Friday, May 27, 2016

Educating Milwaukee: How One City's History of Segregation and Suffering Shaped Its Schools by James K. Nelson

Between public schools, parochial schools, private schools, charter schools, choice schools, and online learning, today’s students in the city of Milwaukee have more choices in education than any other city in America. This amount of choice evolves from Milwaukee’s struggle to desegregate schools in the 1970s. Most are familiar with the ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education which ended de jure segregation or segregation by law, and thoughts of desegregation tend to conjure up images of the Little Rock Nine as a group of nine African American students walk into their newly desegregated high school for the first time amid protest.

But what happens when segregation isn't the law, but neighborhood lines and housing patterns make it that way? Nelson traces the root of Milwaukee's segregation problems (including neighborhood segregation today) to discriminatory housing practices of the early 1900s which limited regions in which African Americans could purchase property. This caused clear racial lines in the city, which in turn made the neighborhood school segregated. Educating Milwaukee traces the evolution of programs in Milwaukee Public Schools, which were aimed at desegregation, from magnet schools, busing finally developing into the schools Milwaukee has today. This book provides wonderful background into many issues that plague and politicize our schools today and can appeal to the local history buff in us all.