Emory Report

April 6, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 27

Prolific psychiatrist Robert
Coles to give public lecture

Noted psychiatrist and ethicist Robert Coles will talk about "The Fate of Young Idealism" at a public lecture April 13 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Glenn Auditorium.

Coles, James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at the Harvard Medical School, will also lead a free workshop that afternoon on "Teaching Social Ethics." Having worked with undergraduates as well as students in medicine, architecture, education and in street academies, Coles said of the workshop, "I've constructed various curricula to suit the needs of these different student populations. I will try to discuss all of this at the seminar-ways for us teachers to connect with students in different parts of a university."

Coles is a child psychiatrist who has spent his career interviewing children from all walks of life and trying to understand their situations. Since 1961 he has published more than 1,300 articles, reviews and essays in newspapers, magazines, journals and anthologies, and he has written 60 books, winning the Pulitzer Prize for the five-volume Children of Crisis in 1973. His latest book, The Moral Intelligence of Children, was published in January.

"[Coles] brings to the study of moral development an unusual lifetime of listening and interacting with children," said James Fowler, director of the Emory Center for Ethics in Public Policy and the Professions, which is sponsoring Coles' lecture. "He avoids the tendency to work with impersonal research. He doesn't deny the value of survey research, but his unique contribution has been to listen for the nuances and the moral sensibilities of children."

Coles has spent years doing qualitative work with children in the Deep South during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and '60s and impoverished Latin American countries in the '70s and '80s. He helped found the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, where he is a visiting professor, and co-edits the center's DoubleTake magazine.

"Coles is a man who is very self-contained, you might even say introverted," Fowler said. "There's a kind of asceticism about him that makes him hard to relate to unless he really chooses to make you the subject of his attention. On the other hand, the intensity that he might have used in those sorts of areas he pours into his writing."

Fowler added that people can expect a "seriously playful" lecture from Coles, who often speaks off the cuff. "You can expect to hear an unusual level of candor and of challenge," Fowler said.

Registration for the workshop is limited but there will be a waiting list. For more information call Juanita Nathan at 404-727-5048 or send e-mail to <jnathan@learnlink.emory.edu>.

-Michael Terrazas

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