In my opinion, sociologists should not necessarily take sides on social problems. I will explain why but first let me report about what sociologists do. Sociologists should be experts in their field. They study sociological situations and how people react. Individuals and groups of people are influenced by social forces and organizational and institutional entities as well. Sociologists study behaviors and interactions between individuals and groups. They also study social activities such as religion, politics, economics and business (What Sociologists Do, 2012).
Social problems and issues are widespread and some of them include civil rights, gay rights, abortion, gun control, bullying in schools, teenage pregnancy, HIV-AIDS, same-sex marriage, public policy, crime, racial tensions, poverty, aging, obesity, taxes, and the list goes on. These are all aspects of things that go on in society and sociologists study society and how it influences families, schools, the media, work, etc. The sociologist’s job is to figure out how the behaviors of individuals are influenced by society or the social world we live in, so naturally, a sociologists should share their knowledge about such things but I do not think they should take sides regarding this issues because it would be to judgmental. Being judgmental would interfere with a lot of a sociologist’s purpose as a teacher or a counselor. Part of knowing about society is knowing that everyone is different and has different views, so it would not be wise for a sociologists to point the figure and attempt to impose his or her viewpoints and opinions about certain social conditions on someone else.
A sociologist is supposed to have information about social conditions and situations in a way that the lay person does not. This is significant when a sociologist is interviewing, counseling and mentoring clients who may look to the sociologist for guidance. This is when I think the sociologist has a responsibility not to take a stand one way or the other on whatever social problem their clients are dealing with. They should listen to the clients and get a feel for how they feel, but ultimately, the sociologists should coach and counsel the clients on sociological paradigms and teach them how these paradigms fit the situations they are dealing with, so that they can work together on a plan to help overcome the problem. As an example, if a sociologist who was counseling a same-sex couple having problems in society with their situation and suddenly started telling the couple that same-sex relationships are wrong and go against the grain, it would not go over very well. Another example is that same sociologists telling a client who was an anti-gun advocate that there should be more guns on the streets because people should have the right to shoot first, would be a bad idea as well.
I feel that the sociologists’ role is to educate and coach, but I do not feel like they should take it upon themselves to dictate to people what is right or wrong based on their own opinions. It is important that sociologists are seen in the least threatening way possible, so they can contribute their expertise as best they can.
What Sociologists Do. 11 July 2012. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. <http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/sociologists.htm#tab-2>.