Similar classes differ in curriculum, offer students multiple perspectives on individual’s behaviors

Abby Bamburg, Entertainment Editor

Mean Girls.”
Glory Road.”
Yes, these are movies students at Blue Valley have watched in school — in Sociology and Psychology.
Psychology teacher Courtney Buffington said students often get confused about the difference between these two classes offered at BV.
“Psychology is why we behave the way we do,” she said.
Psychology covers topics such as the biology of the brain and nervous system, sensation and perception, development from birth to death, comparing personalities, motivation, emotion, psychological disorders, memory and cognition.
Sociology teacher Andy Unrein said Sociology is how a person’s surroundings mold their decisions and personality.
“From our perspective, it’s the study of how individuals interact with their environment around them,” Unrein said.
Sociology covers six units: foundations of sociology, gender roles, culture, groups and organizations, social class and race and media in society.
Buffington said Psychology has a unit on social psychology and the sociocultural perspective.
“When we look at perspectives in Psychology, how psychologists analyze what we do and why we do what we do, there is a perspective called sociocultural,” she said. “It can be linked to Sociology. And then we do a unit of social psychology, meaning why we behave the way we do in certain groups.”
Buffington said the difference between the two subjects is actually very basic.
“Where sociology is the study of groups and culture, psychology is about the individual,” she said. “There’s a lot more biology in psychology.”
Junior Janel Murphey was enrolled concurrently in both classes last semester, but she said she enjoyed Sociology more.
“Psychology turned out to be more scientific than I thought,” she said. “And more, ‘This happens in your mind because . . . ,’” she said.
Buffington said the classes are similar because there are scientific studies in both, and the classes are based on each other.
“[The Psychology classes] look at why people behave the way they do in an individualized culture compared to a collective culture, and that’s like Sociology,” she said. “So much of why individuals do what they do is because of the outside world.”
Unrein said he thinks the biggest similarity of the classes is that they both examine the individual.
“Both classes work from an individual perspective and work outwards,” he said. “But with Psychology, it’s more of an internal study, and with Sociology, it’s how that individual is impacted by situations and the experiences they find themselves in.”
Murphey said students learn about gender roles in society in both classes.
“Both teach us how gender roles affect your life and the way people act,” she said. “We also learn about how you grow up with those traits in both classes.”
Unrein said he and Buffington bring different pieces to each class.
“We used to have only one teacher teaching both Psychology and Sociology, and that teacher could get confused on what is the difference,” Buffington said. “And you couldn’t keep track of what you’ve talked about in each class.”
Unrein said he likes teaching Sociology because it gives him freedom with the students.
“There aren’t very many topics that are off-limits,” he said. “Because you have a little bit of that freedom, kids seem to be more interested in the things you do and the things you discuss than they sometimes are in my other classes.”
Because Buffington teaches an elective, she said she loves that the students are choosing to be in the class and the personal connections students make with the things they learn.
“I love that the answers aren’t black-and-white,” she said. “We actually never have answers. It’s all just, ‘What do you think?’ We can just find relationships.”