Earlier this week, I had a conversation with Tom Crann of Minnesota Public Radio about my recently published book, Grocery Activism. The interview aired on Wednesday, June 24th, as part of "All Things Considered" in the MPR "Appetites" segment. This is an old-school recording, about 4 minutes long, captured from the speaker of my radio. (I'll post a link to the archived version on the MPR website when it becomes available.)
For my sociology colleagues out there, I am offering a potential reading assignment for your undergraduate students. I've been fascinated by how rapidly cultural norms have changed, especially regarding social interactions. And I've been thinking about this little parable from Dashiell Hammet, lifted from his novel The Maltese Falcon.
It's rather short -- just two single-spaced pages -- and it might be useful to start a discussion that has relevance to the rapidly changing social landscape we have observed over the past few weeks. It isn't talking specifically about norms, but rather about how quickly we adapt to and accept changed circumstances. The key line is at the very end -- I won't spoil it by giving it to you now. I'm including below a link to a .pdf version of the text that I'm reproducing, along with some potential discussion questions / assignments.
I require attendance in all of the undergraduate courses I teach. Each unexcused absence results in a 5 percent drop in their final grade. (If they let me know why they will be gone or why they missed, it is considered an excused absence and they will avoid the draconian penalty.) Every semester, I've been trying to emphasize why I think this is important, but I have finally compiled some data to show why it might matter to them. Figure 0.1 shows the correlation between attendance and their final grade. Those who miss no more than one class session tend to do much better than the rest. The smoothing curve demonstrates how just a few more absences might have a negative impact. Correlation doesn't equal causation, and we talk about how attendance is related to other student qualities that might be influencing the results that I've intuited in the past.