Cover: Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh, from Harvard University PressCover: Hope and Despair in the American City in PAPERBACK

Hope and Despair in the American City

Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh

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$25.00 • £21.95 • €22.95

ISBN 9780674060265

Publication Date: 03/04/2011


240 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches


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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.—Sandra Tsing Loh, The New York Times (online)

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.—Johann Hari, The Independent

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.—Daniel Okrent, Fortune

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.—Bruce Fisher, The Hartford Courant

The book has the mark of a historian’s well-documented journey.—Tim Simmons, The News & Observer

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.—Richard D. Kahlenberg, The Washington Monthly

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.—Phil Brand, The Washington Times

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.—Catherine Tumber, Bookforum

The book is a must-read for anyone interested in urban planning, race relations and education reform.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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.—Joseph Featherstone, Michigan State University

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.—Nathan Glazer, Harvard University

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