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Desegregation's Architects: Education Parks and the Spatial Ideology of Schooling

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Ansley T. Erickson*
Affiliation:
Teachers College, Columbia University, (erickson@tc.columbia.edu
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Abstract

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From the early 1960s through the early 1970s, a new idea drew the interest of local leaders and national networks of educators seeking to further desegregation but concerned about how to do so within the bounds of white resistance. Huge single- or multischool campuses, called education parks, would draw students from broad geographical areas and facilitate desegregation. But in the design and location choices for these imagined (but often not realized) education parks, desegregation advocates revealed a spatial ideology of schooling that reflected both a rejection of racialized black spaces and an antiurban, modernist aesthetic. Beyond recognizing the place of spatial ideology in desegregation advocacy, this article suggests that historians of education listen for ideas about space and their impact in other areas of educational history.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 History of Education Society 

References

1 Systemic resistance was on ample display in 1960s New York City (Diane Ravitch, The Great School Wars: a History of the New York City Public Schools [New York: Basic Books, 1988]) and Chicago (John L. Rury, “Race, Space, and the Politics of Chicago's Public Schools: Benjamin Willis and the Tragedy of Urban Education,” History of Education Quarterly 39, no. 2 [July 1999], 117–42). For a national view, see Matthew F. Delmont, Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to Desegregation (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016).Google Scholar

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4 Key works on the making of this transformation include Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Arnold R. Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940–1960 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998); Amanda I. Seligman, Block by Block: Neighborhoods and Public Policy on Chicago's West Side (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003); David M. P. Freund, Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007); and Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004).Google Scholar

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6 Key works on resistance include Ronald P. Formisano, Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); Jonathan Rieder, Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985). For the shift to black activism, see Adina Back, “Exposing the ‘Whole Segregation Myth’: The Harlem Nine and New York City's School Desegregation Battles,” and Jeanne Theoharis, “‘I'd Rather Go to School in the South’: How Boston's School Desegregation Complicates the Civil Rights Paradigm,” in Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodward, eds., Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940–1980 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 65–92, 125–52; Dougherty, More Than One Struggle; and Thomas J. Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (New York: Random House, 2008).Google Scholar

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9 The concept had several labels: education/educational park, complex, or plaza, or school park. I use what seems to be the most common, “education park,” to stand in for all of these. The only historical study that makes the education park central is Patrick Potyondy on Columbus, Ohio: “Reimaging Urban Education: Civil Rights, Educational Parks, and the Limits of Reform,” in Reimagining Education Reform and Innovation, ed. Matthew Lynch (New York: Peter Lang, 2014), 27–54.Google Scholar

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11 CORDE, A Report on the Education Park, 67.Google Scholar

12 East Orange, New Jersey's planning for an “educational plaza” captures this well. In the 1950s, renowned city planner Harland Bartholomew and his firm worked with East Orange on a master plan, including schools. In keeping with the traditional approach, Bartholomew mapped the community's schools and made it the center of a larger circle, suggesting its geographic zone. The educational plaza planning suggested that all students in East Orange's previous twelve schools and their separate zones (with markedly segregated school populations) would travel to a common campus. The Master Plan for East Orange, New Jersey, 1950 (East Orange: City Planning Board), Cornell University Rare and Manuscript Collections, Harland Bartholomew Papers, box 5, file 20; and Chan-Nui, “Study of the Reported Attitudes.”Google Scholar

13 Paul Davidoff, “Integrated Integration,” Equity and Excellence in Education 4, no. 6 (September to October 1966): 57–63, and “Analysis of the Feasibility of Establishing a System of Education Parks in a Metropolitan Region,” in USCCR, “Education Parks”; and Thomas Pettigrew, “The Metropolitan Educational Park,” Christianity and Crisis 30, no. 12 (July 6, 1970), 145–50.Google Scholar

14 I draw this observation from a review of the published (academic and public) articles on education parks in journals and magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. The overwhelming majority were authored by educators, rather than planners, and only a few urban planning and architecture publications ran articles on education parks. For the planner's voice most frequently linked to education park ideas, see Davidoff, “Integrated Education,” and “Analysis of the Feasibility of Establishing a System of Education Parks in a Metropolitan Region.”Google Scholar

15 CORDE, A Report on the Education Park; and Toffler, Schoolhouse in the City. Google Scholar

16 Ansley T. Erickson, “Building Inequality: The Spatial Organization of Schooling in Nashville, Tennessee, after Brown,Journal of Urban History 38, no. 2 (March 2012), 247–70.Google Scholar

17 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1991); Richard White, “What Is Spatial History?,” https://web.stanford.edu/group/spatialhistory/cgi-bin/site/pub.php?id=29. Lefebvre argued that all ideology, like all social interactions and concepts, had spatial form—thus perhaps a “spatial ideology” is redundant. But the term helps to point out the social processes of meaning-making and valuing that Lefebvre highlighted, and thus is useful.Google Scholar

18 For a recent discussion of this pattern, see Steven Conn, Americans Against the City: Anti-Urbanism in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). For an excellent discussion of racism embedded in and constraining city planning practice, see June Manning Thomas, Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2013).Google Scholar

19 See works in note 4. Clarissa Rile Hayward explains this linkage of racialized ideas of space to the institutionalization of “racial interests”—such as the economic (and political) benefits of segregated white homeownership—in Clarissa Rile Hayward, How Americans Make Race: Stories, Institutions, Spaces (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).Google Scholar

20 There is a voluminous literature on urban renewal. See, for example, Mindy Fullilove, Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It (New York: One World/Ballantine Books, 2005); Samuel Zipp, Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); and Journal of Urban History, special section on urban renewal, vol. 35, no. 3 (March 2009).Google Scholar

21 On the making of 1960s-era thought about poverty, see Alice O'Connor, Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Daniel Matlin, On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). For recent work on compensatory education, see Barbara Beatty and Edward Zigler, eds., Teachers College Record 114, no. 6 (2012), especially John Spencer, “From ‘Cultural Deprivation’ to Cultural Capital: The Roots and Continued Relevance of Compensatory Education”; and Dougherty, More than One Struggle, chap. 3, “Calming the ‘Migrant Crisis’ through Compensatory Education,” 51–70.Google Scholar

22 George Lipsitz, How Racism Takes Place (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011). Some readers may ask why Lipsitz's formulation of a “white spatial imaginary” and “black spatial imaginary” cannot substitute for this discussion of spatial ideology. There are two reasons, the first related to the particular history of education park ideas, and the second a more general concern for the application of spatial thinking to education. Lipsitz suggests a sharp divide between how white Americans and black Americans see space, as his terms suggest. While in many cases it would be appropriate to describe the dominant spatial ideology I describe here as similar to Lipsitz's “white spatial imaginary,” that phrase would misrepresent the small but important presence of a pro-suburban, antiurban orientation on the part of some black education parks advocates. Similarly, to the extent that it equates a white spatial imaginary with understanding space in terms of exchange value, it neglects the power of capitalism to shape ideology among black people as well as white people. See, for example, N. D. B. Connolly, A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014). Second, Lipsitz's important but limited focus on the racialization of space should not displace attention to other ideological configurations that influence how people think about space. Gendered, as well as raced, ideologies of home and childhood, particularly, helped construct a pro-suburban, antiurban spatial ideology of schooling. By adopting the broader term of spatial ideology of schooling, rather than speaking only in terms of a white spatial imaginary or a black spatial imaginary, I hope to point other scholars’ attention to the range of social ideas and structures of power, including racial ideology centrally but not exclusively, that intersect in spatial ideology.Google Scholar

23 Samuel Zipp, Manhattan Projects; Christopher Klemek, The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal: Postwar Urbanism from New York to Berlin (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961; repr., New York: Modern Library, 1993).Google Scholar

24 Wiese, Places of Their Own. Google Scholar

25 Julie McLeod, “Space, Place and Purpose in Designing Australian Schools,” History of Education Review 43, no. 2 (September 2014): 133–37. On the United States, see Marta Gutman, A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850–1950 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014); Amber Wiley, “Concrete Solutions: Architecture of Public High Schools During the ‘Urban Crisis’” (PhD dissertation, George Washington University, 2011); Mary Hoffschwelle, “The Rosenwald Schools of the American South,” in Designing Modern Childhoods: History, Space, and the Material Culture of Children, ed. Marta Gutman and Ning de Coninck-Smith (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008), 213–32; and articles by Michael Clapper, Domenic Vitiello, Amy S. Weisser, and George E. Thomas in Journal of Planning History 5, no. 3 (August 2006). On the United Kingdom and Australia, see Catherine Burke and Ian Grosvenor, School (London: Reaktion, 2008); and articles by Julie Willis, Kate Darian-Smith and Nikki Henningham, and Philip Goad in History of Education Review 43, no. 2 (2014).Google Scholar

26 The exceptions are Wiley, “Concrete Solutions”; Ansley T. Erickson, “Building Inequality”; Andrew R. Highsmith and Ansley T. Erickson, “Segregation as Splitting, Segregation as Joining: Schools, Housing, and the Many Modes of Jim Crow,” American Journal of Education 121, no. 4 (August 1, 2015): 563–95; and Michael Clapper, “School Design, Site Selection, and the Political Geography of Race in Postwar Philadelphia,” Journal of Planning History 5, no. 3 (August 2006), 241–63.Google Scholar

27 Quoted in Harry McPherson, “Summary for President of Saturday Review,” February 17, 1967, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, Califano box 8, file School Desegregation (hereafter LBJ).Google Scholar

28 CORDE, A Report on the Education Park, 8.Google Scholar

29 Gutman, A City for Children. On the era's interest in playgrounds, see, for example, Clarence Arthur Perry, “The Rehabilitation of the Local Community,” Social Forces 4, no. 3 (March 1, 1926): 558–62. On “open classrooms,” one attempt to adjust schooling to the challenges of the urban landscape, see Daniel Freund, American Sunshine: Diseases of Darkness and the Quest for Natural Light (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012).Google Scholar

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31 Thomas Pettigrew, “Extracts from ‘Racial Issues in Urban America,’” 1966, file Material on Task Force for Education, box 38, Douglass Cater Papers (hereafter Cater), LBJ. (Published as “Racial Issues in Urban America,” in Shaping an Urban Future: Essays in Memory of Catherine Bauer Wurster, ed. Bernard J. Frieden and William W. Nash, Jr. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969)).Google Scholar

32 The CORDE Corporation was funded by the Office of Education; Harold Gores’ Educational Facilities Lab was supported by Ford.Google Scholar

33 Education park advocates thus reprised the pro-comprehensive high school arguments of the 1910s to 1960s. See David Angus and Jeffrey Mirel, The Failed Promise of the American High School, 1890–1995 (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999). LeRoy Allen suggested that black educators were less interested in the park as a desegregation mechanism but could support it as they saw potential for greater individualization and recognition of the “singular worth of persons as individuals” in the park idea; see “Replications of the Educational Park Concept for the Disadvantaged,” Journal of Negro Education 40, no. 3 (July 1971), 225–32.Google Scholar

34 See especially USCCR, Education Parks. On ideas of scale in the education park, see Harold Gores, “The Demise of Magic Formulas,” in Toffler, Schoolhouse in the City, 165–73. The broader conversation about school scale was dominated by the comprehensive high school idea, furthered most successfully by James Bryant Conant in The American High School Today: A First Report to Interested Citizens (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959).Google Scholar

35 See, for example, the essays in CORDE, A Report on the Education Park, and USCCR, Education Parks. Google Scholar

36 S. P. Marland, Jr., “The Education Park Concept in Pittsburgh,” Phi Delta Kappan 48 (March 1967): 328–32; and Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, “The Great High School Concept,” supplement, Pittsburgh Press, December 11, 1966, 7.Google Scholar

37 CORDE, A Report on the Education Park. Google Scholar

38 Potyondy, “Reimagining Urban Education.”Google Scholar

39 Harold Gores, “Education Park: Physical and Fiscal Aspects,” in An Exploration of the Educational Park Concept, ed. Milton Jacobson (New York: Board of Education of New York City, 1964), 4; Davidoff, “Analysis of the Feasibility of Establishing a System of Education Parks,” 88.Google Scholar

40 Gores, “Education Park,” 4, 6.Google Scholar

41 Ibid., 6. See also Gores, “Demise of Magic Formulas.”Google Scholar

42 Ibid.Google Scholar

43 Gores, “Education Park,” 6. See also his remarks in “Report of the Task Force on Urban Educational Opportunity,” 1967, box 9, Task Force Reports, LBJ, 22.Google Scholar

44 Pettigrew, “The Metropolitan Educational Park,” 148.Google Scholar

45 James L. Taylor, School Sites: Selection, Development, and Utilization (Washington, DC: US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education, 1958), 35.Google Scholar

46 Dan Lortie, “Towards Educational Equality: The Teacher and the Educational Park,” in USCCR, Education Parks. Google Scholar

47 Neil V. Sullivan, in USCCR, Education Parks. On “neutral” turf, see Max Wolff and Alan Rinzler, “The Educational Park: A Guide to Its Implementation” (New York: Center for Urban Education, 1970) and Pettigrew, “The Metropolitan Educational Park.”Google Scholar

48 Davidoff, “Analysis of the Feasibility of Establishing a System of Education Parks,” in USCCR, Education Parks, 81, 84–5.Google Scholar

49 Robert Dentler, “A Sociologist Asks: Is the Education Park a Good Idea?” in An Exploration of the Educational Park Concept, 42.Google Scholar

50 Thanks to Argun Saatcioglu for sharing his newspaper sources on Cleveland; Potyondy, “Reimagining Urban Education.”Google Scholar

51 Marland, “The Education Park Concept.” See also Bernard J. McCormick, “Toward the Educational Park: Pittsburgh,” in Toffler, Schoolhouse in the City, 200–06; Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, “The Great High School Concept,” supplement, Pittsburgh Press, December 11, 1966; James Bailey, “Pittsburgh Goes Back to School,” Architectural Forum, June 1967.Google Scholar

52 John Fischer, “The School Park,” in USCCR, Education Parks; and “The NAACP Case Against the Great High Schools,” New Pittsburgh Courier, April 26, 1969, 7.Google Scholar

53 Marland, “The Education Park Concept,” 331.Google Scholar

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55 Ibid., 331; David Lewis, “The New Role of Education Parks in the Changing Structure of Metropolitan Areas” (Washington, DC: US Commission on Civil Rights, 1967), 25–27.Google Scholar

56 Sidney Marland to William B. Cannon, January 6, 1967, File Materials on Task Force on Education (2), box 37, Cater, LBJ.Google Scholar

57 Nicholas Wheeler Robinson, “Marland's ‘Magnificent Gamble’—Pittsburgh's Great High Schools,” Urban Review 3, no. 2 (November 1968): 28–31.Google Scholar

58 Peter Schrag, “Pittsburgh: The Virtues of Candor,” Saturday Review, November 15, 1966. See also Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day, Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh Since World War II (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 2010), 100.Google Scholar

59 “The NAACP Case Against the Great High Schools,” New Pittsburgh Courier, April 26, 1969, 7.Google Scholar

60 Fischer, “The School Park,” in USCCR, Education Parks. For another historical example of moving schools outward from the city core, see Clapper, “School Design.”Google Scholar

61 Fischer, “The School Park,” in USCCR, Education Parks, 3, 9.Google Scholar

62 Harold Howe to Douglass Cater, August 31, 1966, File Miscellaneous Correspondence 1966, box 19, Cater, LBJ.Google Scholar

63 Neil V. Sullivan, “Desegregation Techniques,” in USCCR, Education Parks, 75.Google Scholar

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78 Co-op City's developers, the United Housing Foundation (UHF), opted against an education park in their smaller (6,000 unit) Rochdale Village development. There, they included two elementary and one junior high school on the 170-acre superblock, but did not consolidate them into a park, and sent students out of the village for high school. Frustrations in securing sufficient school seats for Rochdale residents led to UHF's decision to build the Co-op City education park themselves. See Peter Eisenstadt, Rochdale Village: Robert Moses, 6,000 Families, and New York City's Great Experiment in Integrated Housing (New York: Cornell University Press, 2010), 127.Google Scholar

79 Kristen Richards, “Bridging an Urban Canyon.” Oculus, 67, no. 4 (Fall 2005), 28.Google Scholar

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82 Thabit, How East New York Became a Ghetto; Wendell E. Pritchett, Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews, and the Changing Face of the Ghetto (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002); and CORDE, A Report on the Education Park, 69.Google Scholar

83 This community-based planning effort was analogous to earlier efforts to reclaim planning processes within black communities often targeted by, but not represented in, urban renewal and other interventions in urban space. See Klemek, Transatlantic Collapse, and Brian D. Goldstein, “A City Within a City: Community Development and the Struggle Over Harlem, 1961–2001” (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2013).Google Scholar

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86 Thabit, How East New York Became a Ghetto, 150. The struggle over an education park in Brooklyn deserves more focused investigation. It has received brief mention in Pritchett, Brownsville, Brooklyn, and Thabit, How East New York Became a Ghetto conveys a participant's perspective.Google Scholar

87 See the works in note 21. For information about the Ford Foundation's Educational Improvement/Great City Schools program, see John P. Spencer, In the Crossfire: Marcus Foster and the Troubled History of American School Reform (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).Google Scholar

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89 Potyondy, “Reimagining Urban Education,” also explores education parks in relation to limits of reform, but with less emphasis on the specific spatial or design approach of Columbus’ park plans.Google Scholar

90 For example see: Derrick A. Bell, Jr., “Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma,” Harvard Law Review 93, no. 3 (January 1980): 518–34; Vanessa Siddle Walker, Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); R. Scott Baker, Paradoxes of Desegregation: African American Struggles for Educational Equity in Charleston, South Carolina, 1926–1972 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2006); and Ansley T. Erickson, Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016). For a sociological perspective, see Amy Stuart Wells, Jennifer Jellison Holme, Anita Tijerina Revilla, and Awo Korantemaa Atanda, Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation's Graduates (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009).Google Scholar

91 Gutman, A City for Children; Michael C. Johanek and John L. Puckett, Leonard Covello and the Making of Benjamin Franklin High School: Schooling as if Citizenship Mattered (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2008); and Highsmith and Erickson, “Segregation as Splitting, Segregation as Joining.”Google Scholar

92 See note 19.Google Scholar