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Suddenly DiverseHow School Districts Manage Race and Inequality$
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Erica O. Turner

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226675220

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226675534.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

Becoming “Urban” School Districts

Becoming “Urban” School Districts

(p.59) Chapter Two Becoming “Urban” School Districts
Suddenly Diverse

Erica O. Turner

University of Chicago Press

This chapter illuminates the ideological context of color-blind managerialism and school district policy making by analyzing district administrators’ and school board members’ racial sensemaking about the challenges (described in chapter 1) of growing enrollments of students in poverty and students of color, declining achievement on tests, budget crises, and attacks on public education in these two districts. It argues that district leaders came to understand these changes in terms of discourses of urban pathology and urban decline, which tap into common, highly racialized notions of post-World War II urban transformation. These ideas were the foundation for education policy, leadership, and color-blind managerialism; they focused Milltown and Fairview district leaders’ concerns and fears on racist “white flight” and the arrival of people of color. A discourse of urban cosmopolitanism was sometimes evoked as district leaders charted futures for their more racially diverse and unequal school systems. However, the framing of school district problems and possibilities in terms of demographic change, culture, and individualized pathology (or virtue) bypassed a more comprehensive and radical critique of the policy shifts and broader political and economic structures that were at the root of their challenges and foreclosed alternative visions for future directions.

Keywords:   urban, white flight, race, demographic change, racial sensemaking, school boards, administrators, colorblind managerialism, school districts, cosmopolitanism

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