Towards a Critical Sociology of Health Disparities

Grades 9+

Basic Information:

Instructor: Charles H. Settles


Course Overview:

In this course, students will learn to decenter the power of white privilege to stand absolute by critiquing its dominance (Collins 1986, 1991, & 1998; Feagin et al., 1996). In constructing this decentering critical sociology of health disparities, students will challenge reified power relations or what they have been previously and unquestioningly taken-for-granted, and replace them with some alternative knowledges or thinking (Collins 1998; Wolff 1976 & 1983). As a result, students will unpack some of the “theoretical-practical-existential significances" of the counter-stories in their own intellectual lives thereby validating the viability of their own thinking to upstage some of the professed valid standpoints (“truth”) of a totalizing, but oppressive white Other (Collins 1998; Feagin & Vega 2001; Wolff, undated archived item; Wolff 1976 & 1983).

The intellectual core of this course is an interactive read aloud based on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Skloot 2010). By participating in this interactive read aloud, students will unfold the lived nature of health disparities. And enriching this participation will be  reaction journal writings, and course concluding reflective essays based on journal entries that will document changes in student thinking over time. Additionally, supporting this intellectual core will be two wiki assignments which will stimulate student thinking about health disparities and how to reduce them, and three other mind awakening activities based on: the "Open Your Minds" poem, and unique student "images of possibility," and “accessing possible futures" profiles. And, if there is time, students will revise posters on diabetes and hypertension and teach mini-lessons to family and friends about these two topics; and finally, again if there is time, students will aesthetically react to their participation in this course, and share with classmates the resulting poetry, art, music, dance, etc.

        To successfully complete this course, students must:

  • attend all class sessions, and  participate in an interactive read aloud of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • participate in two wiki where they “will ... gear into the outer world, change it, and through their changes bring about the worlds of their dreams,” including possibilities given birth by thinking about and remedying health disparities (cf. Schutz 1971, 226-27).
  • free write journal responses to The Immortal Life…, and write course concluding reflective essays based on their reaction journal writings showing how their thinking changes over time
  • collaboratively study posters on diabetes and hypertension, and implement mini-lessons based on the posters
  • react to and share responses to their own images of possibility and accessing possible futures profiles
  • create and share poetry, art, music, or whatever aesthetic form they fancy in reaction to their participation in this course. 
        Accordingly, upon completing this course, students will have listened with open minds, solved
problems through dialogue, and built upon each others’ ideas thereby clarifying their own
thinking, deepening their own ideas, and empowering their own minds.

Course Outline:

A.   Introduction: course expectations, policies & procedures
  1. Reacting to Open Your Minds, a poem (Settles 2006)
  2.  Reacting to The Immortal Life…
  3. Teacher explains reaction journal assignments

B.    Reacting to The Immortal Life… and accessing possible futures profiles

C.    Reacting to The Immortal Life…; accessing possible futures profiles                               

D.   Reacting to The Immortal Life…; Teacher reviews reaction journals &
                                       explains reflective essay writing

E.    Reacting to The Immortal Life…; Wiki participation                                

F.    Reacting to The  Immortal Life…; images of possibility profiles; wiki participation

G.    Reflective essay sharing; activities on diabetes and hypertension

H.    Course wrap up