Thursday, April 27, 2006

Four Score and Seven...

by B. Strong

I have been asked by my Chair to give a speech at the sociology department's graduation ceremony. My charge is to be "brief, engaging, and funny." I can do brief, and students usually write on my evaluations that I'm funny. (I suspect most of them mean "funny-looking," but that will do in a pinch.) "Engaging" is a bit tougher, but presumably if you're funny you are at least half way there.

Although it wasn't explicitly part of my instructions, I also assume that I'm supposed to make the undergraduates (and their parents) feel reasonably good about their choice of major. I shouldn't, for example, use my time to tell jokes about how many sociologists it takes to change a lightbulb, or what you call a pile of sociologists at the bottom of a lake.

I only know two "positive" sociology jokes, even if I did rip them off from economists and econometricians. Both assume too much inside knowledge of the field, and one has the added bonus of being too crude for a graduation ceremony.

I have to admit that I'm at a loss for what to say. Given the current trajectory of the discipline, it's hard for me to get excited about leading Three Cheers for Sociology. (For a recent example, see Jeremy's post and comments here.)

So, how many sociologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Comments:
Both assume too much inside knowledge of the field, and one has the added bonus of being too crude for a graduate ceremony.

All that buildup and you're not even going to tell us the jokes?
 
Sorry alan: I thought about putting them in my post, but opted for brevity instead.

Will tell them in a different post.
 
Wow, almost every sociology blogger I read is upset with this current election. You really have to screw it up to make the ASA election controversial, don't you?
 
Brayden: I'm not upset by the election, per se. I'm not even as bothered by the renaming resolution as Jeremy, though I see his point.

However, I do think the last few elections show that some unhealthy trends in the discipline I had hoped would fade are, in fact, thriving. ("Upset" is also far too strong -- I get more upset about drunk students peeing on my lawn than I do about ASA elections. But that's a different post, too.)
 
Wait, is there an answer to the joke "How many sociologists does it take to screw in a light bulb?" If not, I see contest potential.
 
Jeremy: Wait, is there an answer to the joke "How many sociologists does it take to screw in a light bulb?" If not, I see contest potential.

I've never actually heard a sociology-lightbulb joke, so I don't know THE answer, if there is one. In keeping with the tone of recent threads, ONE punchline is "who cares?"

But a contest is a great idea. Feel free to run it on your blog, which I suspect gets more traffic from sociologists. (I also feel a little bad about coopting Tom's blog. Too many sociologists running around might just stink up the joint...)
 
I like the contest idea, too. I just want to supply one part of my potential entry right now, which is, "One to argue with the IRB over whether the benefits of light outweigh the dangers of burnt fingertips and electrical shock."
 
In regards to the lighbulb joke: "None, the lightbulb is fine. There is something wrong with the system."
 
"One to argue with the IRB over whether the benefits of light outweigh the dangers of burnt fingertips and electrical shock."

the joke should go, "How many sociologists does it take to change a light bulb?"

The answer should be "Two. One to argue with the IRB over whether the benefits of light outweigh the dangers of burnt fingertips and electrical shock, and one to change the light bulb."

The light bulb will still need to be changed.
 
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