Educational discourse usually treats the school as a bounded system, a container of classroom processes and curricular texts, an institutional shell waiting to be filled up by the actions of teachers, students, and administrators. But looking at schools as somehow separate from cities, politics, neighborhoods, businesses, and popular culture obscures how these are all inextricably connected to one another, how they jointly produce educational effects.
When groups and processes are analytically detached from each other in this fashion and treated as independent agents, it becomes easy to slide into the bleak loops of contemporary educational debate, where politicians blame teachers, teachers blame parents and kids, parents blame politicians and teachers, then join with them to blame the media, and kids are excluded altogether from the conversation.
The debate becomes less simple, but more constructive, when we focus on the dense interconnections among various actors and processes. Instead of looking at the school as a container, we have to peel back its walls and inspect the strings and rhizomes linking it to the outside world (which is no longer "outside"). We have to examine the crumpled spacetime topography that brings some institutions and neighborhoods close and pushes others away. We need to map the material trajectories of bodies to and from school, and weigh the densities of symbolic forms imported, created, and appropriated by students. The question then becomes, What do we talk about when we talk about schools?
The answer is not simple. This book takes a particular elementary school as its starting point and examines the local politics, regional economics, community--school conflicts, corporate influences, body discourses, neighborhood histories, and streams of popular culture that coursed through it over a 2-year period. The first chapter looks at how administrators, teachers, and parents struggled, often with one another, to define the school. The second chapter examines efforts by administrators, city politicians, and business representatives to define the school as an adjunct to the corporate economy--and kids' responses to that effort. The third chapter explores the place of the school as a neighborhood institution, examining the intersections of city planners'