After four whirlwind years as a Berkeley graduate student, I took a soft-money position at Langley Porter/UC San Francisco conducting further research on my dissertation topic: social and psychological effects of deafness on children and families. The result was Sound and Sign: Childhood Deafness and Mental Health (1972) co-authored with psychiatrist Hilde Schlesinger. Together with articles from my dissertation, this helped change the education of deaf children. Formerly, all schools barred sign language for those younger than 13.
I came to Berkeley in 1963 with the naive faith that lived experience and social perceptions could be recorded on punch cards with nothing lost in the translation. Four years later, when I left to work in New Jersey, my assumptions about the availability of the external world had been badly shaken on moral and methodological grounds. If the pursuit of sociology was inextricably value-laden, was our privilege to speak as scientists a sham? And, if we relied in an unexamined way on common sense to ground our insights and test our theories, were we the emperors without clothes?
I graduated with the Ph.D. in 1969 and went off for a first teaching job at the University of Santa Clara. I had been radicalized by the student movements of the sixties and while I was initially headed for a job at a so called big ten school, I ended up at much smaller venue due in part to my anger at my professors for being on the wrong side during those tumultuous days. Neil Smelser, Erving Goffman and Marty Trow were my mentors. Trow was marvelous in his supervisionof my dissertation.