Creating the Suburban School Advantage: Race, Localism, and Inequality in an American Metropolis, by John L. Rury, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 2020
Reviewed by: Jeffrey A. Raffel, Messick Chair Emeritus at the Joseph R. Biden School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware
Urbanologists are familiar with the unequal distribution of resources within metropolitan areas in the United States, but how did this inequality arise? And, how is this inequality manifest in public schooling and what shaped it? Historian John Rury has studied the phenomenon of metropolitan inequality for decades and brings his work to a culmination in this comprehensive study of the Kansas City (KC) metropolitan area. Rury analyzes the history of the area from 1950 through 1980 and discusses the dynamics that led to the unequal distribution of school reputation, resources, and student success.
Rury provides the reader with a detailed, interesting, thoughtful, and disturbing picture of an American city and surrounding suburbs to help us understand who, what, where, why, and how metropolitan inequality developed after World War II. Rury focuses on the “historical ascendency” of suburban schools which the public believes to be “socially and academically advantageous (p. 3).” Rury analyzes why this occurred, concluding.
…Systematically excluding people considered to be indigent or members of racial or ethnic minority groups, especially African Americans, was integral to this process. …The result was a metropolitan region carved into many different locales, distinguished by gradations of wealth and status and bound by few—if any—shared interests. If there were two issues that everyone became concerned with, however, they were race and defense of local prerogatives. (p. 3)
This book would be useful not only for researchers but also in many advanced courses in history, urban studies, education (and school reform), political science, and related social science fields raising questions to initiate a discussion of concepts, methods, and policies:
· Is the case of the KC metro area typical or atypical and does that matter?
· What are the most helpful concepts to explain Rury’s findings?
· Was the decline of the KC Missouri Public Schools inevitable?
· What could remedy such metropolitan inequity?
The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.
The reviewer may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.