"Teaching is an art, and of art Jack Nicholson once observed: 'My first acting teacher said all art is one thing--a stimulating point of departure …What you're supposed to do is keep people vitally interested in the world they live in.' - Michael Kearl.
I believe that the processes of inquiry should be enjoyable interactive experiences, even if my subject matters are not always the most upbeat of topics. I believe that learning should be 16/7 and not confined to the 150 minutes of weekly class time that we have together. To these ends, I try to create a climate that encourages use of office hours and e-mails and class discussion boards. To kindle questions and to demonstrate how to approach them, I created a much-awarded website, "A Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace," which has been hypertexted by thousands of sites, including the Library of Congress, the Administration on Aging, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
I engage all students, whether in introductory or upper division courses, in quantitative inquiries using some of the best data sets in the social sciences. I have been collecting these for over three decades and they now number in the hundreds. In addition, there are responses to questionnaires that have been administered during the first day of my classes since the mid-1980s, featuring questions from some of our national and international surveys. Students quickly become engaged in comparing their responses with those who have taken the course in the past, as well as with individuals from around the world. In practice, it all is quite spontaneous--a student's question may put us into the World Values Surveys, the National Election Studies, the General Social Surveys, Pew polls, or national-level data collected by the U.N. These inquiries are one way I reinforce our goals of "critical thinking" and "information literacy."
For the past dozen years, Professor Kearl has been the Faculty Sponsor for Trinity's Rotaract Club. Through this organization, he has encouraged students and club members to engage in service-oriented topics and to attend presentations made by community leaders, frequently folding back what they have heard into class discussions.
He brings Trinity to a wide variety of community groups, giving talks on a wide range of subject matters. He is also the individual the Public Relations Department often turns to when reporters search for expertise or new ways of looking at popular culture, from Americans' apocalyptic appetites, the popularity of skulls in fashion, celebrity death pools, generational conflict, midlife orphans, to the dissolution of civility and common courtesies on the roads.