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Hoop Dreams: Using Film and Basketball to Teach Stratification
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Urban sociology

How to Cite

Walton, Charles. 2016. “Hoop Dreams: Using Film and Basketball to Teach Stratification”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, May. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.


Film is a commonly used tool in the classroom for introductory and social problems sociology courses. This activity recommends using the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams as a means to revisit the topics related to race, class and stratification opposed to normative approaches to the same topics. Creating strategies directly from textbooks can often be...

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Subject Area(s):
Resource Type(s):
Class Activity
Class Level(s):
College 100
Class Size(s):

Usage Notes

Hoop Dreams is a 1994 documentary that follows the high school basketball careers of two Black inner-city youth from Chicago, Arthur Agee and William Gates. From the very beginning of the film, the viewer is immersed in contradiction. Scenes cut back and forth from the ghetto to their new elite campus and its surrounding suburban homes.


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Learning Goals and Assessments

Learning Goal(s):

  1. Students will describe the concepts of inequality, stratification, and social mobility and apply them to the film.
  2. Students will critique the modern societal notion that "hard work" leads to "success".
  3. Students will examine the contemporary relevance of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim's theoretical concepts such as class, status, power, authority capital, etc.

Goal Assessment(s):

  1. Group discussions during which students are able to connect the material conditions of Arthur and William’s lives to the structural aspects of inequality and stratification will indicate achievement of this goal.
  2. Discussions of the structural causes of poverty and inequality will indicate that students understand the effect of social environment, income inequality, unequal access to resources, education inequality, and social networks on individual experiences.
  3. Discussion questions will be used to pull real world examples of difficult theoretical concepts from the film.

When using resources from TRAILS, please include a clear and legible citation.

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