In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5–4 verdict in Milliken v. Bradley, thereby blocking the state of Michigan from merging the Detroit public school system with those of the surrounding suburbs. This decision effectively walled off underprivileged students in many American cities, condemning them to a system of racial and class segregation and destroying their chances of obtaining a decent education.
In Hope and Despair in the American City, Gerald Grant compares two cities—his hometown of Syracuse, New York, and Raleigh, North Carolina—in order to examine the consequences of the nation’s ongoing educational inequities. The school system in Syracuse is a slough of despair, the one in Raleigh a beacon of hope. Grant argues that the chief reason for Raleigh’s educational success is the integration by social class that occurred when the city voluntarily merged with the surrounding suburbs in 1976 to create the Wake County Public School System. By contrast, the primary cause of Syracuse’s decline has been the growing class and racial segregation of its metropolitan schools, which has left the city mired in poverty.
Hope and Despair in the American City is a compelling study of urban social policy that combines field research and historical narrative in lucid and engaging prose. The result is an ambitious portrait—sometimes disturbing, often inspiring—of two cities that exemplify our nation’s greatest educational challenges, as well as a passionate exploration of the potential for school reform that exists for our urban schools today.
In Hope and Despair in the American City, Gerald Grant has written a profound book about American cities and their schools. He combines far-ranging scholarship with lively field research, autobiography, historical narrative, and an expert grasp of demographic data and the winding mazes of legal opinion. The result is a big and ambitious portrait, through the story of two cities, of our nation's greatest educational problems and possibilities for school reform in the metropolitan U.S. today.
A penetrating account of two cities and their school systems, one in the Northeast where decline and demographic change have brought difficult problems, and another in the growing South which has turned its socioeconomic challenges into opportunities. Anyone interested in educational reform will have to take account of this valuable analysis of the variable fates of our cities, and their schools.
The book is a must-read for anyone interested in urban planning, race relations and education reform.
Gerald Grant, a professor of education and sociology at Syracuse University, has written a compelling new book… He compares the troubled school system of Syracuse, N.Y., with its thriving similarly sized counterpart in Raleigh, N.C. The difference is that in Raleigh, in 1976, the Wake County Public School system was created to zone the suburbs and inner city together to ensure a continued healthy mix of social classes.
The book has the mark of a historian's well-documented journey.
Essential reading not only for his target audience of education reformers but for anyone concerned with the fate of smaller cities… Though few know it, we now live with a grand historical irony: Public schools in the South are far more integrated than most in the North, whose cities, especially the 'forgotten' ones, have become ever more doughnutlike. When we consider the failures of busing, we think of the awful mid-'70s wars in Boston… Grant's fine book shows there's another way, one keyed to restoring the educational center of metropolitan-wide economic development, if only we can summon the political will to do it.
The author blends his personal experiences with wide-ranging interviews and a dash of research to provide a largely sound analysis of the state of urban education.
Hope and Despair in the American City is a rare policy book: brief, personal, and flat-out persuasive. Comparing the catastrophically bad school system in Syracuse, where he lives, with the astonishingly successful one in the North Carolina capital, the author quickly alights on a convincing explanation for the disparity.
In this perceptive and important new book, Gerald Grant tells a modern tale of two cities—Syracuse, New York, and Raleigh, North Carolina—that took starkly different approaches to improving schools and communities… What is astounding—and profoundly disturbing—is that education reform at the national level has basically ignored the type of findings so powerfully outlined in Hope and Despair in the American City.
Something extraordinary has been happening in the [North Carolina's] schools over the past few decades, and the best guide to this experiment is an important new book by Gerald Grant… He found that the single biggest factor determining whether you do well at school or not isn't your parents, your teachers, your school buildings or your genes. It was, overwhelmingly, the other kids sitting in the classroom with you… If a critical mass of them are hard-working, keen and stick to the rules, you will probably learn… Within a decade, Raleigh went from one of the worst-performing districts in America to one of the best.
Gerald Grant's short book tells [its] story very well. It is that rarity among policy tomes: a page-turner. The political calculation that Richard Nixon made in 1971, when he nominated William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court, was borne of his desire to keep Southern and suburban white voters out of the hands of George Wallace and his populist racial appeal—and it saddled America with a Supreme Court whose decisions in the 1970s, specifically on school desegregation, proved evil… Grant points out over and over again that the true achievement of Raleigh and of the other metro-school metros is much more about integrating the social classes than it is about race.
- 240 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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