This volume is a deep and full exploration of the schools of our second largest city, as Chicago was during this period, drawing on bodies of research that go back a hundred years.
I find Neckerman’s distinctions, between the explanations she finds less supported in the research and those she eventually alights on, less sharp than she does.
Neckerman asks why an oppositional culture should have arisen, as in black communities education was almost the only route to achievement.
(She does not refer to the underworld, sports, and entertainment as alternatives routes to status in black communities, but surely they played a role in shaping attitudes toward education.) So where does Neckerman find the answer?
The first is the economic decline of northern and midwestern cities, which heightened financial pressures on the schools.
In a word, they simply didn’t have enough money to deal properly with growing numbers of poor and black students.
Both sets are so dependent on the web of discrimination in employment, residence, and status that it is hard to differentiate among them.
Certainly, theories rooted in discrimination have lost a good deal of explanatory power in the years since the period she explores.
Still, our progress in dealing with the education gap has not been encouraging in the last decade or so.
Nevertheless there is no alternative to continued effort.