Jenebrith Pastran sat down at Coffee Cartel with Fun Nihilist and chatted about the education system, institutions, bias, and how it all relates to a greater branch of sociology.
Q: What aspects of sociology stand out most to you?
A: For me, specifically, because there are macro and micro level studies of sociology, it’s kind of a combination of both. It’s a perspective that analyzes society through a lens of conflict, I think is what mostly I am interested in. You’re kind of looking through the lens of, “What is it that’s not functioning and why?” and, “Let’s try to posit some kind of way to amend that.” It’s not just like, “Oh this is fucked.” Let’s try to figure out the elements that are not functioning and how we can amend that in a proactive way. In a realistic way. I really enjoy that aspect of sociology.
Q: What have you learned in sociology that’s stood out to you?
A: Something that I’ve recently learned is more so what my personal experiences have already informed me of, but was knowing the actual kind of institutional implications that allowed things to work. I would say mostly education. We all know that education in this country isn’t the best, obviously, but when you really read about how education varies from community to community, it doesn’t stand out to the individual when you’re within that kind of context. That’s your environment. Reading how education in Chicago and inner cities are so messed up. How there’s the school to prison pipeline. What feeds into that, what informs that kind of phenomenon, things like that really affect me and interest me. It’s not that it’s a broken system, it’s just the way it’s set up. There are just so many systems of disadvantage within that. We don’t teach people that our world is something that needs to be perceived holistically. There are different elements. I think sociology is really a discipline that tries to understand all these different elements: the economy, this institution, the health, what it contributes, education, and how that affects things, age and race and all of that. It’s balancing all these different elements. I think that if we actually educated people that there are all these elements that inform your experience as an individual within the larger context of society, that would probably do everyone a lot more good.
Q: How do you think this relates to education specifically?
A: That is something that I’m really interested in; seeing what’s broken about our education system, and what is, and why, that we can try to fix it. It’s a really big task. Education in general is one foundation, one root of a larger problem. If that was kind of addressed, it could help fix a lot of things later.
“Nothing is an accident or a coincidence and there are absolutely institutional implications for how things are.”
Q: Why do you think sociology is important in contemporary society? Especially within the current political climate.
A: I think sociology is analyzing what’s going on in the world today without giving so much air time to the politics of it all. We’re not going to listen to a politician banter about something that’s absolutely ridiculous. Let’s say for example, we live in the West Coast and our experiences, just sitting here today, are going to be completely different from, let’s say, some community college student in Oklahoma or in the Midwest. Their experience is going to be remarkably different and sociology is going to say, “Hey, let’s listen to this kid over here. This is a student right now but, statistically speaking, that student can just drop out of school and get a job and be economically depressed for a very long time, because there’s no means there.” But us being on the West Coast, we don’t see that and we don’t address that. Sociology is trying to balance, to just really analyze everything on an equal basis and not trying to just read into bias. There’s bias everywhere, but it’s trying to say, “Hey this is your America, but that’s an America too.” I think we live in a time when it’s pretty easy to point out that we live in two remarkably different worlds. We need to acknowledge them and then see what needs to be addressed there. There’s a reason why Donald Trump is in office and it’s bigger than just his rhetoric. There are a lot of institutional things that were set in place that allowed for that to happen. Sociology is a discipline that allows for people to really explore why. Like why is this going on? Then just trying to figure out how one experience differs from another. Society is a big complex network, and it’s just really trying to understand things within these different perspectives and trying to put it all together. It’s trying to analyze a huge puzzle that’s maybe not quite fitting together, but really taking the time to look at each puzzle piece and seeing how to make it fit into this larger picture.
Q: What suggestions do you have for someone trying to become more generally informed on these topics?
A: I think it’s just a matter of being conscious of knowing there’s a wealth of resources just on the internet, that you just kind of have to find. I didn’t explicitly Google these things, right? I think it’s things, right? I think it’s more of this kind of self discovery process that I think is completely available to everybody, but it’s just within your own time. “A People’s History of the United States” is a great read. It’s just giving people a real history. A historian has compiled the histories of marginalized groups within the United States from Columbus era to the present. Take an ethnics studies class. Just do yourself that favor to open up your eyes to how complex the world is. How nothing is an accident or a coincidence and that there absolutely are institutional implications for how things are. Whoever you are, your experience will somehow relate to that. Out to straight white men, that’s kind of like the funny area of the spectrum. People always bash on cis white males like “Oh they can’t relate to whatever.” I hear you, but we shouldn’t exclude them, because, sadly, they’re the ones that hold a lot of the cards. Instead of demonizing their existence, we should really just encourage them to still explore this. Maybe this isn’t your quote on quote “history” but just acknowledge it and try to figure out, “What is it that’s not functioning? How can I as an individual within this larger context contribute to making this a little better? I think just being an informed individual is doing that already.