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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Twenty-Nine: Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban Educational Reform (1997)


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Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban Educational Reform (1997)

Aaron M. Kuntz

“If I had a gun I’d kill you. You’re all hoodlums.” (White fifth-grade teacher)1

The above epigraph, in all its starkness, is perhaps the most cited of Anyon’s seminal text on urban schooling and educational reform in the later decades of the twentieth century. It is referenced in a host of reviews, educational and political commentaries, journal articles, and books. It was also the lead-in that The New York Times used to begin Jean Anyon’s obituary two years ago.2 In many ways the quote epitomizes the layered problems that Anyon’s text addresses: historically embedded violence, racism, power disparities, stereotyping, and the inability to enact educational reform in contextual isolation.

That these two sentences were uttered by a White teacher to a fifth-grade class of predominantly poor, urban, African American students highlights the many ways in which problems of education are entangled in power-laden histories that exceed individual attention—isolate one element and you lose sight of a host of additional factors, all equally heavy with the weight of systemic inequality. This, then, might be the force that propelled Anyon’s Ghetto Schooling into the realm of “classic” texts on education: a stringent determination to recognize the macro-level implications of poverty, racism, and ghettoization (to name but a few) on more localized educational reforms, policies, and practices, even as...

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