Sociology and the pedagogy of common sense: dialogues with ‘non-traditional’ sociology students in a new Scottish university

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    In this paper, I examine the problem of common-sense democracy, understood here as a habitus of equal participation in social and political dialogue, through the teaching of sociology to non-traditional students at a Scottish post-1992 university. For the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid, common sense was intrinsically democratic because it built on first principles common to individuals in society. These were both natural and social. On this basis, universities in Scotland imparted what has been called the ‘democratic intellect’ of an egalitarian, generalist education (Davie 1961, 1986). Where philosophy in the ancient universities was once central to this endeavour I want here to consider the extent to which sociology can play such a role in the new universities as they reduce barriers to access. To this end, recent research into sociology undergraduates and graduates from a new university in Scotland, Abertay Dundee, sheds light on both the ‘democratic’ and the ‘intellectual’ sides of the ‘democratic intellect’ equation in conditions of widening student participation. Classroom dialogue between non-traditional students and teachers must be premised on the common-sense democracy of mutual recognition and tutor–student responsiveness. In its wide-ranging subject area of the study of social worlds, sociology arguably possesses some of the intellectual resources necessary to develop and deepen common sense democracy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)151-169
    Number of pages19
    JournalLATISS: Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


    • Citizenship
    • Common-sense
    • Democratic intellect
    • Civic education
    • 'Non-traditional' students


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