Over at the excellent Sociology Source, Nathan Palmer recently shared some thoughts about dealing with texting in class. I’d be surprised if this reflection on classroom authority doesn’t resonate with most of us who think about how to effectively teach in the smart phone saturated college setting. I’d never considered the Weberian take on the issue, but I do regularly talk to students about the meaning of cell phones in the classroom, especially when I teach Goffman (presentation of self), and Mills (cheerful robots). However, the classical theorist that most informs my approach to limiting phone use during class is George Herbert Mead. In particular, I tell students that in “The Fusion of the I and the Me in Social Activities,” from Mind, Self, & Society, Mead suggests that keeping the phone in your pocket could make class a ‘religious’ experience.
Self and Society in the classroom
Mead describes the self as a process in which the active “I” adjusts to the social control of the “me.” The “me” is our understanding of the expectations and attitudes of others that we take into account when we act in social situations. To become a self in society, Mead argues, we learn to take the ‘role of the other’ so that we can successfully adjust our conduct according to social expectations. When our gestures produce the same response from others as they do in ourselves, we can complete a successful act. (more…)