Book explores the business of school segregation

By: Ian Gavigan,
January 15, 2018

School segregation is big business – and it’s been that way throughout American history, according to Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education by Noliwe Rooks, director of American Studies and associate professor of Africana Studies and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Cornell University.

For Rooks, educational inequality cannot be explained outside of a framework that brings together segregation, economics, and politics. Inspired by conversations with her own privileged Ivy League students who sought to make a career of “fixing” educational inequality, Rooks explores the long history of U.S. elites, the vast majority of whom are white, devising policies that allow some to profit from racial segregation while upholding deep inequalities. She gives this arrangement a name: segrenomics.

The story of segrenomics opens in the American South after Reconstruction, where northern industrialists offered black communities assistance to build schools – on the condition that the impoverished workers raise significant sums of money and hew to limited curricula. Southern leaders were explicit that these schools be limited in order to guarantee a continued supply of cheap black labor.

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"Cutting School"