The Significance of Learning Sociology

Generally, learning sociologyprovides us with what sociologists call the sociological imagination.

Sociological imagination is aparticular way of looking at the world around us through sociological lenses.It is a way of looking at our experiences in light of what is going on in thesocial world around us. This helps us to appreciate the social andnon-biological forces that affect, influence and shape our lives asindividuals, groups, and communities (Giddens, 1982). Sociological imaginationhelps us look beyond individual psychology to the many and varied facets ofsocial and cultural forces, and “the recurring patterns in peoples’attitudes and actions, and how these patterns vary across time, cultures andsocial groups.” (Henslin and Nelson, 1995)

Learning sociology helps usunderstand how social forces influence our goals, attitudes, behavior, and personality.We become more sensitive towards the social issues. Furthermore, learning sociologyhelps to cast aside our own biased assumptions, stereotypes and ethno-centric thinkingand practices to become more critical, broad- minded and respectful in our interpersonaland inter- group relationships. By learning sociology, we can be more humaneand people – centered; we give high value to human dignity.

In general, sociology increasesour self-knowledge.

Learning sociology can provide uswith self-enlightenment. When we learn sociology, we gain more knowledge aboutthe conditions of our own lives, and about the way our society and socialsystem function. As such knowledge increases, we can be more empowered toinfluence the direction of forces and circumstances that affect our lives. Wecan also be more responsive to the various policies set by governments; and cansuggest our own policy initiatives and alternatives (Giddens, op cit).

In addition to the aforementionedtheoretical benefits, sociology has certain practical benefits. There is what wecall applied sociology, the application of sociological knowledge, principles,methods, concepts and theories to provide the solutions to the contemporarysocial pathologies. Sociology plays practical roles to tackle socialpathologies.

Sociological knowledge is highlyapplicable in dealing with today’s most crucial social problems, and in facilitatingdevelopmental activities in socioeconomic sectors.

Before closing this section, itis important to note why health/ medical sciences students need to take acourse in introductory sociology.

The following are some of the argumentsfor the necessity of such a course:

  1. Health, disease and illness are as much socio-cultural in their nature as they are physical.
  2. So far, despite certain steps being taken, the dominant trend in the medical/ health sciences training is to highly focus on the biomedical and ecological dimensions of health and disease. However, given the bio-psycho-social nature of human being and health, this is very partial. This restricted approach to health disease does not provide the students with appropriate and whole picture about the issue. Such highly narrow focus in the training of health professionals and design of health policies and strategies is not appropriate.
  3. In the objective realties of developing societies such as Ethiopia human health and well-being are deeply linked to sociocultural factors such as the entrenched poverty, the roles of traditional values and institutions in shaping people’s worldviews about health and disease.

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