Making the Unequal MetropolisSchool Desegregation and Its Limits

Making the Unequal MetropolisSchool Desegregation and Its Limits

Ansley T. Erickson

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226025254

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


From World War II through the late 1960s in Nashville, Tennessee, policy choices linking segregation in housing, labor markets, and schooling created educational inequality and privileged white students over their black counterparts. Beginning in 1971, Nashville achieved significant desegregation in its schools via court-ordered busing across the consolidated metropolitan school district. But old pressures for inequality, operating in the new context of metropolitan desegregation and economic growth agendas, remade inequality through the later decades of the twentieth century. Schooling the Metropolis locates the causal roots of educational inequality in the interactions between schools, and the basic political and economic structures of the city and the metropolis. These forces shaped three modes of making and remaking educational inequality: the spatial organization of schooling (where students attended school, and which communities had schools), the curricular organization of schooling (which students enjoyed what academic opportunities in school), and the popular and legal narratives through which people explained inequality. Schooling the Metropolis departs from previous views in key ways: it situates schooling as a force in the making of the city and metropolis rather than as a passive recipient of urban and metropolitan dynamics; and it redirects attention from popular white resistance to policy choices that gave desegregation its specific form and meaning. By examining one of the more sweeping and statistically successful desegregation plans, it recognizes obstacles to educational inequality operating even within metropolitan city-county jurisdictions, and it appreciates the multiple and contradictory ways in which local, state, and federal power constructing and challenged educational inequality.