Sociology Today; Problems and Prospects

By Robert K. Merton; Leonard Broom et al. | Go to book overview

5
The Sociology of Education

NEAL GROSS Harvard University

T he sociological analysis of education may be described as a relatively underdeveloped and unfashionable subfield of sociology. There are currently only a handful of sociologists who make this field their specialty. Relatively few students in graduate training aspire to be known as educational sociologists, and few courses or seminars at the graduate level are offered in this area in American universities. One of the most pressing problems of educational sociology is its current "unfashionability," for the prospects of this or any other subfield depend in large part on the degree to which sociologists will direct their theoretical and research skills to its major substantive problems. Those who work in the sociology of education are convinced that there is "gold in them thar hills," but additional prospectors are sorely needed. Before considering some of the major substantive problems of this field, therefore, it may be useful to consider certain factors that may in part account for its relatively low prestige among the special fields of sociology.

One factor undoubtedly related to the low prestige of the sociology of education is the quality of the existent research literature. With a few notable exceptions, the literature is characterized by an undue emphasis on description in contrast to analysis. Many of the research studies lack theoretical orientation, and they have yielded few hypotheses

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