The Collective Mind
Sociology of education
The spring 2009 issue of the newsletter of the Sociology of Education Section of the American Sociological Association featured a brief (about 4,000 words) essay by sociologist Steven Brint. In "The 'Collective Mind' at Work: A Decade in the Life of U.S. Sociology of Education," Brint offered a lucid and empirically informed appraisal of American sociology of education as reflected in its primary journal, Sociology of Education. Brint's essay is reprinted here as it appeared in the newsletter.
... Brint based his essay on a content analysis of all of the articles that appeared in Sociology of Education between 1999 and 2008. By carefully coding each of the 168 articles that were published during this period into a variety of categories (as explained in his article), Brint reached several conclusions about the collective mind of the sociology of education research community. American sociology of education, according to Brint, focused on "studies of educational achievement and educational attainment as conditioned by social inequality, family and student behaviors, and school organization." It did so in a way that Brint characterized as not exactly "abstract empiricism," but certainly only mildly interested in the development and testing of sociological theory. Finally, Brint saw the collective mind of American sociology of education as generally indifferent to "most of the rest of the world, the U.S. capitalist market economy, or state-based policy coalitions struggling over the forms and functions of schooling." Since its publication, Brint's provocative but evenhanded criticisms of sociology of education have given members of the research community much to think about and talk about. His observations on where we succeed and where we fail as a subdiscipline are frequent topics of conversation at professional meetings, and (admittedly without looking at the data) the piece has been cited an unusual number of times for a non-peer-reviewed publication. Brint's essay was much on the minds of the current editorial team when we assumed responsibility for the journal four years ago. We have been struck over the years how many of our colleagues have read Brint's piece and were eager to discuss it. The transition from one editorial team to the next provides an opportunity to revisit Brint's assessment of our shared enterprise as sociologists of education. We asked the incoming editorial team of Rob Warren, Amy Binder, Eric Grodsky, and Hyunjoon Park to prepare brief responses to Brint's essay, 2 and the current team of David Bills, Steve Morgan, and Stefanie DeLuca jointly prepared its own response. Steven Brint, graciously and on very short notice, has written a response to the responses. We thank everyone for their participation in this exchange. NOTES 1. Sociology of Education has no formal relationship of any sort with the Sociology of Education Section of the American Sociological Association but is rather part of the publishing portfolio of the American Sociological Association. Still, many section members quite naturally informally identify with Sociology of Education as their primary journal. 2. Eric Grodsky, unfortunately, was unable to prepare an essay given our publication deadlines.