Week 9: Hope and Despair in the American City by Gerald Grant
Although I'm no urban planner, my "career" roots in a fantastic Philadelphia firm that continues to inspire me even after departing six years ago. The high ideals of the professionals there made me appreciate designed growth of cities, mixed-use zoning, and common areas. And that's why it took me so long to read this book - every sentence was a lot to absorb.
The author chooses to study several cities within this book, and he compares his own town of Syracuse, NY with Raleigh, North Carolina. He focuses on school systems to illustrate the need for community at its most basic levels in order for every student to succeed.
He incorporates so much history into these sketches that I felt that I truly knew the cities that he wrote about. The guy did his research - the last sixty pages of the book are pure citations and references.
School integration, which was originally mandated during the civil rights movement of the 1960's - was enforced more vehemently in the South than the North - believe it or not. Raleigh, North Carolina (in Wake County) began its integration before the civil rights movement, very soon after the Emancipation Proclamation, by incorporating black leadership very quickly into its state and municipal offices.
Grant's point is - that true integration of schools - and mergers of metropolitan and county school systems - provide the best opportunities for all students - closing the gap between blacks and whites, upper and middle classes, and increasing student test results. And busing is a good thing. (Contrary to popular opinion.) He correlates the quality and effectiveness of school systems with the ultimate success or failure of an American city. And he does it well.
In any case, I feel the need to share this book with parents who want their children to benefit from a great public school system. There are some truths that cross all political or racial boundaries, and for me, one of them is that a strong sense of community is the essence of success - rather than egotism or monetary gain.
If you pick up this book, don't plan to finish it in a week. But do plan to learn a lot about what your community could become.