Introduction to Sociology
SOCI 101 - SUNY Morrisville
Professor Kurt Reymer

2PRs (Two-Page Reports)

Writing exercises on sociological topics will be assigned during the course. The assignment guidelines are designed to enhance research and writing skills and show your understanding of the themes of sociology that we are covering in the course. They will be graded on a 20-point basis. See the “Late Paper” policy section below regarding late submissions.

2PR1 (Two-Page Report 1)

Two-Page Reports #1: Individual vs. Society: Free will v. Fate

Due Monday September 19 (end of day)

In part one of the course, we are learning what social institutions are -- "the purposeful organization of people into groups and organizations." Universal types of social institutions (that exist in every society, whether small, remote and simple or large, global, and advanced) include Family, Religion, the Economy, Education, and Politics (remember "FREEP" from the notes).

Other social institutions particularly relevant in American society today might be Sports, Media, Science, or Justice. Remember that "institutions", from a sociological perspective, are abstract concepts -- the term describes the totality of the concrete physical manifestations of them.

So, when talking about social institutions of Sports, for example, we are talking about the totality of all the teams, types, and locations that integrate this meaningful construct into our lives -- from high school football, to professional tennis, from Yankee Stadium (baseball) to Mount Everest (mountain climbing).

An example in the institutions of American Justice include the physical places (like courts, jails and prisons), the social statuses (like police or judge), and the behaviors, some of which are being debated today, such as stop-and-frisk, chokeholds, or jail-cell "suicides." The Institution of Justice correlates ALL of these places, ideas, and behaviors.

So, as you write your paper, I want you to talk about institutions from the abstract Sociological Perspective, not just the concrete personal perspective.

Here's your task for your first two-page report:

Note how we have learned so far that the norms we observe and roles we play within our institutions shape, in part at least, who we are. This means that much of what you do has been "programmed", forlack of a beter term, into you by your institutions. For some, even the deepest beliefs have been inculcated in them by their families, teachers, and/or religious leaders, for instance. This fact reveals that we are not as independent as we think.

This introduces a particular problem in thinking about the Self <-> Society relationship. To what extent are individuals free to pursue whatever they want, their hopes, their dreams, despite the forces of society pushing back on them? You might argue that we are perfectly free and independent of society, but the evidence regarding human behavior -- when you look at it scientifically -- suggests you are wrong. The philosopher Jean Paul Sartre defined Freedom as, "what you do with what's been done to you." What does he mean by "what's been done to you" and what part does society play in that?

Discuss in a carefully crafted and edited two-page report your understanding of this issue of fate (what's been done to you) and what you can do with it (given norms and institutions which act to constrict freedom). Where do you draw the line between the power you have to express your individuality and independence and the power that society has to get people (even outside of their own awareness) to conform? Give examples of both cases -- the way society impacts your own behavior and how you express your free will despite these social forces.

Note: this is not an opinion paper! Using concrete examples from personal experience, from the news, from other's anecdotes (stories), or elsewhere, you should provide evidence for your claims and write in the "third person" (for example, "It's clear from this evidence that people behave in ways that allow them to express their free will" rather than "I don't just go along with society.")

Submission Guidelines: Your paper should be two pages in length (approximately 400-500 words), double-spaced, 1-inch margins, standard font, and in descriptive paragraph form (not just a bullet list response).

IMPORTANT: You should:
(1) save your work as a PDF file (for MS Word use the "Save as..." feature; for Google Docs, "Download as..."), with the
(2) filename starting with your LAST NAME-2PR1, then
(3) attach the PDF file to me in an email ( with the subject line reading 2PR1.

Due Monday September 19 (end of day)


I will be using the following rubric to grade your paper:
(A) Has the student provided a clear, defined understanding of the abstract nature of social institutions?
(B) Has the student provided a clear example of insitutional influence on the individual?
(C) Has the student provided a clear example of indpendent behavior of the individual?
(D) Has the student discussed in the abstract the dilemma between fate and free will?
(E) Has the student followed the submission guidelines, including paper format and deadline?

Sample Paper:

Here's a sample paper that gives an idea what I'm looking foir -- it's too short though (should be
a full two-pages) and has too many spelling and grammar errors.

Sample Paper