Cntr for Ethics: Public Lecture by Charles M. Payne


Thursday, April 28, 2016, 5:00pm to 6:30pm


Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall 110, Harvard Yard

"Claim No Easy Victories: Can the Social Sciences Serve the Equity Interest of the Poor?"

This talk argues that  much of the academic discourse on inequality, educational and otherwise, has been hijacked, if you will, by two elite discourses, both self-congratulatory, both framing inequality in ways that don’t give us as much real-world leverage as we might have. On the one hand, scholars may be so afraid of “blaming the victim” they may be unable to consider a full-range of the possible levers to change, often working to the detriment of the most disadvantaged members of disadvantaged groups.   On the other, the preferred epistemologies of the social sciences may require such narrowing of the problems as to make it unlikely that they will generate usable knowledge.

Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, where he is also an affiliate of the Urban Education Institute. His interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history. His books include So Much Reform, So Little Change (Harvard Education Publishing Group), which is concerned with what we have learned about the persistence of failure in urban districts, and Teach Freedom: The African American Tradition of Education for Liberation (Teachers College Press).

His current book project is entitled Schooling the Ghetto: Fifty Years of “Reforming” Urban Schools. Payne is among the founders of the Education for Liberation Network, which encourages the development of educational initiatives that encourage young people to think critically about social issues and understand their own capacity for addressing them. Payne has taught at Southern University, Williams College, Northwestern University and Duke University. He has won several teaching awards. Payne holds a bachelor’s degree in Afro-American studies from Syracuse University and a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern.