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In Defense of Social Studies



To the Editors of The Crimson:

I write to contest the association that Professor of Sociology James A. Davis draws between sophistry and Social Studies. Professor Davis may know something about sophistry, but seems to know little about Social Studies. The authors on whom the Social Studies. sophomore tutorial focuses include Adam Smith, Emile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud and Max Weber, none particularly obscure or left-wing; and I for one cling to the old-fashioned view that the arguments of such authors, deceased or not, can tell us a good deal about modern society. More than a few distinguished sociologists seem to agree.

Over 10 years, I have had hundreds of Social Studies concentrators in my classes. They strike me as some of the most lively, dedicated and scholarly students at Harvard, and I have never found them to be narrowly pre-professional. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with going to law school, but a large proportion of the Social Studies students I have known actually went on to graduate work and promising academic careers.

The same can and should be said about the graduate students who are teaching fellows in Social Studies. They are not pre-tort coaches, and teaching in Social Studies has never been a professional dead-ened. Among those who have taught in Social Studies are some of the finest sociologists, economists and political scientists in America today.

The Sociology Department is apparently having trouble attracting students or persuading its own graduate students to teach in the department. The logical solution may be to examine the curriculum of that department. Surely, it does not lie in browbeating graduate students, who should be able to make their own decisions about these matters, or in falsely disparaging the staff and curriculum of another concentration.

Professor Davis' letter is profoundly disturbing in two respects. First, it does not represent Social Studies accurately: I commend to Professor Davis his own injunction about "facts and the dreary methods required to determine them." Taking advantage of the vulnerability of graduate students to the views of senior faculty in their field, it seeks to intimidate those who might want to teach in another concentration with real intellectual value. This is an affront to the longstanding commitment of the University itself to academic freedom, community and liberal education.

It would be a shame if anyone were deterred from studying or teaching in one of the finest concentrations at Harvard by the injudicious and inaccurate remarks of those in another department. Peter A. Hall   Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy

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