not important.

I will, therefore, not offer an additional schedule, but will limit myself to the suggestion of Professor Cooley, that the committee should secure a statement of the practice of individual teachers.

In a course covering a period of twelve weeks I devote about two weeks to divisions I and II as indicated in Professor Ellwood's schedule, discussing mainly the fundamental appetites, biological and social heredity, the formation of mental attitudes through suggestion, ethnocentrism in such expressions as race-prejudice, and the characteristics of the mores.
During the remainder of the time I treat the evolution of society an the basis of ethnographical materials. I do not regard the order in which topics are considered as of great importance. Actually, I treat the materials in the following order: (1) Geographic and economic environment. (2) Mental life and education. (3) Invention and technology. (4) Sex and marriage. (5) Art, ornament, and decoration. (6) Magic, myth, and religion. (7) Social organization, morals, the state.

I attempt to carry the psychological principles laid down at the beginning through the course and to apply them to the social phenomena, giving special emphasis to the category of "attention," as the means of control, and to the category of "control" as the object of all activity.

I find that this plan of giving a dominant place to the study of the activities of savage societies leads to satisfactory results. The student thus acquires a background for the interpretation of historical and present-day questions. At a certain point I require him to formulate a set of questions bearing on the present social order, and these are made the subject of discussion. About half of the reading is designated. The student selects the remainder from a. larger bibliography with which he is provided. I find Westermarck's Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, Sumner's Folkways, Webster's Primitive Secret Societies, and other works of that class important as indicating comparisons and connections between present society and the lower levels of culture.


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