Cover: The Education Trap: Schools and the Remaking of Inequality in Boston, from Harvard University PressCover: The Education Trap in HARDCOVER

The Education Trap

Schools and the Remaking of Inequality in Boston

Product Details


$36.00 • £31.95 • €32.95

ISBN 9780674249110

Publication Date: 03/09/2021


384 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

24 illus., 1 map


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Stunning… This richly researched, methodologically sophisticated, well-written study of schooling in Boston from the 1880s to the early 1940s offers eye-opening insights into the shifting pathways into the labor force. Much more than an impressive work of historical reconstruction, this book should serve as a cautionary tale for our own times.—Steven Mintz, Inside Higher Ed

Groeger argues…that the US higher-education ecology was designed to cement rather than to remediate privileges of birth. It’s a lively and fascinating account of occupational politics and entrepreneurial ambition, crafted with scholarly care and recounted lucidly.—Mitchell L. Stevens, Public Books

Seeks to remind us that more hours spent in the classroom does not necessarily equal a brighter, more egalitarian future for all… The ‘trap’ in Groeger’s title refers to the unique and persistent tendency in the United States to focus on education rather than worker power as a panacea for social ills and economic inequality.—Megan Erickson, The Nation

Shows the checkered history of education as an anti-poverty tool. Perhaps most importantly, it helps educators and organizers think about the things that actually do reduce inequality: universal government programs and strong unions.—Mike Stivers, Jacobin

At a time when increasing numbers of Americans are concerned about the legacies of systemic discrimination, The Education Trap is a timely reminder of the destructive and undemocratic impact of exclusionary educational elitism.—Rebecca S. Montgomery, American Nineteenth Century History

A powerful rejoinder to the argument that education alone can serve as the panacea and makes a powerful contribution to and connects the subfields of business, labor, and education history. It merits the widest possible readership.—Lily Geismer, Business History

An important read for anyone interested in the history of education and how it can improve our understanding of schooling and society today. It provides an enlightening read for teachers, teacher educators, researchers, and policymakers, particularly those interested in social justice, encouraging them to examine the society in which students are being educated.—Lisa Kenny, Educational Forum

A cautionary tale for would-be reformers inclined to uncritically repeat bromides about egalitarian uplift through education… A work worthy of consideration for those with an interest in developing deep and nuanced understandings of the complex relationship between work, education, and society.—Eric Torres, Harvard Educational Review

Offers a compelling analysis of how and why myths about merit and mobility through education were constructed… Most of all, it critiques the way in which social scientists and policymakers assert education as an answer to social inequality without attending to the larger dynamics of power that structure work and education.—Tracy Steffes, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Groeger examines how Americans came to view education as a panacea for economic disparities… [A] work of rich research, crisp prose, and lively narrative.—Emily Y. Tran, Urban History

This extensive, insightful historical examination reveals how U.S. education has perpetuated social inequality rather than decreasing it.Library Journal

Incisive… Groeger makes a persuasive case that education is not necessarily the ‘great equalizer’ it’s often touted to be. Policymakers, economists, and education reformers will want to take note.Publishers Weekly

Does education always bring more equality? Not necessarily: sometimes education is used to legitimize unfair inequality in pay and power and to promote a pseudomeritocratic and deeply inegalitarian ideology. By looking at early-twentieth-century Boston, this fascinating book teaches a lesson about today: a more equitable society requires a fight for justice, not only in education, but in the workplace and in the tax system.—Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century

This is the best book about education that I have read in a long time. I urge you to read it… One of the most striking things about the book is its balanced strengths in both theoretical sweep and empirical evidence… Groeger’s study manages to make a compelling interpretation of how the American system of schooling has managed to expand educational opportunity while at the same time reinforcing social inequality, and she also backs it up with a vast array of persuasive data drawn from the Boston case.—David Labaree

Challenging conventional wisdom, Cristina Groeger shows how increased educational opportunities can reinforce inequality when political and social elites deploy credentialism to generate new occupational hierarchies based on gender, race, ethnicity, class, and citizenship. Her probe of Boston a century ago uncovers the deeper historical roots of the ‘education trap.’—Eileen Boris, author of Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919–2019

Groeger challenges America’s central myth that education can substantially counteract social and economic inequality. This subtle, finely grained analysis of Boston schools and economic development from the Gilded Age to World War II offers a provocative rereading of social class, technological innovation, and racial and gender differentiation in the nation’s public and private classrooms.—Leon Fink, author of The Long Gilded Age: American Capitalism and the Lessons of a New World Order

This exquisite book forces us to question one of our most firmly held assumptions: that education is the pathway to equality. Through a closely told history of Boston, Groeger’s work compels us social scientists, historians, and the public to rethink our vision of how to achieve a more equitable society.—Shamus Khan, author of Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School

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