Category Archives: Uncategorized

Snow Day work due to school closure…

Whatever work you set your students this snow day, this is probably how most of them will interpret it –  

Work is as follows –
  1. Lay in (as if you haven’t already done that)
  2. Buy sledge
  3. Go sledging
  4. Don’t break leg
  5. or anyone elses
  6. Have snowball fight with random people – must be random
  7. just make sure you pick people that look like they fancy a snowball fight (no ‘moany old bears)  
  8. Build snowman
  9. not a ‘rude’ snowman -that’s way too crude
  10. Go home, eat cake
  11. Engage in audio visual entertainment of your choice
  12. Make sure you watch the news reports about all those poor people that had to go to work today.

Suicide Updates

One of the perennial joys of teaching sociology is returning to the study of suicide every November, a time of year when, with the nights drawing in against a backdrop of fog, barren trees, rain and sodden leaves, it seems a most appropriate time to do so. The season of depression, self-harm and suicide is almost upon us after all.
This year  I’ve been looking at popular suicide locations, and there are some interesting contrasts between the two most popular places in the world to commit suicide.
These two locations are –
A jumper on the golden gate bridge

1. The Golden Gate Bridge in California – Where more than 1500 people to date have jumped the equivalent of 25 stories and 49/50 succeed due to the massive internal injuries they typically receive on impact.

2. The Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan – Known as Japan’s suicide forest, in which approximately 100 people kill themselves each year through primarily hanging or poisoning. More people may, in fact, have killed themselves in the forest than at the Golden Gate Bridge, but in recent years the local government has stopped publishing figures in an attempt to downplay the extent of the bleak activity, so we have no accurate overall total number.
These  two locations are obviously very different from each other they are and  I’m left wondering the extent to which the different methods and locations reflect different cultural attitudes to suicide….
The Golden Gate Bridge is a very public place and there is a high degree of spectacle about jumping. As John Bateson, former director of a crisis centre for the depressed and suicidal covering the Bay area, says  “There is kind of allure to the bridge…. a notoriety to be gained from jumping from the Golden Gate. For a brief period people receive an attention in death that may have been denied to them in life.”
Thus in addition to whatever reason these individuals may have for jumping it’s almost as if jumping from the bridge is an expressive act – a kind of ‘look at me and f**k you’ parting message to America. These people could, after all, just quietly overdose in their bedrooms. The fact that most people jump facing towards land offers further support for this notion.
Compare the high drama of the bridge-jump to the Forest – A much more secluded and isolated space where the Japanese choose to die by private methods – The woods in fact being notorious for the ease with which one can get lost because of the density of the trees and the lack of trails. Normally one would associate poisoning as a softer method more associated with a plea for help than the blunt force trauma of the bridge, but I’m inclined to think the opposite is the case here as the isolation of the forest makes it unlikely that one will be found.
It’s also quite likely that we are witnessing two very different types of suicide in these two locations with the jumpers more likely to be committing suicide out of a sense of anomie – given the fact that there is a correlation between mental illness and suicide amongst jumpers and secondly this is Califorinia, where the sense of relative underachievement must run high amongst those who don’t make it.
Meanwhile in the suicide forest we are probably witnessing egoistic suicides given the very strong correlation between unemployment and suicide in Japan. 
For further information try these links –  

A documentary film by Eric Steel – The Bridge

Schizophrenic people are more likely to jump from bridges

The Suicide Paradox in America 

Japan’s Suicide Forest

The Economist – Suicide in Japan

Suicide in Japan’s Forest

Top 10 suicide sites in the world

Top Ten Suicide Sites in the world 

Who are the children who end up in jail?

Summary of a report  by the Prison Reform Trust (2010) –  Punishing Disadvantage: a profile of children in custody –

The research asked a straightforward question: “Who are the 2,000 to 3,000 children and young people serving sentences or on remand in Britain at any one time?”

A more complex, and extremely significant, question the study also asked was: “How do these young people come to end up in custody?”

In answer to the first question, research revealed the widespread disadvantage and unstable lives endured by children and young people serving time. It found that

  • 75% had absent fathers
  • 50% came from deprived backgrounds and a similar proportion had run away from home at some point.
  • 33% had absent mothers
  • 25% had been in care,
  • 20% had self-harmed,
  • 11% had attempted suicide, and
  • 12% had been bereaved, losing either a parent or sibling. It also found that around three-quarters had absent fathers, while a third had experienced their mother’s absence.

If you want to find out answers to the second question – click on the link

Quick Crime and Deviance Questions

I Quite like translating the A2 Sociology specification into ‘easy pop questions’ about a topic – here are a few for crime and deviance… Roughly in line with the order in which we teach. They’re short enough questions to tweet, too.

These are the kind of questions students can just be let lose on to find out info about…. preferably with a few sources as guidance.

OK in fairness some of them aren’t actually ‘pop questions’ but sometimes the spec. is hard to simplify.

  1. How much Crime is there in England and Wales?
  2. Why did recorded crime rise so rapidly in the 1980s? 
  3. Why has crime in the UK been going down every year since 1995?
  4. What are the lowest and highest crime rate areas in the UK?
  5. What are the highest and lowest crime countries in the world?
  6. Why are there spikes in violent street crime at weekends in city centres in the early hours of the morning?
  7. Why does the media exaggerate the extent of violent crime?
  8. To what extent does the media shape our perceptions of crime?
  9. Is crime necessary?
  10. Is ‘bad-parenting’ to blame for crime?
  11. What types of people are the most likely to end up in jail?
  12. To what extent are ‘blocked opportunities’ to blame for crime?
  13. How much crime is gang-related?
  14. Which social class commits the most crime?
  15. Are the crimes of the elite more costly than street crime?
  16. Are the poor more likely to be punished than the rich?
  17. Does Capitalism ‘breed crime’?
  18. Is there such a thing as an inherently deviant act?
  19. Do agents of social control ’cause’ crime to increase?
  20. (Philosophical) – If no one catches you commiting a crime, are you actually a criminal?
  21. Are the police racist, sexist, ageist, classist – are they more likely to negatively label some groups compared to others?
  22. Are criminals actually the sensible ones?
  23. Are criminals heroic?
  24. Does the government deliberately exaggerate moral panics to divert attention away from its own immoral activities?
  25. What is the most effective way to control and reduce crime?
  26. How important is the role of the community in reducing and controlling crime?
  27. What is the role of the police in modern society? What should it be?
  28. Does zero tolerance policing work?
  29. Does prison work?
  30.  Why do men commit more crime than women?
  31. Why is the female crime rate increasing?
  32. Is the criminal justice system biased against women? (Rape/ domestic violence/ prostitution)
  33. How does crime vary by ethnicity? 
  34. Are the police racist?
  35. Who are the victims of crime – why are some people more likely to be victims than others
  36. How has globalisation changed crime and crime control?
  37. What is state crime? How do we explain it?
  38. What is environmental crime? How do we explain it?
  39. Why do people commit suicide?

As a seperate research strands you could also research the following types of crime

  • Violent street crime
  • Burglary
  • Gangs and gang related crime (not all gangs commit crime)
  • Drug dealing
  • Rape and Domestic abuse
  • Hate crime (including race crime)
  • Corporate Crime, especially fraud.

Some good sources of info about Buddhism

Hi – I haven’t posted for over a month because I’m ensconced in reading and writing a short book on Buddhism. Once I’m done, I’ll resume blogging again, although I’m not sure when that will be: The deeper I go into things, the deeper I feel I need to go, and the deeper I go the less I feel need to say! Anyway, in the meantime (or possibly the final word) here are some useful sources on Buddhism…

Useful sources for finding out more about Buddhism in general and The Noble Eight Fold Path in particular

My recommended starting point is The Buddhist Society, based in London, which has a number of excellent resources online and runs an excellent ‘introduction to Buddhism’ course and a whole load of other courses for those wishing to take Buddhism deeper.

Buddhism online

There are a number of excellent podcasts on Buddhism –

Sangharakshita’s (1968) The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path is a good in-depth introduction to the N8P, although it does get quite esoteric towards the end of the series. Sangharakshita is an ordained Buddhist monk and founder of The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.

Ryu Cope’s Bad Buddhist Radio Podcasts are a good layman’s introduction to Buddhism and the N8P – He’s not a monk, but I like his down to earth interpretation of Buddhist wisdom. Most of the series was put together between the years 2006-9 and consists of more than 50 short podcasts. The first dozen or so on basic Buddhism are especially worth a listen.

Based in British Columbia, the D.I.Y. Dharma sangha is a peer-led community of freaks, geeks, queers, trans-folk, rebels, outcasts, stream-enterers and their friends, who meditate together in the Buddhist tradition. It’s not the easiest site to navigate through, but it does have a good selection of audio podcasts (link sorted by popularity) and you can join up to the virtual community and ‘log your sits’ which I kind of like…

There are also some excellent sources online more generally – most of the above sites have written resources, and one more is The Big View is about ‘Philosophy in the widest sense’, so is about more than just Buddhism, but it has some good, brief summary notes on the basics of Buddhism including this summary of The Noble Eight Fold Path

Three recommended books for beginners

Rahula Walpola  (1997) What the Buddha Taught

Bhikkhu Bodhi (2006) Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering

The Buddhist Society : The Dhammapada (This is a short book which outlines the basic teachings of the Buddha)

Studying Sociology at University

Been a while since I posted so I thought I’d post up this document

Studying Sociology at University

What do you study at University? 

Sociology at university is very different to ‘A level’ Sociology. There is some overlap in terms of basic content but this is minor. As a general rule, most Sociology departments will offer the ‘core modules’ in Sociological Theory, Sociological Methods, Modernity and Post-Modernity, and Globalisation, but besides these, courses will vary depending on the particular specialisms of lecturers in each department. Besides the above, some of the other topics you could end up studying include –

  • Ethnicity, race and racism
  • Gender
  • Marriage, family and interpersonal relationships
  • Media
  • Migration and citizenship
  • Globalisation
  • Friendship
  • Popular culture
  • Political participation
  • Religion
  • The Environment


In addition, many departments will offer degrees in related subjects such as:

  • Social Policy
  • Social Work
  • Criminology
  • Anthropology

Where to study

A good website for more information about studying Sociology at University is the British Sociological Association. This has a leaflet you can download and a hub page that contains links to most of the 80 odd universities that offer Sociology and related subjects.

To be blunt, for pretty much any Humanities or Social Science degree you need to be looking at the top 20 universities or you will probably end up unemployed afterwards.

League Tables – Top 20

CUG Rank

University Name

Student Satisfaction

Student Satisfaction
A guide to how satisfied students are with the quality of teaching they receive.

Click here to read more

Entry Standards*

Entry Standards
The average UCAS tariff score of new students under 21 years of age entering the University.

Click here to read more

Research Assessment

Research Assessment
The average quality of the research undertaken in the University.

Click here to read more

Graduate Prospects

Graduate Prospects
A guide to the employability of graduates on completion of their courses at the University.

Click here to read more

Overall Score

Overall Score
The total score calculated by our independent and trusted methodology.

Click here to read more



1 1 Cambridge 4.3   560   2.65   78.0   100.0
2 5 Bath 4.1   383   3.10   68.0   93.9
3 3 Durham 4.1   408   2.65   70.0   93.3
4 2 London School of Economics 3.9   415   2.40   78.0   93.3
5 6 Surrey 4.1   374   2.75   72.0   93.1
6 4 Warwick 4.0   420   2.70   62.0   92.2
7 31 Glasgow 4.1   425   2.25   60.0   90.8
8 14 Exeter 4.1   407   2.70   52.0   90.5
9 16 Bristol 4.1   410   2.40   56.0   90.2
10 13 Sheffield 4.0   367   2.80   56.0   89.8
11 7 Lancaster 4.0   359   2.80   56.0   89.7
12 20 Leeds 4.0   359   2.95   52.0   89.4
13 10 Sussex 4.0   373   2.55   58.0   89.4
14 11 York 4.0   372   2.85   48.0   88.9
15 21 Keele 4.0   323   2.75   58.0   88.9
16 28 Nottingham 4.0   354   2.50   58.0   88.9
17 33 Aberdeen 4.1   372   2.60   50.0   88.8
18 29 Manchester 3.9   384   2.85   48.0   88.7
19 8 Edinburgh 3.7   413   2.75   48.0   88.6
20 18 Kent 3.9   301   2.95   58.0   88.6

And the bottom 7**

84 84 Northampton 4.1   251       30.0   77.3
85 82 Liverpool John Moores 3.8   279       30.0   77.1
86 72 Glamorgan 3.9   259       32.0   77.1
87 80 Buckinghamshire New 3.8   226           77.0
88 83 Bradford 4.1   199       36.0   76.9
89 79 Anglia Ruskin 4.2   225       28.0   76.5


*Average UCAS points – one A grade = 120 points, so 3 As = 360

**These don’t do research, hence there’s no research score!


Career ‘Prospects’ – Sociology

A range of different types of employers are likely to recruit sociology graduates. Typical employers include: local and central government; industry; commerce; the NHS; education authorities; further and higher education institutions; and charitable, counselling and voluntary organisations.

Jobs directly related to Sociology

  • Social researcher
  • Counsellor
  • Community development worker
  • Advice worker
  • Further education lecturer

Jobs where a sociology degree would be useful

  • Probation officer
  • Social worker
  • Charity fundraiser
  • Housing manager/officer
  • Primary school teacher or Secondary school teacher

A 2010 HESA survey of 2009 graduates indicates that six months after graduation, 60% of sociology graduates were in employment in the UK or overseas with a further 8% combining work and further study. Of those entering employment, graduates entered a wide variety of jobs.

  • 15% went into social and welfare professions
  • 8% went into public and private sector management.
  • 20% entered occupations not categorised, which could include those working in not-for-profit organisations, project-based work.
  • 14% went into clerical and secretarial positions
  • 24% went into retail, catering and bar work

So to put it bluntly, of those students who graduated with a Sociology degree in 2009 2/3rds of them had a job 6 months later and about 1/3rd of those had a ‘real’ (professional) job that actually requires a degree. Overall this means that 1/3rd of Sociology graduates end up with a ‘proper job’ 6 months after graduating.

Of course, 3 years on, you now have less chance of getting a job and will be £30 000 in debt by the time you graduate too.


With 450 000 apprenticeship starts last year – Is Unemployment really going down?

You may have noticed the latest headline figures on unemployment –  which, according to the ONS,  declined by 35,000 in the three months to March to 2.65 million.

The Guardian article above also points out that youth unemployment also declined slightly, by 9,000 in the three months to February, leaving a total of 1.03 million 16- to 24-year-olds looking for work. The unemployment rate for this age group was 22.2%, down from 22.3% three months earlier.

Howeverthings may not be as rosy as you think, and if you delve, you notice that these headline figures mark a much bleaker picture of employment in the UK.

The government’s definition of unemployment, which comes from The International Labour Organisation (ILO) – an agency of the United Nations is broader than that of the ‘claimant count’ –  According to their definition 

Unemployed people are those

• Without a job, want a job, have actively sought work in the last 4 weeks and are available to  start work in the next 2 weeks, or 
• Out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next 2 weeks.

(This is the important bit) In general, anybody who carries out at least one hour’s paid work in a week, or who is temporarily away from a job (e.g. on holiday) is in employment. Also counted as in employment are people on government-supported training schemes and people who do unpaid work for their family’ business.

Technically, this means that, yes unemployment maybe falling, but we need to look at the quality of jobs that are being created – and the picture here is not so good – Consider the following two facts –

(1) – As Polly Toynbe  points out, Examine the ONS figures and you find full-time jobs did not increase: they fell by 27,000. All the increase was in part-time jobs for men. There are now 1.4 million part-timers desperately seeking but failing to find longer hours.  

This ties in with findings from the JRF foundation which suggest that Underemployment – people who are ‘unemployed, lacking but wanting work or working part-time because no full time job was available’ is now stands at 6 million, or 2 million higher than in 2004.

Secondly, many new jobs may well be New Apprenticeships – A staggering 450000  of which have started in the last year – and Many of these are not actually real jobs at all – In some cases they pay less than the minimum wage – This under-reported phenomenon is actually worthy of a separate blog post – shortly!)

So, yes, formally, the unemployment figures may be going down, but the types of ’employment’ people are going into are temporary training positions and part-time temporary work – and in both cases wages tend to be low and positions insecure. Yes, unemployment is going down, but the quality of life for those going into employment is also decreasing.