November 17, 2007

The gender of early social-science clientele(s)

Some of the discussion on the "Social Reform and Social Science in Chicago and Beyond" panel focused on the relationship between social sciences and social reform movements. Neither Jane Addams nor Myles Horton did their work as disinterested social scientists—far from it. Addams may have been a sort-of-elitist social progressive, but she used city residents in gathering data on garbage collection in Chicago (as another audience member at the panel pointed out). Horton was more self-consciously deliberate about countering myths of social-scientific expertise. In the Addams case and Chicago, what is clear is that she relied primarily on women, in a way that was growing less common as social science faculty began looking towards powerful organizations as the clients for expertise. As Kurt Danziger has noted, U.S. psychologists switched from parents and teachers as clients to school administrators as clients. But what also happened is that the shift was between women as clients to men as clients.

Given Mary Ann Dzuback's work on women and social science in the early 20th century, I am cautious about this impression, but I'll put this out as a hypothesis, and perhaps a suggestion for an interesting dissertation.

(Other dissertation ideas to come out of my listening to panels: the need for an international history of curriculum and curriculum policies, and the need for a serious history of cosmetology as a curriculum subject.... And now someone will accuse me of taking listening- or thinking-depressing drugs this morning.)

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Posted in History on November 17, 2007 11:23 AM |