Bio


Dr. McDermott takes a broad interest in the analysis of human communication, the organization of school success and failure, and the history and use of various literacies around the world. His work includes studies of inner-city public schools, after-school classrooms, and the function of information technologies in different cultures. At present, he is workinng on the intellectual history of ideas like genius, intelligence, race, and capital.

Academic Appointments


  • Emeritus Faculty, Acad Council, Graduate School of Education

Administrative Appointments


  • Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford Graduate School of Education (1989 - Present)
  • Emeritus Professor of Anthropology (by courtesy), Stanford Graduate School of Education (2019 - Present)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations


  • Co-Director, Teacher Education Program (1994 - 1996)
  • Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University (1985 - 1989)
  • Associate Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University (1979 - 1985)
  • Assistant Professor, Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, Rockefeller University (1975 - 1979)
  • Elementary School Teacher, New York City Public Schools (1968 - 1970)

Program Affiliations


  • Symbolic Systems Program

Professional Education


  • BA, Queens College, Philosophy and Chinese (1967)
  • PhD, Stanford University, Anthropology (1977)

Research Interests


  • Educational Policy
  • Literacy and Language
  • Parents and Family Issues
  • Special Education

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


Interaction analysis and social structure; the political economy of learning; writing systems; educational and psychological anthropology.

2021-22 Courses


Stanford Advisees


All Publications


  • Beyond the culture of poverty, again. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education McDermott, R., Vossoughi , S. 2020; 14 (2): 60-69
  • In praise of school children: A convocation address Mind, Culture, and Activity McDermott, R. 2018; 24 (4): 281-292
  • A Glimpse at Eternity MIND CULTURE AND ACTIVITY McDermott, R. 2017; 24 (2): 150-153
  • Does “learning” exist? Word McDermott, R. 2015; 61 (4): 335-349
  • "One aneither”: A Joycean critique of educational research Journal of Educational Controversy McDermott, R. 2014; 5 (1)
  • Race and Class in a Culture of Risk REVIEW OF RESEARCH IN EDUCATION, VOL 33, 2009 McDermott, R., Raley, J. D., Seyer-Ochi, I. 2009; 33: 101-116
  • The superstition of necessity Philosophy and Education 2008 McDermott, R. 2009
  • Plans, takes, and mis-takes Outlines. Critical Practice Studies Klemp, N., McDermott, R., Raley, J., Thibeault, M., Powell, K., Levitin, D. J. 2008; 10 (1): 4-21
  • Scientifically debased research on learning, 1854-2006 ANTHROPOLOGY & EDUCATION QUARTERLY McDermott, R., Hall, K. D. 2007; 38 (1): 9-15
  • Staying the course with video analysis Video research in the learning sciences Goldman, S., McDermott, R. 2007: 101-113
  • Fine Description: Ethnographic and Linguistic Essays of Harold C. Conklin edited by Kuipers, J., McDermott, R. Yale University Southeast Asia Studies. 2007
  • Reflections on the field - "And this is how you shall ask": Linguistics, anthropology, and education in the work of David Smith ANTHROPOLOGY & EDUCATION QUARTERLY Gilmore, P., McDermott, R. 2006; 37 (2): 199-211
  • Situating genius Counterpoints McDermott, R. 2006; 249: 285-302
  • What is not known about genius What You Don’t Know about Schools McDermott, R. Springer. 2006: 183–209
  • Reconstructing culture in educational research Innovations in educational ethnography: Theories, methods, and results McDermott, R., Varenne, H. 2006: 3-31
  • The cultural work of learning disabilities Educational Researcher McDermott, R., Goldman, S., Varenne, H. 2006; 35 (6): 12-17
  • In praise of negation ZEITSCHRIFT FUR PADAGOGIK McDermott, R. 2005: 150-170
  • Materials for a confrontation with genius as a personal identity ETHOS McDermott, R. 2004; 32 (2): 278-288
  • Estranged labor learning Outlines. Critical Practice Studies Lave, J., McDermott, R. 2002; 4 (1): 19-48
  • A century of Margaret Mead TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD McDermott, R. 2001; 103 (5): 843-867
  • Conklin, Joyce, and the Wannaknow AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST McDermott, R. 1997; 99 (2): 257-?
  • Culture, development, disability Conference on Ethnographic Approaches to the Study of Human Development MCDERMOTT, R. P., Varenne, H. UNIV CHICAGO PRESS. 1996: 101–126
  • CULTURE AS DISABILITY ANTHROPOLOGY & EDUCATION QUARTERLY McDermott, R., Varenne, H. 1995; 26 (3): 324-348
  • The acquisition of a child by a Learning Disability Understanding Practice McDermott, R. edited by Chaiklin, S., Lave, J. Cambridge University Press. 1993: 269–305