Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America

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Overview

How is it that, half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, educational opportunities remain so unequal for black and white students, not to mention poor and wealthy ones?

In his important new book, Five Miles Away, A World Apart, James E. Ryan answers this question by tracing the fortunes of two schools in Richmond, Virginia—one in the city and the other in the suburbs. Ryan shows how court rulings in the 1970s, limiting the scope of desegregation, laid the groundwork for the sharp disparities between urban and suburban public schools that persist to this day. The Supreme Court, in accord with the wishes of the Nixon administration, allowed the suburbs to lock nonresidents out of their school systems. City schools, whose student bodies were becoming increasingly poor and black, simply received more funding, a measure that has proven largely ineffective, while the independence (and superiority) of suburban schools remained sacrosanct. Weaving together court opinions, social science research, and compelling interviews with students, teachers, and principals, Ryan explains why all the major education reforms since the 1970s—including school finance litigation, school choice, and the No Child Left Behind Act—have failed to bridge the gap between urban and suburban schools and have unintentionally entrenched segregation by race and class. As long as that segregation continues, Ryan forcefully argues, so too will educational inequality. Ryan closes by suggesting innovative ways to promote school integration, which would take advantage of unprecedented demographic shifts and an embrace of diversity among young adults.

Exhaustively researched and elegantly written by one of the nation's leading education law scholars, Five Miles Away, A World Apart ties together, like no other book, a half-century's worth of education law and politics into a coherent, if disturbing, whole. It will be of interest to anyone who has ever wondered why our schools are so unequal and whether there is anything to be done about it.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Anyone looking to understand the 'lay of the land' in kindergarten-through-12th-grade education should look no further than James Ryan's outstanding 'Five Miles Away, A World Apart' . . . Mr. Ryan's book is both sweeping and accessible."—Phil Brand, The Washington Times

"Americans seem to concur that school desegregation is the right and just policy, and also that we will do nothing to pursue it. We also don't talk or think about it—until a book such as Five Miles Away comes along. Jim Ryan has produced just the right mix of case study and rigorous analysis to both help us grapple with an issue that most people would rather ignore, and to prod us into realizing the urgent need to do so. The focus on urban/suburban boundaries is exactly targeted and the attention to politics and the law, as well as to real children, is essential."—Jennifer L. Hochschild, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Harvard College Professor, Harvard University

"[R]equired reading . . . This is the type of book that inspires a cheer on one page and a jeer on the next. It raises issues many Americans . . . prefer not to raise. His conclusions and recommendations defy ideological categorization . . . Regarding education, the country neither is living up to its ideals nor meeting the needs and aspirations of young people. Many students prosper, of course; many do not. Ryan asks why. His answers command respect."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"[An] excellent book . . . in Five Miles Apart, [Ryan] carefully surveys the evidence and concludes that steps must be taken to address the social and economic segregation of American public schools. A system of greater choice, rather than compulsory busing, is his prescribed solution, one made more politically feasible by changing demographics, and changing attitudes among young adults." —The New Republic's online book review

"Ryan effectively, conclusively enlightens policy makers, professors, school administrators, legal and educational scholars and researchers, and undergraduate and graduate students of school administration by providing an exhaustive discussion of judicial decision making and executive and legislative thinking since Brown v. Board of Education....The author's experience and expertise in law, research, data analysis, and personal interviewing make this an absolute must read for anyone interested in understanding the impact of judicial decision making on desegregation efforts in the US public school system. Summing Up: Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"In this work, James E. Ryan explores the history of integration in America's schools through an examination of court decisions, historical analysis, and previously published education research." — Political Science Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195327380
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2010
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 805,849
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James E. Ryan is William L. Matheson & Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is a former clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Freeman and Tee-Jay 1

Part I Past: School Desegregation and Middle America

Chapter l Buying Time 21

Chapter 2 Don't Cross That Line 63

Part II Present: Save the Cities, Spare the Suburbs

Chapter 3 Desegregating Dollars 121

Chapter 4 Like a Russian Novel: School Finance Litigation in State Courts 145

Chapter 5 Limited Choices 181

Chapter 6 The Impact of Choice and the Role of Courts 215

Chapter 7 Lowering the Bar: The Standards and Testing Movement 239

Part III Future: Demography Is Opportunity

Chapter 8 In Search of Ties That Bind 271

Epilogue Freeman and Tee-Jay Revisited 305

Notes 309

Bibliography 347

Index 371

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