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Cathie Jo Martin
Imagine All the People: Literature, Society, and Cross-National Variation in Education Systems


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Diverse education systems present a paradox. Northern European education systems have much higher levels of educational diversity (with strong secondary vocational programs and few national standards) but higher socioeconomic equality. Liberal education systems have more uniform (and arguably equal) secondary programs but higher levels of socioeconomic inequality. This incongruity reflects different cultural beliefs about the central role of education. In Britain, education was viewed primarily as a vehicle for individual self-development, whereas in Denmark, expansion of schooling was part of a national, patriotic project to build a strong society. Martin’s project draws on a close reading of texts and computational linguistics analyses of over 1,000 Danish and British works of fiction from 1700 to 1920 to demonstrate how authors historically portrayed education. In her lecture, she shows how historical cultural differences have contributed to lasting economic disparities between the Anglo and Nordic political economies. Where collectivist views predominated, a desire to build a strong society produced a mandate to educate all the people: neglect of low-skill youth was viewed as a waste of societal resources and a threat to social fabric. Where individualistic views predominated, one found socially-substandard education systems and disregard for those left out of mainstream markets.
Cathie Jo Martin is Professor of Political Science at Boston University, President of the Comparative Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, and former Chair of the Council for European Studies. Her book with Duane Swank, The Political Construction of Business Interests (Cambridge 2012), received the APSA Politics and History book award. Martin is also author of Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment Policy (Princeton 2000), Shifting the Burden: the Struggle over Growth and Corporate Taxation (Chicago 1991), and co-editor of Negotiating Agreement in Politics (Brookings 2015).

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