Intimate Appraisals:
The Social Writings of Thomas J. Cottle


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Intimate Appraisals

"This collection of essays by the eminent sociologist is a wonderful introduction to his important work. Covering a wide range of subjects, Cottle closely observes individuals’ behavior in response to larger public and historic events. Whether it’s bussing in Boston or the O.J. Simpson trial, his analysis is always revelatory of American culture."


Throughout his long and varied career, Thomas J. Cottle has been producing books that relate the "life stories" of participants who have been voluntarily or involuntarily swept up into major social events. His viewpoints have stood out from the great majority of academic writers because of his even-handed treatment of all participants in the often incendiary social or cultural issues of the day, whether they be the Boston School busing controversy or the O. J. Simpson case. Writing from a sociological as well as a clinical psychological point of view, he eschews abstract analyses and polemics to craft individual portraits that convey the humanity and the dignity of person who are all too often considered peripheral. Although his individual pieces have often received substantial public reception and critical approval, this is the first book to present his work on a variety of subjects in one volume.
synopsis from University Press of New England

Forward by Robert Coles, Harvard University

Many of us who work in schools and colleges, or who work with patients, have come to admire Tom Cottle’s writing, and to appreciate greatly his wide-eyed interest in people, in their stories, and as well, his compelling response to those individuals who have come his way, and through him, ours as well—we who are his lucky readers, for whom he has become an instructive, even inspiring teacher. I know of no social scientist who has Cottle’s range of explorative and responsive energy: his extraordinary willingness to engage with people, seek from them their experiences, their memories, their hopes and worries—and then connect all that he has noticed, heard spoken, to those who read books, and so doing, meet their fellow citizens. [continue]

Excerpt from "Intimate Appraisals"

It would be utterly foolish to suggest that I knew from the time I was a child that someday I would become a social scientist. The fact is that from the moment I was able to play baseball I always assumed I would pitch for my beloved Chicago Cubs, Alas, it didn’t work out that way. During my adolescence, I did discover the world of psychiatry, but although I found much of the material to be fascinating, I employed my primitive understanding of psychology and psychiatry as a way of maneuvering in my family; psychology provided me with as much armor as insight. To say the least, ours was a complex family; negotiating with terribly sophisticated and powerful parents who believed that readily discernible motives and impulses lay beneath the surface of just about every human action caused me to become a miniature family therapist well before I had earned the slightest credentials. [continue]

Table of Contents


Private Lives and Public Accounts
Reflections and Observations
Observations by Way of Conclusions
On Exposing Ourselves in Public
Epilogue from A Family Album

Time's Children
On Studying the Young
Children's Secrets, Family Myths
College: Reward and Betrayal
Self-Discovery Through Play

The Voices of School
Two More Boys on the Bus
The Garden of Children-Education in the Suburbs The Felt Sense of Studentry
Going Up, Going Down: On IQ Testing
The Mosaic of Creativity

Sporting Assets
On Thomas: Clarence, Peeping and Doubting Director's Call
The Right to Silence
The Voice of Harassment
Miss Spoke
Graduation Speech
A Neglected Resource
Simpson, Systems and Sociology



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