A Century of Margaret Mead
by Ray McDermott — 2001
Born in 1901, influential by 1928, engaged by public issues for the next fifty years, and a continuing focus of admiration and complaint since her death in 1978, Margaret Mead is a display board for the twentieth century. This paper analyzes Mead's contributions and contradictions in her ethnographies and in her work on learning. Her first published papers critiqued intelligence tests for Italian children in the U.S., and she insisted always that the children of the world could learn a startling range of skills without suffering the pains of contemporary schooling. Mead had little good to say about American education, but she liked to think that we could get it right, and that school could turn out to be a sturdy foundation for trying on American culture.
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