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Sociology and Common Sense

The "Common-Sense Sociology Test" made its first appearance in the mid-1960's. The test is now a familiar fixture in introductory sociology courses and textbooks, but in the beginning its exciting novelty instantly captured the hearts and minds of graduate students and young professors facing their first lecture halls—lecture halls filled with a student skepticism that is now only a memory. It is not difficult to see why the test was so popular a teaching device.

The purpose of the test is to demonstrate to the introductory student the misconceptions that allegedly derive from everyday observation and common sense, misconceptions that can be corrected only by an infusion of sociological knowledge. What more could one ask for when encountering students whose naiveté cannot preclude their believing that "sociology is just common sense"?

By forcing the student to realize the fallibility of his intuitions and observations of social life, the test is meant to make the student realize that he has found sociology just in time to enable him to avoid a life of misconception. Its pedagogical virtues are so obvious that no one seems to have noticed what everyone should have noticed immediately. The test does not merely fail to make its point, but succeeds in demonstrating that precisely the opposite point is true: the beliefs of the student, based on his observations and common sense, are basically...

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