George W. Noblit University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
George W. Noblit became a sociologist in the 1970s, a time of turbulent social change. Research on crime, delinquency and deviance led to a focus on schooling in the lives and futures of youth.
Through a study of school desegregation, he began a program of research on the social construction of race, using ethnographic research to study schools and other educational scenes. Noblit is intrigued with how knowledge—often taken as good in its own right—is implicated in creating the very problems it is asked to solve.
Noblit studies the various ways knowledge is constructed and how the competition over which knowledge counts construct powers and difference. This process means exploring both the highest reaches of theory and the everyday lives of people as they struggle to make sense of the world. To Noblit, “there is not a theory-practice gap, only a failure of imagination.” Noblit conducts funded evaluation projects, most recently on A+ (arts-enhanced) schools (the subject of his 2009 book), charter schools and prison education for youth adult offenders in North Carolina. “For me, evaluation and policy studies are a way to be part of larger political processes in our society,” he says, “and to help shape the agendas of important innovations.”