Posted by Jay Livingston
Five Montclair undergraduates had posters accepted for the ESS meetings in Baltimore last weekend. Here they are.
There were 130 posters presented in five sessions (the MSU five were all in the Friday afternoon session). Of those 130, five students were selected for awards. One of those was Ian Callahan.
Looking to study education and attitudes, I turned to the General Social Survey (1972-2006) for some data and some inspiration. I stumbled upon a series of questions that measured respondents' attitudes towards 'non-traditional educators,' namely militarists, homosexuals, anti-religionists, and communists.
I like “stumbled upon.” It’s another example of research serendipity. The problem that becomes the focus of research is a path that branches off from the road you set out on. But you never would have found it had you not started walking and looking.
The focal question was this:
How have attitudes toward non-traditional university educators (anti-religionists, communists, militarists, and homosexuals) changed in America from 1972-2006.
(If negative attitudes towards those groups carried the day, not many of our department would still be around, though I don’t think that was on Ian’s mind.)
The trend was what you’d expect – generally liberalizing trend – as were the demographic correlates – education, gender, political views, region, marital status. What made the research awardworthy was its sophisticated method – a stepwise model that untangled simultaneously occurring predictors – and its integration with theory (e.g. “cohort replacement”) .
The puzzling part was that religiosity did not make the cut – no statistical significance to confirm the obvious. Were the measures of “religiosity” flawed? Was the regression model not up to the task? Or were the deeply religious equally tolerant of “non-traditional” professors?
Back in New Jersey, in their capstone seminar on Thursday, some other students organized a party in honor of the Fab Five. What a great bunch of student we have. Asked to say a few words, the department chair cited the Yiddish phrase “shep naches” – to derive pleasure or pride from the accomplishments of someone else’ (usually your children). “We’re pleased and proud,” he said, “but you’re the ones who did it.”
(Photo credit: Janet Ruane)