Streetwise for Book Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the Bronx

Posted by on April 12, 2010

[posted to Comm-Org]

From: Celina Su <>

Dear Colleagues,

I never sent out an announcement about my book Streetwise for Book Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the Bronx when it came out last year, because self-promotion makes me feel a bit queasy…. but I wanted to thank the many of you at comm-org who informed my work (including those of you I have never met). You made a huge difference in my thinking, from fieldwork through analysis– Below is a brief description of the book.

A big, sincere thank you,
Celina Su

From the Cornell University Press website: In Streetwise for Book Smarts, Celina Su examines the efforts of parents and students who sought to improve the quality of education in their local schools by working with grassroots organizations and taking matters into their own hands. In these organizations, everyday citizens pursued not only education reform but also democratic accountability and community empowerment. These groups had similar resources and operated in the same political context, yet their strategies and tactics were very different: while some focused on increasing state and city aid to their schools, others tried to change the way the schools themselves operated. Some coalitions sought accommodation with administrators and legislators; others did not.

…Members of different groups proposed and mobilized behind a range of remedies. These divergent responses shed light on the ways in which the choices made by each organization mattered. By learning from Su’s close observation of four activist groups in the Bronx, including Mothers on the Move and Sistas and Brothas United, we can better understand strategies that may ultimately lead to better and safer schools everywhere and help to revitalize American democracy.

More info:

“Streetwise for Book Smarts is a completely novel and provocative take on an extremely important topic. Its great strength arises from Celina Su’s street-level research style. This book should be read by community organizers, foundation officers, and policy makers as well as political scientists, sociologists, urban anthropologists, and scholars of community organizing.” –Dennis Shirley, Boston College

“This is an extremely useful and important book. Celina Su charts different methods and models used by community organizations working for school reform. She shows how community organizing is changing, and how it succeeds. Streetwise for Book Smarts is an illuminating look into the cultural practices of social change groups applicable nationwide.” –Jean Anyon, author of Radical Possibilities and Theory and Educational Research: Toward Critical Social Explanation

“Celina Su’s book sheds new light on the potential for organized parents and young people to create change in the nation’s largest school system?and one of our most troubled. In doing so, Su takes a novel approach to studying community organizing. She focuses on the different kinds of cultural toolkits various groups employ and show why they matter for the struggle to achieve more just and equitable education for low-income communities of color. Streetwise for Book Smarts is an important book for the emerging field of scholarship on community organizing– and for organizers alike.” –Mark R. Warren, Harvard University

“Celina Su’s Streetwise for Book Smarts delivers a smart and critical look at the cultural toolkits that shape political perspectives, community organizing strategies, political positions and social change in the Bronx. Setting a new standard in the cultural analysis of community organizing with a deep look at race issues and the internal life of her four case studies, Su gives both veterans of the struggle and the Obama generation a roadmap on how to use the best Alinskyite and Freirean tools to forge an effective grassroots movement in America.” –James Mumm, National Training and Information Center

— . Celina Su . Associate Professor Department of Political Science Brooklyn College, City University of New York

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