Noliwe Rooks is the director of American studies at Cornell University and the author of Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education. This is an edited transcript.
Jennifer Berkshire: In your new book, Cutting School, you introduce a concept you call 'segrenomics.' It’s the combination of the segregation that continues to define education in the US, and economics—whole industries that make money off of our unequal system. Like the Silicon Valley hustlers who have their sights set on the Baltimore Public Schools.
Noliwe Rooks: Baltimore would be a perfect example of segrenomics. You have a school district that’s predominantly poor students of color. And here comes Silicon Valley saying ‘we'll teach you about computers and coding and you’ll be prepared for the jobs of the next century.’ But it’s within the context of a fundamentally unequal form of education.There’s this deep belief that somehow the technology is going to be the great equalizer. If we can just find the right delivery mechanism, segregation will be OK, meaning that we don't want to make white people have to change their lives at all. So in the case of Baltimore, the answer is laptops. They’re going to make up for the lack of stability that higher achieving kinds of school districts have. And by the way, the solution is always an idiosyncratic form of education that benefits these companies more than the communities.
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