C. Arnold Anderson (1907 - 1990)

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Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Through his writings and as the founding director of the Comparative Education Center at the University of Chicago, C. Arnold Anderson was arguably the most influential positivist in Comparative Education since Marc Antoine Jullien early in the 19th century. As the co-founder of the International Study of Educational Achievement (IEA), he was instrumental in launching one of the most acclaimed long-term research projects in the field. In recognition of his many contributions to comparative education, including a term as president of the Comparative Education Society (currently the Comparative and International Education Society) in 1962-63, Anderson was inducted as one of the earliest Honorary Fellows of that organization.

Anderson's humble roots were in rural Midwest America. Born in Platte, South Dakota in a family that came from central Nebraska, Anderson came to be a world-renowned internationalist. His more than 200 publications appeared in over a score of the most important journals in education, sociology, political science and economics. The esteem with which he was regarded can be measured by the many awards and honors that he received, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Stockholm, election to membership in the prestigious Swedish Royale Academy, and visiting professorships at leading universities, including Harvard, Berkeley, Lund, Stockholm, and the University of London Institute of Education. He served on the editorial boards of several of the most respected journals in sociology and education, including the Comparative Education Review, and was for seven years the chief editor of the American Journal of Sociology. He was invited to consult often with UNESCO, the World Bank, and the Ford Foundation.

Apart from his IEA cross-national research on pupils' school achievement, Anderson is best known for his studies of social mobility, especially the significance of family background in access to higher education and social status, and of the relationship between education and economic growth. His research on the social background of university students in Sweden and other European countries is especially notable. Even so, his writings and teaching on comparative theory and methodology, though less well known, are perhaps of even more enduring significance. He was an empiricist through and through, and his debates with less quantitatively oriented comparativists at meetings of the Comparative and International Education Society are among the most memorable in the development of the field.

To his students at the Comparative Education Center of the University of Chicago, Anderson was more of a tutor than a classroom teacher. His classroom style was rambling, and he was a harsh critic. Yet he was beloved by his students, because he devoted so much of his time to and garnered so much respect from them. He taught them to think deeply and to write meticulously. His inclination to poke holes in inflated ideas, whether proffered by eminent scholars or overly confident graduate students, is legendary.

Educational Background

University of Minnesota, USA
B.A. (1927)
M.A. (1927)
Ph.D. (1932)

Professional Background

Instructor, University of Minnesota (1929)

Instructor, Harvard University (1930-35)

Assistant Professor, Iowa State University (1936-43)

Associate Professor, University of Kentucky (1945-48)

Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley (1948-49)

Visiting Professor, University of Lund, Sweden (1954-55)

Professor and Director, Comparative Education Center, University of Chicago (1958-72)

Visiting Professor, University of Stockholm, 1974

Visiting Professor, University of London, 1975

Affiliations (associations, organizations, institutions)

American Sociological Association

Comparative and International Education Society (President, 1962-63)

Comparative Education Society in Europe

Rural Sociological Society

Editor, American Journal of Sociology, 1967-73

Selected Publications

C. Arnold Anderson (1954), "Economic Status Differentials in the South," Rural Sociology, 19: 50-67.

C. Arnold Anderson (1956), "The Social Status of University Students in Relation to Type of Economy," Transactions of the Third World Congress of Sociology, V: 51-63.

C. Arnold Anderson (1959), "The Utility of Social Typologies in Comparative Education," Comparative Education Review, 3: 20-22.

C. Arnold Anderson (1961), "A Skeptical Note on Education and Mobility," American Journal of Sociology, 66 (1): 560-70.

C. Arnold Anderson (1961), "Methodology of Comparative Education," International Review of Education, 7: 1-23.

A.H. Halsey, Jean Floud, and C. Arnold Anderson (1961), eds., Education, Economy, and Society, Free Press.

C. Arnold Anderson and Mary Jean Bowman (1965), eds., Education and Economic Development, Aldine.

C. Arnold Anderson (1967), "The International Comparative Study of Achievement in Mathematics," Comparative Education Review, 11: 182-96.

C. Arnold Anderson (1968), "Technical and Vocational Education in the New Nations." in A. Kazamias and E.H. Epstein, Schools in Transition: Essays in Comparative Education, Allyn & Bacon, pp. 174-189.

C. Arnold Anderson (1977), "Comparative Education over a Quarter Century: Maturity and Challenges," Comparative Education Review, 21: 405-16.

Created: 6/3/2008

Updated: 8/24/2008

Contributed By: Erwin H. Epstein, Loyola University Chicago