Published Online: April 9, 1997

Departments

Learning About Children

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At Harvard University, 270 undergraduates are taking a course offered for the first time this spring called "Children and Their Social Worlds." Taught by a cultural anthropologist, a psychologist, and a law professor, the course explores the social problems children face at each stage of their development.

It is just one piece of the 4-year-old Harvard Project on Children and Schooling. The idea is to bring together educators from a broad range of academic fields--medicine, law, education, business, and psychology, to name a few--in an effort to enhance children's learning and strengthen the institutions that serve them.

"We can't really help anything in the treatment of children unless we get Harvard's act together," said Martha Minow, the law professor teaching the new course. "We are as fragmented as the rest of the country is in this regard."

Ms. Minow also heads a sub-program of the initiative, called Children's Studies at Harvard, that won a $1 million, two-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York in November.

Besides creating new courses, the Harvard project plans to nudge along research efforts in the field, create links with community programs that serve children in the Boston area, and come up with new models for evaluating systems that serve children.

"Eventually, we might want to create a new field of children's studies that would parallel the development of women's studies in universities," said Katherine K. Merseth, the project's director.

The initiative was one of five established by Neil Rudenstine when he became president of the university in 1991. The others address the mind, professional ethics, health policy, and the environment.

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