Open Eye: A Saturation of Social Scientists
Cook, Yvonne, The Independent (London, England)
What kind of social sciences do we need for the next century? Can the discipline maintain its popularity in the face of competition from rising stars such as IT, which are viewed as more vocationally- oriented? As the OU prepares to launch the successor to its flagship social sciences foundation course in 2000, Yvonne Cook talks to David Goldblatt, BBC2 open.saturday presenter and co-chair of the new course, Understanding Social Change
If social science as a subject is less high-profile than in the past, it's probably because, paradoxically, it's more mainstream.
Says David Goldblatt: "We live in a society which is absolutely saturated with language of the social sciences - pick up any tabloid newspaper and see. Everybody's a social scientist these days. Everybody knows the statistics on divorce. Who collated them? Social scientists. Everybody is talking about risk and uncertainty, about BSE and nuclear power. Who formulated the arguments? Social scientists." After 30 years of expansion social sciences nationally experienced a decline in student intake last year. David is keen to assert their relevance to the new Millennium. "Social scientists need to be a lot more bold and aggressive about the relevance of what they do. In the past we have undersold the vocational opportunities," he says. "Across a wide range of professions a knowledge of the social sciences is incredibly useful - media, a whole range of social work professions, local government, central government, civil service. "And if you go on to something like a graduate training programme with BP or Shell or the financial institutions, a social science degree not only gets your foot in the door, but helps you prosper once you're on the inside." The OU's current Level One (foundation) social science course, Society and Social Science, still popular with around six thousand students, ends this year. Its replacement is so different, David and colleagues are arguing for them to be considered as completely separate courses, allowing students to count both towards their degree. The University has still to decide on this. "The world is a radically different place from when Society and Social Science was framed ten or eleven years ago," David says. "The most important thing that has happened is the end of the Cold War. While you cannot reduce the entire history of the twentieth century to one thing, when historians look back they are going to say that this was an era defined by deep ideological and military confrontations between socialism/Marxism and capitalist/liberalism. "Since the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991, everyone - apart from a few diehards …
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Publication information: Article title: Open Eye: A Saturation of Social Scientists. Contributors: Cook, Yvonne - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 4, 1999. Page number: O11. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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