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Justice, Justice

School Politics and the Eclipse of Liberalism


Daniel H. Perlstein

In 1968, a bitter struggle broke out between white New York City teacher unionists and black community organizers over efforts to create community control of the city’s schools. The New York conflict reverberated across the United States, calling into question the possibility of creating equitable schools and cementing racial antagonism at the center of American politics. A path-breaking study of teacher organizing, civil rights movement activism, and urban education, Justice, Justice: School Politics and the Eclipse of Liberalism recounts how teachers’ and activists’ ideals shaped the school crisis and placed them at the epicenter of America’s racial conflict. Taking into account much of twentieth-century American history to uncover the roots of the school conflict, this book illuminates the dilemmas and hopes that continue to shape urban schools.

"Like a ghost, the 1968 New York teachers strike continues to haunt America’s fractured political and educational landscape. Daniel Perlstein’s long-awaited account of the strike demonstrates the enormous range of meanings that black and white Americans affixed to terms such as ‘community’, ‘freedom’, and ‘equality’. Even better, Perstein shows how our present-day dilemmas over race and education reflect the very same controversies that the strike unleashed. Eminently fair and respectful to every side of the dispute, this wise book will force its readers to grapple anew with the ghost of 1968. If the history that Perlstein presents is often frightful, the costs of ignoring it are even scarier. Jonathan Zimmerman, author, «Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools»

"Daniel Perlstein’s gripping interdisciplinary examination of the New York school wars of the 1960s teaches us much about the complex and shifting interactions of politics, ideology, race, social class, and unionism when social change is attempted. This is the way educational history should be done. Perlstein must now be viewed as one of the eminent social theorists of our time." William Watkins, author, «The White Architects of Black Education: Ideology and Power in America, 1865–1954»