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Footnotes is the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) quarterly magazine that “showcases sociologists’ perspectives on relevant and topical themes and includes information related to ASA and the discipline of sociology“.

It is, in other words, an online magazine that contains a range of short(ish) articles dealing with contemporary sociological issues and ideas that are useful for teachers and students alike (plus a load of stuff that’s probably only of interest if you’re actually a member of the ASA, but we’ll let that slide). The good news is that while it’s nominally available to ASA members, it’s also free to everyone else.

Which is nice, if a little unusual.

The latest issue is Volume: 50: No.1 and since the current practice seems to be for themed issues, this one, for example, focuses on “Sociology and the Potential for Community-engaged Scholarship“; it looks, in other words, at a range of practical sociological initiatives in what’s sometimes been called “The Real World” – stuff like reducing food insecurity, improving secondary education and the like.

And while this kind of thing may seem a long way from sociology at A and High School level, it’s really not when you come to think about it: it’s actually just the kind of high-level application that both makes students think about the world in which they actually live and helps them to develop a much-deeper and stronger grasp of the concepts and methods they need to use in order to understand the social world.

And pass exams.

Although not necessarily in that order.

Rather amazingly to my mind at least it’s not just the current issue of Footnotes that’s available to all and sundry. The ASA has only gone and made it’s whole archive available online.

In pdf format.

For anyone to read.

Going back to 1972…

The downside to all of this largesse, of course, is that there’s an awful lot of material for teachers to sift through to find relevant and appropriate materials for their students (on the very real assumption that none of your students are ever going to sift through it all for themselves).

This is made slightly easier by the fact that the archive not only lists every volume, but also the contents of every volume. This, all-things-considered, is very good of them.

For a UK audience one obvious drawback is the focus on all-things American and this can be an issue, so to speak, where the focus is on particularly-American institutions and social problems (such as Higher Education in The USA). In this instance while the sociological perspectives, theories and methods may be universally-applicable it would be much more difficult to interest a non-US audience in the trials and tribulations of American society and institutions.

On the other hand there are a surprising number of issues – food, health, technology and so forth – where the reach and relevance is more-global and hence easier to sell to a UK audience. The Technology issue, for example has a wider global relevance with articles looking at things like Thinking Critically about Social Media, Exploring Hybrid Gaming Cultures through Black Cyberfeminism and How Digital Privilege Affects Workers.

Even if there’s nothing here that particularly excites or enthuses you, your teaching or your students it might encourage you to do more to link sociological theory and methods to contemporary issues and ideas: the recent Report from the Tony Blair Institute on the “radical reform” of British Education, for example, might be a case in point when studying Education – even though it’s likely disappear down the same black hole that Blair’s government pitched the Tomlinson Report when it called for the “radical reform” of British Education.

Which, if you’re a (sociology) student of these things, has a certain delightful irony.

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