A sociohistorical examination of George Herbert Mead’s approach to science education

Michelle L. Edwards

Although George Herbert Mead is widely known for his social psychological work, his views on science education also represent a significant, yet sometimes overlooked contribution. In a speech delivered in March 1906 entitled “The Teaching of Science in College,” Mead calls for cultural courses on the sciences, such as sociology of science or history of science courses, to increase the relevancy of natural and physical science courses for high school and university students. These views reflect Mead’s perspective on a number of traditional dualisms, including objectivity versus subjectivity and the social sciences versus natural and physical sciences. Taking a sociohistorical outlook, I identify the context behind Mead’s approach to science education, which includes three major influences: (1) German intellectual thought and the Methodenstreit debate, (2) pragmatism and Darwin’s theory of evolution, and (3) social reform efforts in Chicago and the General Science Movement.

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