The System of Social Sciences

When I attended Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA for my Master of Education degree, the experience was different as an adult learner than it was for me when I was an undergraduate student some 20 years prior to that time.  Back then, I was a commuter, really didn’t pay much attention to campus life, worked several jobs so I could pay for my tuition, and did very well in my studies.  Now that I think about those comments, perhaps my graduate school experience wasn’t all that much different.

What was different, however, was the organization of the departments at the two Universities. My undergraduate school had a “School of Education,” and while I was in the graduate program, Seton Hill did not. The structure in place there is a Division of Social Science, focusing on Psychology, Sociology and Education.

I think I see a system taking shape here.

Psychology deals with the mind and one’s behavior; Sociology deals with how those individuals come together as a group, and what effect that has on individual behavior, as well as the effect individual behavior has on society; and Education speaks to how the mind learns individually and within a social context, and is demonstrated by behaviors. Today, brain research has provided a wealth of information on learning, as well as how one functions within society. Today’s society is being impacted by technology, reshaping and connecting the world, and motivating individuals who want to be able to make a difference and not just make a living. Education is certainly being reshaped by technology. As you can see, though, there are still two elements missing from the “perfect” system consisting of 5 key elements.

The first is Anthropology. It’s the study of culture. When you put sociology into a historical context, it brings culture to light. For instance, Psychologist Bessel Van Der Kolk, who studies victims of physical trauma, says we are a “Post-Alcoholic” people. Our European ancestors dealt with trauma by using (and abusing) alcohol, and when we are faced with a traumatic experience, we can fall back into those ways of thinking and acting. That trait was brought over from the culture of the ancestors of the explorers and settlers who encountered the culture of the Native Americans. Through positive (cooperation) and negative (warfare) interactions, new cultures are formed, which, in turn, combine or clash with other cultures within a particular society.

The other is Religion. One can call it Theology, but by definition, Theology is the study of God. Religion, however, is a particular way of thinking and acting because of one’s relationship with a higher power. Thinking and acting, or behaving, is present in Psychology, Sociology, Education and Anthropology. One might even call it Philosophy, but Philosophy is more than just a mere element of the system; in systems thinking, it can be considered as the emergent property of the system. All 5 elements work as a system to create an emergent property, and Philosophy impacts all those things relative to how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to God.

If you’re familiar with my penchant for acronyms, Psychology, Anthropology, Religion, Sociology and Education, interesting, form the acronym PARSE.  The word “parse” means, “To analyze to discover its implications or discover a deeper meaning.” And isn’t that what Philosophers do?  Aristotle, Plato and Socrates immediately come to mind, and they were, of course, teachers.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2012-2017