A Federal Case; 12
This is a federal case a weekly show that takes up an issue of government and takes a good look in Washington D.C. the National Educational Radio Network. This week we're going to make a federal case out of something that may sound so dull that you'd rather make a case for tuning out the social sciences unless perhaps you are a social scientist. It's unlikely that that title grabs you. But wait a minute. In one day's issue of the Congressional Record last fall Senator Walter Mondale Democrat from Minnesota inserted the summary of a book length report called the behavioral and social sciences outlook in needs. That's another not so vivid title but Senator Mondale said he thought this was a very important report because it argued for various things that would give the social scientists the psychologists anthropologists
sociologists historians and all the others better tools in order to improve the lot of virtually everybody in the country. Hunger education drugs riots ghettos unemployment are all major problems which the social scientists can deal with better than anybody else. Senator Mondale's says there hasn't been enough good use of these scientists. He proposed something he called a full opportunity act a while ago to help the social scientists. And this report recommends a lot of the same things that the senator had put in his bill. You're going to hear the senator talk about the social sciences. And you also hear the cochairman of the scientific committee that did that report talk about his concerns. He is Dr. Henry Rican The president of a private nonprofit organization based in Washington called the Social Science Research Council. Along with Dr. Ernest Hill guard of Stanford representing the National Academy of Sciences and
19 other eminent social scientists Dr. Reagan produced a report which assessed the state of social science in America today and which called for a number of improvements. After you listen to these two men talk about this subject for half an hour you'll have a better idea what the social sciences are doing in this country and what's needed. First here's Senator Mondale tell what he thinks one of the troubles with the whole field is in the federal apparatus the social scientist is still a poor second cousin among all the disciplines. I've often said if an economist and a natural scientist and defense matters national say it isn't all just generally scientific matters that are social scientists all get on the plane at the same time to come to Washington to make a point. You know you kind of must go to the councils of the Council of Economic Advisors which is right next to the president defense
scientists can go to the National Security Council. General scientist to the president's scientific advisor social scientists he measured it out at once somewhere because there's no one to talk to the social sciences in Washington and they're still regarded as sort of quackery. They're regarded as knowing a subject that everyone knows or knowing a subject that isn't the subject but anything that we're talking about I think that's one of the reasons we have cities exploding and all the rest of our best social scientists unlike our best economists that will say listen now you're going to hear both of these men on the role of government in connection with the social sciences. First Senator Mondale talks more about what is going wrong with the government activity in these areas. And then Dr. Reagon tells why you things government should be interested and what the social sciences can contribute. He mentions a couple of his committee's
recommendations which he will explain in a little more detail later on. Most political leaders. Trust their judgment more than they should. I mean it's just too much for one man to know we have a 900 billion dollar budget year at the federal level as we're at the point where I think goodwill is absolutely essential but not nearly enough. 1967 some doctors stumbled on a few hungry kids down in the 70s. We were all shocked. We called in the Surgeon General and other top leaders of government and none of them knew it existed or things just that they had no notion of its extent. And then we started funding public health service surveys done under Dr. Shafer X1 surveys Sedley showed it was a national major profound problem. And now even President Nixon I think I'm glad that he has declared it to be a major national disgrace. Another example would be the way our cities exploded
when Watts exploded we thought that was a one time phenomena. Well since then we've had joy in your work and all the rest and thought of that by the Kerner Commission Report we realize that there are tensions and frustrations and anxiety among the poor of this country that are explosive in practically every community every major society. Once again we learned about it when it exploded in our face. Gardner John Gardner once said that we have a time honored way of backing into the future. And I'd like to see as turn around faces and plan ahead and do a far better job than we are. I think congressmen are very interested in any kind of guidance that they might get for helping them to work on the problems of the country which are after all very much social and behavioral problems. These days the government is after all kind of an applied social science itself. You see every government agency is concerned with solving some kind of problem that is is a problem
of our society employment or commerce or health or welfare. And I think the way we see the social science contribution to these things is expressed pretty much in terms of better education for social scientists to work on applied problems. That's the School of Applied Behavioral Science and more attention to the development of a broad and competent database and the development of indicators social indicators which in turn would if worked out help to signal the problem solving agencies of government where there are efforts needed to be put perhaps even to alert them to new problems or to suggest how successful they've been in working on old ones. The outlook in needs report which Dr. Reagan helped to compile as more than 300 pages long. It was published in a limited edition by the National Academy of
Sciences. It is not so much an extended list of accomplishments as it is a description of what is going on in the different fields and what seems to be needed overall. Dr. Reagon now explains part of what the report covers. And he begins by talking about some of the limitations of the social sciences in the past. It's almost as if the social sciences were operating on a 19th early 20th century level of effort one man and one graduate student or a few graduate students none of the large teams none of the large facilities. Now if the social scientists are to undertake a serious role in the scientific attack I would say the solution for the scientific attack on contemporary social problems. It's quite obvious that the size of the effort has to be expanded to be a bigger effort. And in particular the effort to gather data
and to make data available data on the current state of society data on trends and behavior needs to be made richer and more available. And that's what we're really talking about when we talk about social indicators and large data base. Senator Mondale has called these social indicators measures of the quality of life really a phrase that I don't feel awfully comfortable with. I know what it means and I think and I've been able to suggest a better general title. We don't quite have the equivalent of prosperity or economic stability or. Some of the some of the terms that we've we've become accustomed to in describing the state of the economy recession proof or growth oriented. We don't have quite the equivalent terms for. For the
rest of social life and perhaps for the time being the quality of life will do. Your committee has talked about the need for more social reporting in general and about the idea of an annual social report. I want to tell me about that. Yes you really can sense that's the question of what you would do if you had a set of indicators. Obviously we're thinking somewhat along the lines of the Council of Economic Advisors economic report which assesses the state really of a major part of the economy. Give me an example of the kind of thing that should be done the kind of social indicator that might be developed that might be that might be reported on. Well it might might be an indicator having to do with the achievement the intellectual or educational achievement of various segments of the population and how it changes over time. Or it might be an index
of variations in type and location and magnitude of crime. Or it might if we were successful in developing certain social psychological measures actually get at something closer to the quality of life. As I think you used the term earlier happiness sounds much too general and vague content and sounds exciting but we might be able to measure something that is bounded roughly by a morale and happiness and satisfaction and the achievement of one's personal potential. Among other things in your report you seem to be asking for more money from the federal government perhaps 12 to 18 percent more every year typically live to the side to give to social science research into question after I was asked what would you recommend in the way of a rational policy for the development of the
social sciences. What we would recommend is an expansion in basic funding at that rate 12 to 18 percent a year. The reason is primarily that we're behind in terms of personnel and opportunities to work on major items of this sort. The country's most concerned with whether we will get it or not. I don't know what's the next step. Well for us they the next step is to hope that the people take some of the recommendations and advice that we give seriously because the next steps have got to be taken by a whole variety and range of social scientists. We're not trying to tell people how to carry on their scientific work. We're just suggesting some main direction. We can't prescribe how social scientists are going to go about doing that work.
But one of the suggestions we had was for universities to undertake. In whatever form they saw best the establishment of schools of Applied Behavioral Science. Each one of these schools has to take root in an virus that hospitable to it and no one form is going to succeed best each university is somewhat different. Probably they be graduate school to be professional in orientation rather than disciplinary as they would be educating people for the purpose of taking professional research role of an applied sort. One of those next steps Dr. Reagon mentioned is the one Senator Mondale wants to take with his full Opportunity Act. What are you going to you the senator talking about parallels in many respects what Dr. Reagan has just said there are differences too. Listen the Senator Mondale put a little more emphasis on the role of government in the future of the social sciences. Dr. Reagan tended to talk more about the private sector.
I have proposed the creation of a Council of Social advisors which is patterned after counseling and writers. Representative of all the disciplines where we can get the water and other types of social scientists right next to the president and giving it the finest as well to establish systems of social indicators to the extent that human problems can be quantified it is a limited area to date but I think there can be more quantification than we've seen thus far. And then I would ask that the council issue an annual social report and that the Congress establish a joint social committee. Obviously this whole thing is patterned after the Council of Economic Advisors But in addition of that I would establish a new national commitment for full Social opportunity set of just going up to the objective of full employment which we've yet to reach but which we declared as a national injective in 1946 I think we should now go beyond it and declare the much broader more difficult to define I think in a in a
real sense far more important objective of social gathering. When you're you know you call on socially and he used to be in and you say they are measures of the quality of life. What do you mean. Well I'm not sure. And there's a big argument in social science among social scientists as to how far we can quantify it. But I wish we had this devilish ongoing statistics over the years of healthy life so we knew what they were doing better or worse. Health indicators on how many children are receiving decent education. I assume that's a tough figure to come by but I think we could develop a figure like that line so we knew where they were doing last what how many how many people are suffering from malnutrition how many prisoners in penal institutions are receiving rehabilitation as distinct from just called custodial care and so on.
How many mentally ill are receiving adequate treatment. You know it's amazing thing that all of our figures are what in Washington is by the nearly billion dollars we spend to develop our what you might call cold facts and not hard facts they can tell you how many schools are veiled or how many textbooks they have or how many teachers. I really can't tell you whether anybody is being educated. They can tell you sort of the physical input side of things but we have very little that know it by way of achievement or lack of it that I would like to see us move as quickly as we can to develop indicators of a statistically that would be medicine over there going forward. Back. We separate and divide problems of such small little categories that we've got a case of what's called hardening of the categories were we. We divide
man's problems into so many little separate sections and set up little agencies with their own little bureaucratic jealousies in each section of the point there is no one left who thinks any more about the man himself. So we might deliver him a great school but the kids are hungry so we might deliver him a lot of food in those schools. We might deliver him housing you know jobs we can't pay the rent and all sorts of things we don't take but I would make a toast a strategic approach to this problem and that's what the muslim things in your village right right would try to do you know it's not an operational billets a study and visibility effort so that we would see the problems and hopefully the institutions would respond. That's one thing. Name two things that that report research that was you know kind of cross boundaries and disciplines but not for you know one. You know look when I look at the problem.
I. Want to be. Yes it did and that's why I regard it as a in support of my major and this gets to another problem. And that is that I think the social scientists and the in the social science fields suffer from. Not having been consulted that I think there's a lot of esoteric irrelevant material discussed by social scientists because they know they're never going to be asked so why not just have fun with your little little area and we saw this in that in the early 30s and 40s among economists that would say they were all going off on their little fields and but if you want to know how you get on climate there wasn't anybody you could tell you. Council economic advisors not only been a valuable tool for the government but I think it's worked back into the whole discipline of economics to make economists more economically relevant
to develop the discipline that not only appeals to the the academic field but also finally comes to a point in a fashion that permits an economist to tell a president what he can do and not do that just deliver 10 feet of books but say Mr. President I think you should raise interest rates or drop whatever in order to do this. We haven't or it is we haven't arrived at a similar level of contemporary relevance in social sciences. Maybe we never can but I think we can do far better if we had this institution which call upon social scientists to arrange their discipline in the way that it was usable by the political leaders who cared about society. Right now when you get social scientists together far too often you it sounds like a classroom and when you finally ask the question What shall I do. You don't get an answer you get a speech and public leaders need answers. Hopefully the creation of this institution which would lead us in that direction. What's the interest in this.
Well I would say it's been impressively apathetic at this point. You mean a lot of people in United States are hearing I would say almost everywhere. The social scientists who. Are interested in this area in their in their specialized journals come in on it widely. But the general public and the Congress is not very interested. We're going to try to develop some interest here. Maybe part of it is my fault. Well we're we're holding hearings now holds more hearings and we're going to try to raise the bill because you know bring it up for debate. I think that gets broader attention but we don't even approach Mr Agnew's level of interest 20 pics on the television stations and the kids and so on. That's what people are interested in.
Here's Dr. Reagan talking about the position of the social sciences in the future as he sees it. Now what's my optimism about the future. I don't think the social sciences should control human behavior we have any right to be thinking about how to control it. Control of human behaviors by human beings through whatever social institutions and social mechanisms or devices a particular group of human beings creates. And I think that social scientists do have a role to play in regard to these institutions and devices in helping to analyze how they work how they might be improved to point out what some of the value choices are between efficiency and comfort between a certain kind of cost and a certain benefit in how you design your employment policy or how you design a correctional policy for for dealing with deviant behavior. What
attitude you take toward the regulation of drugs alcohol and other kinds of stimulants. Something yet to be discovered. So yeah I think you can look at these problems analytically dispassionately and make some assessment of costs and benefits not with the idea that the scientist is some sort of king we're going to tell you how to work your way out but hopefully an informed advisor will tell you what the problems are where they're at any areas in which there were major disagreements among you about what your point should recommend. I think there was some disagreement as to what recommendation we would make toward a national Social Science Foundation for example. Not much. There was discussion about it and the argument turns around one's estimate essentially of a very cloudy political situation. The two points of view are that a separate government foundation especially for the social sciences is
necessary and the other that the National Science Foundation together with National Institutes of Health National Institute of Mental Health Office of Education and other government agencies concerned with social problems can successfully sponsor and nurture the social science disciplines without any separate foundation. Some people think that a separate Foundation for Social Science is not even a desirable thing because it is likely to isolate the social sciences from contact with the physical in the biological sciences and in a sense to make them the object of a more vulnerable object of congressional attention. Social sciences do deal very often with material that is politically controversial and from time to time in the American past have been handicapped in having
congressional dislike turned upon the poor. Research or for pronouncements that the Congress disagreed with. Morning Edition the panel came to the conclusion in the end that the best solution would be the release of diversity which happens to be my position too. OK now I asked the senator to tell me what he'd like to see. Your deal differs a little bit from the recommendations of your report that not been repeated in what way. Well he said that report comes pretty close to what we want to venture. But I think they're. Expressing what they believe to be the reluctance of the institutions to come I think I think they would support our position right now. I thought it could be adopted but I think you can say they want an interim position. Private foundations private studies and so on to try to do the same
thing but outside the governmental structure until they can we can arrive at the creation of a kind of social visors. They may be right I don't know talk you want about the way he went in his council on social values to sort out what sort of things that he's doing how much money he made. Well we have arrived at a figure and I don't think you'd be very expensive. But what I'd like to do is see a council of three members possibly five and I think it worked better with three of the top contemporarily relevant social scientists in this country I was there for the war Heller types of social scientists who have that unique past to the master and their fields and you have to relate them in a layman's fashion to the president and the Congress. And then I would like to have. A stamp of brilliant and gifted social scientists covering the whole spectrum of the
social science psychology the humanities maybe architecture. Penal Reform and the whole spectrum economics or sociology the whole spectrum of social sciences to back them up and every four years to develop them and then I'd like to have this sufficient funds to establish a databank to develop. Data social indicators and I would also like to see the creation of a national Social Science Foundation to which council social advisors could make appeals for in-depth studies which could tap through grants assistance to social scientists around this nation and academic institutions and elsewhere to prepare studies and valuation conferences. I some of the key crucial questions.
Now it's obvious that there are some real differences in the ways this scientist and the senator see the future of the social sciences in the country. For one thing Senator Mondale just mentioned the idea of creating a separate national Social Science Foundation. Dr. Reagan said he favored a pluralistic approach to the social sciences one that didn't isolate them further from the other sciences in some sort of separate foundation. Now whether you completely agree with either of these men is not important perhaps neither of them has the perfect solution yet. What does matter and what both the senator and the scientist agree on is the need for more social science research. We need to use the tools of social science. We need to emphasize the scientific approach to solving our social problems. We really need to understand human behavior better. Wouldn't it be nice to know why man went to war and what we could do instead or why some men oppress others and how we could change that or why it's so hard for the poor to get out of
- A Federal Case
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- "A Federal Case" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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Identifier: 69-38-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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