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Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America [Kindle Edition]

James E. Ryan
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

How is it that, half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, educational opportunities remain so unequal for black and white students, not to mention poor and wealthy ones?
In his important new book, Five Miles Away, A World Apart, James E. Ryan answers this question by tracing the fortunes of two schools in Richmond, Virginia--one in the city and the other in the suburbs. Ryan shows how court rulings in the 1970s, limiting the scope of desegregation, laid the groundwork for the sharp disparities between urban and suburban public schools that persist to this day. The Supreme Court, in accord with the wishes of the Nixon administration, allowed the suburbs to lock nonresidents out of their school systems. City schools, whose student bodies were becoming increasingly poor and black, simply received more funding, a measure that has proven largely ineffective, while the independence (and superiority) of suburban schools remained sacrosanct. Weaving together court opinions, social science research, and compelling interviews with students, teachers, and principals, Ryan explains why all the major education reforms since the 1970s--including school finance litigation, school choice, and the No Child Left Behind Act--have failed to bridge the gap between urban and suburban schools and have unintentionally entrenched segregation by race and class. As long as that segregation continues, Ryan forcefully argues, so too will educational inequality. Ryan closes by suggesting innovative ways to promote school integration, which would take advantage of unprecedented demographic shifts and an embrace of diversity among young adults.
Exhaustively researched and elegantly written by one of the nation's leading education law scholars, Five Miles Away, A World Apart ties together, like no other book, a half-century's worth of education law and politics into a coherent, if disturbing, whole. It will be of interest to anyone who has ever wondered why our schools are so unequal and whether there is anything to be done about it.

Editorial Reviews


"Anyone looking to understand the 'lay of the land' in kindergarten-through-12th-grade education should look no further than James Ryan's outstanding 'Five Miles Away, A World Apart' . . . Mr. Ryan's book is both sweeping and accessible."--Phil Brand, The Washington Times

"Americans seem to concur that school desegregation is the right and just policy, and also that we will do nothing to pursue it. We also don't talk or think about it--until a book such as Five Miles Away comes along. Jim Ryan has produced just the right mix of case study and rigorous analysis to both help us grapple with an issue that most people would rather ignore, and to prod us into realizing the urgent need to do so. The focus on urban/suburban boundaries is exactly targeted and the attention to politics and the law, as well as to real children, is essential."--Jennifer L. Hochschild, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Harvard College Professor, Harvard University

"[R]equired reading . . . This is the type of book that inspires a cheer on one page and a jeer on the next. It raises issues many Americans . . . prefer not to raise. His conclusions and recommendations defy ideological categorization . . . Regarding education, the country neither is living up to its ideals nor meeting the needs and aspirations of young people. Many students prosper, of course; many do not. Ryan asks why. His answers command respect."--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"[An] excellent book . . . in Five Miles Apart, [Ryan] carefully surveys the evidence and concludes that steps must be taken to address the social and economic segregation of American public schools. A system of greater choice, rather than compulsory busing, is his prescribed solution, one made more politically feasible by changing demographics, and changing attitudes among young adults." --The New Republic's online book review

"Ryan effectively, conclusively enlightens policy makers, professors, school administrators, legal and educational scholars and researchers, and undergraduate and graduate students of school administration by providing an exhaustive discussion of judicial decision making and executive and legislative thinking since Brown v. Board of Education....The author's experience and expertise in law, research, data analysis, and personal interviewing make this an absolute must read for anyone interested in understanding the impact of judicial decision making on desegregation efforts in the US public school system. Summing Up: Highly recommended."--CHOICE

"In this work, James E. Ryan explores the history of integration in America's schools through an examination of court decisions, historical analysis, and previously published education research." -- Political Science Quarterly

About the Author

James E. Ryan is William L. Matheson & Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is a former clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Product Details

  • File Size: 788 KB
  • Print Length: 399 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195327381
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 9, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0042JSR4Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,479 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, informative, well documented October 8, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author presents a well-documented history of school desegration in Richmond. As a resident of Virginia during this time, the author presents the issues you might not have been aware of when you were only in elementary school. The author also is informative as to his insights into the courts, the judges, and the parties on both sides of the argument. The author's analysis of Detroit and Charlotte-Mecklenburg cases helped me to draw my own conclusions of how history played out over the past 50+ years and in hindsight how some ideas may have had flaws. While there was some controversy in my rural area of Virginia at this time, I was vaguely aware of the issues in the capital city. This book helped to fill in some of the gaps of not being there as well as explain the chain of events leading up to this point - many of which were before I was even born.

If you are from the right, you may not like this book. If you are middle-class and white, you might not like what you read. While the white middle-class played a major role in the transformation of Richmond, it was interesting to learn of the division within the class between "metropolitan whites" and their rural counterparts. For those that know the area, you would have to admit that Richmond has become a kind of urban "suburb" to the surrounding counties - especially Henrico County. Except for state government, law firms, and banking offices, most large retailers and shopping areas are located in the suburbs. (Department stores long abandoned downtown.) That form of economic segregation may be a subject for another author.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Bad News for Hope May 15, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition
I must disagree with the author's approach to education and diversity. While this book is well-researched and thorough, I continue to be mystified by sociological theory and a world where all neighborhoods and greater metropolitan areas are directly before or after Brown v Board. I grew up in, was educated in, and have now worked in "mixed education" for most of my entire life. Regardless of where students were born or how far they were bused - regardless of race - the students that I have known for over thirty years of my life have attended schools not isolated from or despoiled by racial or social or economic disparity. I graduated as a minority from a black high school. I teach at a community college in an area where black people and students are a slight majority. Many more of our schools and students represent random mixes of the population, but authors like Ryan don't have conclusions to support data supplied in these cases, and would not like what they find.

Over the past year at my community college, a year that began with just how bad Ferguson schools were, I kept statistics on my ground zero level. Discounting internet students - about 30% of my student population and a population I don't physically see (also a population most likely reproducing everything you see below) - here is what a year of raw data produces.

For the 2014-15 year I taught:

38 white females
23 black females
37 white males
12 black males

- Again, in accordance with Ryan's statements on race and disparity, this is from a population in which blacks should outnumber whites slightly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of information. August 7, 2014
By M. Buck
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Every tax payer should read this book. It's an excellent explanation of the history of our nation's public school system. it's an easy read and very informative. It's not just for parents and teachers. Anyone can educate themselves on how our taxes are (or aren't) at work and take a stand for things to go differently.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ebook textbook for Sociology of Law August 30, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wish ebooks had page numbers but the cost was great
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disingenuous argument for integration June 2, 2012
By Richard
It looks hopeful. The title includes the phrase "Worlds Apart" and the first sentence in the book uses the word "equal," but the author never explains what he means.

We get it: In city schools the students are minorities, they are poor, the don't do well on tests, and they don't go to college? Why? What is different about city schools and suburban schools?

The author is a lawyer. He talks about the history of the law and and how it works and doesn't work, but he doesn't explain education.

The most important factor in determining a student's success in school is his parents' attitude towards education. The author never discusses it. And while he wants schools to be integrated and, therefore, mix weak and strong students, he never explains exactly how that is suppose to help weak students or what affect that will have on the strong students.

The book is basically a legal history of education. There is little education theory or practice. It's a disingenuous argument for integration of city and suburban schools.
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