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Getting the Seat of Your Pants Dirty (badass quotation)


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"You have been told to go grubbing in the library, thereby accumulating a mass of notes and liberal coating of grime. You have been told to choose problems wherever you can find musty stacks of routine records based on trivial schedules prepared by tired bureaucrats and filled out by reluctant applicants for fussy do-gooders or indifferent clerks. This is called 'getting your hands dirty in real research.' Those who counsel you are wise and honorable; the reasons they offer are of great value. But one more thing is needful: first hand observation. Go and sit in the lounges of the luxury hotels and on the doorsteps of flophouses; sit on the Gold Coast settees and the slum shakedowns; sit in Orchestra Hall and in the Star and Garter burlesk [sic]. In short, gentlemen, go get the seat of your pants dirty in real research."

(An unpublished statement made by Robert Park, recorded by Howard Becker while a graduate student in the 1920's, and first published in McKinney, Constructive Typology and Social Theory, 1966:71. Park, for those of you don't know, was probably the most important figure in establishing the Chicago School and therefore, by extension, American sociology).

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There are two unrelated Howard Beckers in sociology: Howard S. Becker who was born in 1928 and did symbolic interaction, deviance, wrote "Becoming a Marihuana User", the Boys in White, and Art Worlds among others and is sometimes referred to "Howie Becker", and Howard P. Becker, born in 1889, who's not so well remembered today, but was president of the ASA in 1960, so a book from '66 is probably referring to him.

If you go back and check the reference, it also definitely says the 1920's. I didn't put the initial in because there wasn't one in the original, but I agree with you, the timing doesn't work with Howard S. As a side-note, Park (who was already 40 when he got his PhD in 1904) died in the 1944 but apparently formally left Chicago in 1933 (retired?) and then taught at historically-Black Fisk University from 1936 until the end of his life, which is pretty awesome, especially at that time, and especially for someone who could have literally worked at any college in the country.

Edited by jacib
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