- Series: Historical Studies of Urban America
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (April 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 022602525X
- ISBN-13: 978-0226025254
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #578,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits (Historical Studies of Urban America) Hardcover – April 1, 2016
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How do we understand schools? Do we understand them as separate institutions divorced from their surroundings? And most relevantly for this book, do we examine educational inequality -- historically and contemporarily -- as being caused only by discrimination, racism, and/or singular policy decisions? We know that schools cannot be separated from their communities, and Erickson helps us understand that the roots of educational inequality are very deeply enmeshed not just due to (very real, significant, and wide-ranging) discrimination and racial resistance, but economic, social, and political issues in cities. Many books have sought to understand the reasons for continued educational inequality, but few have done so in ways that Erickson has that speaks to the complexity and interrelatedness of schools with every sector of the cities in which they sit.
For example, her novel use of space and spatial analysis in terms of how Nashville was purposely "drawn" up in terms of city planning and organizational design to encourage segregation -- and then maintain it in later decades following court orders -- is important in understanding not just segregated schools, but educational inequality writ large. In some respects, she uses Nashville as a proxy for cities all across the U.S.; while Nashville certainly possesses unique qualities (one of them, as Erickson optimistically and notably shows, was how it was an outlier in terms of successfully integrating schools for a finite period of time), Nashville's struggle for educational equity parallels the struggles of most other U.S. cities.
For a book that that is so thoroughly researched and so robust in its analysis, it is beautifully written. Erickson does a remarkable job taking the reader on a rich, if not ultimately troubling, journey to understand the structural inequalities and often hidden policy decisions that prevented lasting desegregation and a continuation of a brief period of a narrowing of the Black-white achievement gap in Nashville. Partly responsible for Erickson's captivating prose is her use of oral histories; alongside her insightful historical analysis and exhaustive archival (and public record) research, she intertwines copious oral histories of people who experienced busing and education from a variety of perspectives. These oral histories add a humanizing layer and important texture to this impressively researched book, and I enjoyed how these touching human stories were interwoven within her analysis. As someone who experienced busing all throughout K-12 education in one of the nation's largest desegregation programs, reading Erickson's book brought back many memories -- and forced me to engage (and reassess) my memories abut busing, and most importantly, how busing was only one, albeit major, mechanism (both successfully and unsuccessfully utilized) within the larger relationship between cities and their schools.
Overall, to truly understand educational inequality today, we must take a long historical look at why it remains so entrenched in American society. Erickson's book takes us one step closer to doing that, and I highly recommend her book for anyone who was a student of the busing era, interested in the history of American cities, and above all, like myself, anyone who is an advocate for educational equity and interested in reversing decades of inequalities for the sake of our children.