Earlier this semester I worked with a class taught by our Dean of Faculty called The Uses and Abuses of Social Science Research. It’s a two-credit topics course in sociology that focuses entirely on the new(ish) Hanna Rosin book, The End of Men: and The Rise of Women.
After reading most of this book (I’m not quite done yet) I’ve come to conclusion that Rosin must have been in cahoots with a librarian. How else would she have been able to distill a semester’s worth of information literacy inquiry into one 320 page book! The claims she makes are grand: Women are better suited for today’s economy and world. Women are doing better than men and will continue to triumph over men in the future. The power dynamic has shifted towards women and men are just now realizing it. The evidence she uses to support these claims are sometimes intriguing, but more often than not they are prime examples of misapplied research or a creative interpretation of data used to support her argument.
There are no in-text citations, no footnotes, no notes at the the end of each chapter. Instead Rosin gives her readers a list of references at the end of the book by chapter with no page numbers, leaving investigative types like myself to match up citations with her writing. The references themselves are a mixed bag: dated books, specialized studies, newspaper articles, and pieces from magazines. As I mentioned before, it’s a book RIPE with IL instruction possibilities!
The instructor of this course is taking full advantage of Rosin’s creative use of supporting references, asking students to examine a chapter and the sources she’s cited to make her claims. After a brief session on research basics, I was able to sit in on a student-led discussion during which two student facilitators dissected one of the book’s chapters. It warmed my librarian heart to hear them ask for evidence to support one of Rosin’s more controversial claims and proclaim some of the sources she used as questionable. It was like Christmas morning but with statistical misuse instead of hot cocoa!
Using material like this book, which is easily readable, accessible, and a part of the popular culture conversation, is a great way to teach students (and faculty) that information literacy is not just about using databases and locating peer-reviewed journal articles. Honing your IL skills gives you the ability to ask intelligent questions about big arguments and call bullshit when a claim just isn’t well supported. Reading and questioning The End of Men is IL in action.
If you haven’t checked out this book yet, I highly recommend it. It just might be the material for your next class!