My first graduate seminar, in the fall of 1976, was in the area of Sociology of Education. The course examined the influence parents' social origins have on children's academic outcomes. At the time, while the pattern was incontrovertible, the mechanisms through which these patterns were sustained were very unclear. I found this question engaging and ultimately pursued it in my dissertation. This work, a revised version of which was published as a book, Home Advantage: Social Class and Parental Intervention in Elementary Education, examined the social processes though which social class shapes parents' relationship to school.
When I finished my dissertation I became a post-doctoral fellow in1984 in the Sociology Department at Stanford University. The contrast helped me see the distinctive aspects of the training at UC Berkeley: at Berkeley the training was more theoretical, longer in duration, less statistical, and more laissez faire. After Stanford I spent four years as a faculty member at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale Illinois (a tremendous cultural shift from the Bay Area) before coming to Temple University in Philadelphia in 1990. I also worked at University of Maryland before joining the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2008.
Though it is over 20 years since I left Berkeley, I believe that my research continues to reflect the distinctive nature of my graduate training. For example, my 2003 book, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life (University of California Press), attempts to ask a big picture question (i.e., how does social class influence daily routines of family life) using ethnographic methods. It would have been much more expedient to break my research into smaller and narrower questions. My hope is that, in keeping with the Berkeley tradition, my focus on more theoretical broad-mindedâ€ questions using ethnographic methods will be seen as more worthwhile.