Our Schools Suck: Students Talk Back to a Segregated Nation on the Failures of Urban Education

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"Our schools suck." This is how many young people of color call attention to the kind of public education they are receiving. In cities across the nation, many students are trapped in under-funded, mismanaged and unsafe schools. Yet, a number of scholars and of public figures like Bill Cosby have shifted attention away from the persistence of school segregation to lambaste the values of young people themselves. Our Schools Suck forcefully challenges this assertion by giving voice to the compelling stories of African American and Latino students who attend under-resourced inner-city schools, where guidance counselors and AP classes are limited and security guards and metal detectors are plentiful—and grow disheartened by a public conversation that continually casts them as the problem with urban schools.

By showing that young people are deeply committed to education but often critical of the kind of education they are receiving, this book highlights the dishonesty of public claims that they do not value education. Ultimately, these powerful student voices remind us of the ways we have shirked our public responsibility to create excellent schools. True school reform requires no less than a new civil rights movement, where adults join with young people to ensure an equal education for each and every student.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Our Schools Suck offers a clear and unmitigated analysis of the perspectives and voices of students who are trapped in schools that fail at meeting their intellectual and social needs.”

-Pedro A. Noguera,co-editor of Unfinished Business: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Our Schools

Our Schools Suck is a passionate, hard-hitting critique of a re-emerging hurtful and offensive discourse on the alleged ‘culture of failure’ among youth of color. Rather than demonizing children, we need to take aim at the role that schools play in the creation and maintenance of social hierarchies. This multi-voiced account is a soulful, if poignant, re-framing of what really is an urgent, national crisis to which we must all attend.”

-Angela Valenzuela,author of Subtractive Schooling and Leaving Children Behind

“For anyone desperate for a fresh look into the apartheid education system, in which Black and Latino students are currently trapped.”

-The Daily Voice

Our Schools Suck aims to give voice to some of the youth caught up in the maelstrom of 21st century urban education, within a critical framework of the cultural values and larger socioeconomic forces that shape the decade.”

-City Limits

“This book reminds us that there are lives and futures at stake and that young people are passionate and tenacious, despite the obstacles they face every day in our urban schools.”
-Nadine Dolby,author of Constructing Race: Youth, Identity, and Popular Culture in South Africa

VOYA - Hilary Crew
This book is an important contribution to the continuing debates on the legacy of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision (1954). Focusing on urban schools that remain racially segregated in New York and Los Angeles, the authors argue passionately against those who speak about a "culture of failure" and blame the values of African American and Latino students for their failures in schools that are failing them. The representations of African American and Latino students as disruptive and unmotivated is rigorously critiqued as well as explanations for students' behavior that relies on the "cool pose" and attitudes in which success at school is equated with "acting white." This discourse of cultural values, the authors contend, has distracted attention from the bad conditions in which these young people learn and from the socio-economic circumstances in which they live. The authors call for a "constitutional right to a quality education" in a society that has refused to take responsibility for the persistence of segregation and inequality in urban schools. The voices of young people are heard in three case studies. Students testify to their desperate determination to succeed despite being in schools with a lack of basic amenities and resources. Their voices speak to the "disconnect between school curricula and real socio-economic conditions" of their lives. One case study demonstrates the empowerment that students gain when joining school reform movements such as SBU (Sisters and Brothers United). The authors' cogent research and arguments are essential reading for professionals working with young people. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814783085
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 436,200
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Noel S. Anderson is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Jeanne Theoharis is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York and co-editor (with Komozi Woodard) of Groundwork: Local Black Freedom Movements (NYU Press).

Gaston Alonso is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Celina Su is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

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