New Book: Our Schools Suck

Posted by on May 11, 2009

Our Schools Suck

Now look, I’m telling you. It’s not what they’re doing to us. It’s what we’re not doing. 50 percent drop out.… These people are fighting hard to be ignorant.… What the hell good is Brown v. the Board of Education if
nobody wants it?
—Bill Cosby at a gala commemorating the Brown decision

My first day in middle school was horrible. I didn’t want to go to that school, so I cried the whole day.… I didn’t want to go to that school, because it was dirty and the people were dirty and I hated it there.… That’s when I first started to hate school.
—Naima, an African American student in Los Angeles

[The adults tell us,] “You’re students, you have no place in the system, what are you doing here?” Yes, we do, and that’s what we’re demanding. Sometimes, it is hard, because people do not listen to us. But that’s
another motivation to keep us going. We’ll go to the next person.
—Rosalinda, a Latina student in the Bronx

In cities across the nation, many students are trapped in under-funded, mismanaged and unsafe schools. Yet, a number of scholars and public figures have shifted attention away from the persistence of school
segregation to lambaste the values of young people themselves. Our Schools Suck forcefully challenges this assertion through in-depth case studies in East Los Angeles, Harlem, and the South Bronx. It gives voice
to the compelling stories of African American and Latino students who grow disheartened by a public conversation that continually casts them as the problem with urban schools.

By showing that young people are deeply committed to education but often critical of the kind of education they are receiving, this book highlights the dishonesty of public claims that they do not value education. Ultimately, these powerful student voices remind us of the ways we have shirked our public responsibility to create excellent schools. True school reform requires no less than a new civil rights movement, where adults join with young people to ensure an equal education for each and every student.

Some reviews

The student voices in this striking book are an intervention into the adult-driven stereotypes of urban youth. The students offer stories of anger, challenge and hope. We all need to pay attention to these voices, and act on the corrective lessons they provide.
—Jean Anyon, author of Radical Possibilities: Public Policy, Urban Education, and A New Social Movement

Our Schools Suck is a passionate, hard-hitting critique of a re-emerging hurtful and offensive discourse on the alleged “culture of failure” among youth of color.  Rather than demonizing children, we need to take aim at the role that schools play in the creation and maintenance of social hierarchies.  This multi-voiced account is a soulful, if poignant, re-framing of what really is an urgent, national crisis to which we must all attend.
—Angela Valenzuela, author of Subtractive Schooling and Leaving Children Behind

This book offers a clear and unmitigated analysis of the perspectives and voices of students who are trapped in schools that fail at meeting their intellectual and social needs.
—Pedro A. Noguera, co-editor of Unfinished Business: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Our Schools

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