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Does college make co-eds communist? - 1934
Academia has a reputation for harboring radicals and communist sympathizers. This was no less true 75 years ago than it is today. In fact, back in the mid-1930s some families were concerned about whether they should send their young daughters off to college, for fear they would come home commies. In 1934, psychologist Stephen M. Corey set out to determine whether such fears were justified.

Corey administered the Thurstone Attitude Scale to 234 female freshmen. (He seems to have done this at the University of Wisconsin, though he didn't say so specifically.) He examined their attitudes to six areas: Reality of God, War, Patriotism, Communism, Evolution, and Church. A year later he retested 100 of these students when they were sophomores.

It turned out that their attitudes only changed slightly, but the change was in the direction of liberalism. Corey wrote in a 1940 article in the Journal of Social Psychology, "The opinions of the students appeared to have undergone at least a degree of liberalization during their one year of attendance at a University." However, he also noted that students who scored higher on intelligence tests showed less change than did those who scored lower. The following table detailed how the attitudes of the young women changed with respect to each topic:

Although Corey's article suggested that the college experience caused a slight shift towards liberalism, when he presented his findings at the Midwestern Psychological Association convention in May 1940, he toned down this finding, perhaps fearing it would cause families to deny their daughters higher education. Instead, he assured people that it was safe to send young women to college, stating, "There was no great difference in the girls' attitudes. The average co-ed apparently would rather mix with stag lines than picket lines."

But not only that. He also emphasized that the young women lost none of their feminine habits at college. A United Press reporter paraphrased his words of assurance:

He found that in general college did little to upset or change a co-ed's home training but that she might learn to apply her makeup better, dress better and talk better. "But she won't talk about Communism -- college offers too many other diversions."

In other words, families could rest assured that their daughters would still be good homemakers upon their return. Not godless communists!
  • Corey, S.M. (1940). "Changes in the opinions of female students after one year at university." The Journal of Social Psychology, 11: 341-351.
  • "College girls prefer cupid darts to communism, psychologist says." (May 5, 1940). Nevada State Journal: 6.
Posted By: alex | Date: Mon Aug 15, 2011
Category: Human Subjects, Psychology, Gender, 1900-1949, United States,
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