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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.




Jewett, A. (2020). Education. In Society on the Edge Social Science and Public Policy in the Postwar United States (pp. 102–136). Cambridge University Press.

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