Multiethnic Moments: The Politics of Urban Education Reform

By Susan E. Clarke; Rodney E. Hero et al. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO
Race, Ethnicity, and
Education

RACE AND ETHNICITY are critical elements of U.S. politics. Numerous observers and scholars understand race and ethnicity as historically central to the U.S. social and political systems—indeed, a major “dilemma” for American society (Burnham 1974; Myrdal 1944; Key 1949; Tocqueville 1958; Schmidt 2000). Although the United States is often referred to as “a nation of immigrants,” scholars increasingly acknowledge that the circumstances of groups’ immigration differ considerably. Not all groups came voluntarily; countries of origin have varied in both their political relations with the United States and also in the degree to which they are culturally, socially, and politically distinct from this country. This complex reality has major implications for American politics generally, and for the local politics of education especially.

Given immigration trends in the 1980s and 1990s, more and more cities became truly multiethnic during the twenty-first century, so understanding the political dynamics of such places becomes increasingly important (Ramakrishnan 2005). Two-tiered pluralism provides an analytical perspective for understanding race and ethnicity in education politics. This perspective suggests race/ethnicity is essentially a structural feature of American political life and it rejects as overly narrow the view of race/ethnicity as simply a basis of political interest. While differences in race and ethnicity certainly give rise to distinct communities of interest in education politics, we argue that race and ethnicity also infuse the institutional landscape of local education systems and are intertwined with the perceptions and the fates of education policy ideas. In the following chapters, our analysis examines the intersection of race and

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