Karl Alexander

Karl Alexander's picture
John Dewey Professor Emeritus Sociology; Academy Professor in The Academy at JHU/KSAS
Johns Hopkins University
I received my B.A. degree from Temple University and my Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have spent my entire academic career at Johns Hopkins. I have been President of the Southern Sociological Society and editor of the Journal Sociology of Education, and I am a Fellow of the American Education Research Association. My research tries to understand why some children, and some kinds of children, are more successful in school than others and how this affects them later in life. I am particularly interested in the role schools play in society's system of stratification, and how youngsters perform in school is an important part of the picture. Patterns of social inequality from generation to generation in large measure are maintained through the educational system. Children from disadvantaged family circumstances don't perform as well academically as do those from more advantaged families, and later, when they embark on careers or seek employment, their academic qualifications and credentials carry less value. This helps perpetuate historic patterns of advantage and disadvantage. "Success" in school can mean many things, but my work deals mainly with persistence in the school system (i.e., staying in school), academic performance, self-attitudes in the student role, and children's goals for the future (e.g., educational and occupational aspirations). Through survey studies of school age-youngsters, I try to identify features of the home, of the school, and of the individual that seem to promote or impede positive school adjustment.

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