Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-75dct Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-20T20:11:23.325Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

3 - Education

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2020

Philippe Fontaine
École normale supérieure Paris–Saclay
Jefferson D. Pooley
Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania
Get access


Chapter 3 traces the peculiar-and sometimes hands-off-relationship of the mainline social sciences to education research over the course of the twentieth century. The existence of low-status education schools, operating as standalone units on the professional margins of the US university, colored the shape and volume of social scientific inquiry in shifting ways. Into the 1950s, education was typically positioned as a solution for other problems of society, rather than its own focal concern. With the Cold War and the federal government's new mandate to steward economic growth as backdrop, “fixing” the nation's schools took on special urgency, as exemplified in the early 1980s by a policy and political climate increasingly oriented to national competitiveness. Social scientists from the main disciplines move in and out of the education domain, sometimes yielding jurisdiction to “ed school” faculty whose radicalism has tended to marginalize their contributions since the 1960s. From the 1970s on, meanwhile, the policy prominence of economics has increased. The human capital framework, in particular, supplied an individualistic and vocational lens to assess the school system, one that sidelined the stratification and inequality concerns of other social scientists and ed school researchers.

Society on the Edge
Social Science and Public Policy in the Postwar United States
, pp. 106 - 136
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


American Association of School Administrators. Character Education. Washington, DC: The Department of Superintendence of the National Education Association of the United States, 1932.Google Scholar
Angell, Robert C. “Science, Sociology, and Education.” Journal of Educational Sociology 1, no. 7 (1928): 40613.Google Scholar
Banks, James A., and McGee Banks, Cherry A.. Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspective. 9th ed. New York: Wiley, 2015.Google Scholar
Bannister, Robert C. Sociology and Scientism: The American Quest for Objectivity, 1880–1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.Google Scholar
Berliner, David C. “The 100-Year Journey of Educational Psychology: From Interest, to Disdain, to Respect for Practice.” In Exploring Applied Psychology: Origins and Critical Analyses, edited by Fagan, T. K. and VandenBos, G. R., 3778. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1993.Google Scholar
Blaug, Mark. “Where Are We Now in the Economics of Education?Economics of Education Review 4, no. 1 (1985): 1728.Google Scholar
Bossard, James H. S. “Social Change in the United States.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 265 (1949): 6979.Google Scholar
Bowles, Samuel, and Gintis, Herbert. Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. New York: Basic Books, 1976.Google Scholar
Brick, Howard. Transcending Capitalism: Visions of a New Society in Modern American Thought. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006.Google Scholar
Burgess, Ernest W., Warner, W. Lloyd, Alexander, Franz, and Mead, Margaret. Environment and Education: A Symposium Held in Connection with the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the University of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1942.Google Scholar
Cohen-Cole, Jamie. The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.Google Scholar
Coleman, James S. Equality of Educational Opportunity. Washington, DC: US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education, 1966.Google Scholar
Collins, Robert M. More: The Politics of Economic Growth in Postwar America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
Comitas, Lambros, and Dolgin, Janet. “On Anthropology and Education: Retrospect and Prospect.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 9, no. 3 (1978): 16580.Google Scholar
Critical Issues and Trends in American Education.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 265 (September 1949).Google Scholar
Davies, Scott, and Rizk, Jessica. “The Three Generations of Cultural Capital Research: A Narrative Review.” Review of Educational Research 88, no. 3 (2018): 33165.Google Scholar
Davis, Kingsley. “Review of Environment and Education, by Ernest W. Burgess, W. Lloyd Warner, Franz Alexander, and Margaret Mead.” American Anthropologist 44, no. 4 (1942): 71213.Google Scholar
Edmondson, Elizabeth A. “Without Comment or Controversy: The G.I. Bill and Catholic Colleges.” Church History 71, no. 4 (2002): 82047.Google Scholar
Eliot, Thomas H. “Toward an Understanding of Public School Politics.” American Political Science Review 53, no. 4 (1959): 103251.Google Scholar
Eliot, Thomas H. “Toward an Understanding of Public School Politics.” Teachers College Record 62, no. 2 (1960): 118.Google Scholar
Fleming, Donald. “Attitude: The History of a Concept.” Perspectives in American History 1 (1967): 287365.Google Scholar
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press, 1970.Google Scholar
Gardner, Howard, and Hatch, Thomas. “Multiple Intelligences Go to School: Educational Implications of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Educational Researcher 18, no. 8 (1989): 410.Google Scholar
Gaston, K. Healan. Imagining Judeo-Christian America: Religion, Secularism, and the Redefinition of Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019.Google Scholar
Geary, Daniel. Beyond Civil Rights: The Moynihan Report and Its Legacy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.Google Scholar
Geiger, Roger L. Research and Relevant Knowledge: American Research Universities since World War II. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.Google Scholar
Gilman, Nils. Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
Graham, Patricia Albjerg. Schooling America: How the Public Schools Meet the Nation's Changing Needs. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
Green, Steven K. The Bible, the School, and the Constitution: The Clash That Shaped Modern Church-State Doctrine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
Groeger, Cristina. “The Political Economy of Education and Social Inequality in the United States, 1870–1940.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2017.Google Scholar
Harris, Seymour Edwin. How Shall We Pay for Education? Approaches to the Economics of Education. New York: Harper, 1948.Google Scholar
Hart, Hornell. Progress Report on a Test of Social Attitudes and Interests. Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1923.Google Scholar
Hartman, Andrew. Education and the Cold War: The Battle for the American School. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.Google Scholar
Hartshorne, Hugh. “Sociological Implications of the Character Education Inquiry.” American Journal of Sociology 36, no. 2 (1930): 25162.Google Scholar
Hess, Frederick M., and Pickett, Francesca. “Celebrating a Century of Advocacy Masquerading as Education Research.” National Review (blog), April 7, 2016. Scholar
Hoffer, F. W.Five Years of Ph.D. Research in Economics and Sociology.” Social Forces 4, no. 1 (1925): 7477.Google Scholar
Holden, Laura, and Biddle, Jeff. “The Introduction of Human Capital Theory into Education Policy in the United States.” History of Political Economy 49, no. 4 (2017): 53774.Google Scholar
Hulett, J. E.Review of Environment and Education, by Ernest W. Burgess, W. Lloyd Warner, Franz Alexander, and Margaret Mead.” American Sociological Review 7, no. 6 (1942): 881.Google Scholar
Illich, Ivan. Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.Google Scholar
Jencks, Christopher, and Riesman, David. The Academic Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.Google Scholar
Jencks, Christopher, et al. Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America. New York: Basic Books, 1972.Google Scholar
Jewett, Andrew. Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Civil War to the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
Jewett, Andrew. “Naturalizing Liberalism in the 1950s.” In Professors and Their Politics, edited by Gross, Neil and Simmons, Solon, 191216. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
Johanningmeier, Erwin V., and Richardson, Theresa. Educational Research, the National Agenda, and Educational Reform: A History. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2008.Google Scholar
Johnson, Charles S.Introduction to Symposium.” American Journal of Sociology 48, no. 6 (1943): 62932.Google Scholar
Johnson, Charles S. Education and the Cultural Process: Papers Presented at Symposium Commemorating the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of Fisk University, April 29–May 4, 1941. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1970.Google Scholar
Judd, Charles H.A National Program of Educational Research.” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 16, no. 8 (1930): 58789.Google Scholar
Kliebard, Herbert M. The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893–1958. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987.Google Scholar
Labaree, David F.Public Goods, Private Goods: The American Struggle over Educational Goals.” American Educational Research Journal 34, no. 1 (1997): 3981.Google Scholar
Labaree, David F. The Trouble With Ed Schools. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe. An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.Google Scholar
Lewis, Oscar. Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty. New York: Basic Books, 1959.Google Scholar
Loss, Christopher P. Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
Lowen, Rebecca S. Creating the Cold War University: The Transformation of Stanford. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Lynd, Robert S. Knowledge for What? The Place of Social Science in American Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1939.Google Scholar
Mead, Margaret. Growing Up in New Guinea: A Comparative Study of Primitive Education. New York: W. Morrow & Company, 1930.Google Scholar
Mead, Margaret. The School in American Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951.Google Scholar
Mershon, Sherie, and Schlossman, Steven. “Education, Science, and the Politics of Knowledge: The American Educational Research Association, 1915–1940.” American Journal of Education 114, no. 3 (2008): 30740.Google Scholar
Moynihan, Daniel Patrick. The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. Washington, DC: United States Department of Labor, Office of Policy Planning and Research, 1965.Google Scholar
Murphy, Gardner, and Likert, Rensis. Public Opinion and the Individual: A Psychological Study of Student Attitudes on Public Questions, with a Retest Five Years Later. New York: Harper, 1938.Google Scholar
Nash, Margaret A.The Relationship between Academic Social Scientists and Educational Policymakers: A Brief Historical Overview.” In New Foundations for Knowledge in Education Policy, Politics, and Administration: Science and Sensationalism, edited by Mitchell, Douglas E., 328. Mahwah: Erlbaum, 2006.Google Scholar
National Commission on Excellence in Education. A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform: A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education. Washington, DC: United States Department of Education, 1983.Google Scholar
Ogburn, William Fielding. Social Change with Respect to Culture and Original Nature. New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1923.Google Scholar
Ogburn, William Fielding. “The Folk-Ways of a Scientific Sociology.” Scientific Monthly 30, no. 4 (1930): 3006.Google Scholar
Parsons, Talcott. “The School Class as a Social System: Some of Its Functions in American Society.” Harvard Educational Review 29, no. 4 (1959): 297318.Google Scholar
Perry, Jill Alexa. “What History Reveals about the Education Doctorate.” In Placing Practitioner Knowledge at the Center of Teacher Education: Rethinking the Policies and Practices of the Education Doctorate, edited by Latta, Margaret Macintyre and Wunder, Susan, 5172. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2014.Google Scholar
Peters, Michael, and Burbules, Nicholas C.. Poststructuralism and Educational Research. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.Google Scholar
President's Commission on Higher Education. Higher Education for American Democracy. Washington, DC: GPO, 1947.Google Scholar
Reuben, Julie A. The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.Google Scholar
Reuben, Julie A.Education.” In The Cambridge History of Science (The Modern Social Sciences), edited by Porter, Theodore M. and Ross, Dorothy, vol. 7, 62134. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
Riesman, David. The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950.Google Scholar
Riesman, David. Constraint and Variety in American Education. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1956.Google Scholar
Roucek, Joseph S.Review of The Conceptual Structure of Educational Research, by T. R. McConnell, Douglas E. Scates, and Frank N. Freeman.” American Sociological Review 8, no. 1 (1943): 1012.Google Scholar
Roucek, Joseph S.Changing Concepts and Recent Trends in American Educational Sociology.” International Review of Education 4, no. 2 (1958): 24044.Google Scholar
Rudolph, John L. Scientists in the Classroom: The Cold War Reconstruction of American Science Education. New York: Palgrave, 2002.Google Scholar
Schrum, Ethan. “Establishing a Democratic Religion: Metaphysics and Democracy in the Debates over the President's Commission on Higher Education.” History of Education Quarterly 47, no. 3 (2007): 277301.Google Scholar
Schrum, Ethan. The Instrumental University: Education in the Service of the National Agenda after World War II. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019.Google Scholar
Scott, Daryl Michael. Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880–1996. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Scribner, Jay D., Aleman, Enrique, and Maxcy, Brendan. “Emergence of the Politics of Education Field: Making Sense of the Messy Center.” Educational Administration Quarterly 39, no. 1 (2003): 1040.Google Scholar
Shuttleworth, Frank K.A Decade of Progress in Methods of Measuring Character.” Journal of Educational Sociology 4, no. 4 (1930): 23341.Google Scholar
Skinner, B. F. The Technology of Teaching. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1968.Google Scholar
Smeyers, Paul, and Depaepe, Marc. “The Lure of Psychology for Education and Educational Research.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 46, no. 3 (2012): 31531.Google Scholar
Snavely, Tipton R.The Place of Education in the Developing Economic Structure of the South.” Southern Economic Journal 13, no. 4 (1947): 40415.Google Scholar
Snedden, David. “The Field of Educational Sociology.” Review of Educational Research 7, no. 1 (1937): 514.Google Scholar
Social Science Research Council. Decennial Report, 1923–1933. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1934.Google Scholar
Spindler, George. Education and Anthropology. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1955.Google Scholar
Staub, Michael E. Madness Is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.Google Scholar
Tead, Ordway. “New Frontiers in Higher Education.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 265 (1949): 11521.Google Scholar
Teixeira, Pedro Nuno. “A Portrait of the Economics of Education, 1960–1997.” In Toward a History of Applied Economics, edited by Backhouse, Roger E. and Biddle, Jeff, 25788. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
Teixeira, Pedro Nuno.The ‘Human Capital Revolution’ in Economics.” History of Economic Ideas 13, no. 2 (2005): 12948.Google Scholar
Teixeira, Pedro Nuno.Conquering or Mapping? Textbooks and the Dissemination of Human Capital Theory in Applied Economics.” European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 25, no. 1 (2018): 10633.Google Scholar
Thurstone, L. L.Attitudes Can Be Measured.” American Journal of Sociology 33, no. 4 (1928): 52954.Google Scholar
Walters, Pamela Barnhouse.Betwixt and Between Discipline and Profession: A History of Sociology of Education.” In Sociology in America: A History, edited by Calhoun, Craig, 63965. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.Google Scholar
Wells, Amy Stuart, and Roda, Allison. “The Impact of Political Context on the Questions Asked and Answered: The Evolution of Education Research on Racial Inequality.” Review of Research in Education 40 (2016): 6293.Google Scholar
Whyte, William H. Jr., The Organization Man. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.Google Scholar
Wooton, Flaud C.Review of Education and Anthropology, by George D. Spindler and Lawrence K. Frank.” American Sociological Review 20, no. 6 (1955): 770.Google Scholar
Yon, Daniel A.Highlights and Overview of the History of Educational Ethnography.” Annual Review of Anthropology 32 (2003): 41129.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats