An opinion piece from the New York Times’ Jay Caspian Kang makes note of important work from UW–Madison’s John Diamond and Linn Posey-Maddox focused on the changing terrain of the suburbs and their schools.
Diamond is the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education and a professor in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, and Posey-Maddox is an associate professor in the School’s Department of Educational Policy Studies.
In his op-ed, headlined “Have We Failed Suburban Schools?” Kang highlights demographic change within suburban schools in the U.S., which are shifting rapidly and in many cases are becoming far less white and affluent. This is shattering preconceptions about the urban-suburban divide, he writes.
Kang adds that is feels like our understanding of the suburbs, however, has been “frozen in time.”
“We — or at least those of us who don’t live in places like north Buffalo, or Waltham, Mass., or outer San Antonio, where demographic change is a daily reality — still think of the suburbs as a safe haven for families who have fled the multicultural chaos of the city. But this just isn’t true,” Kang writes. “To understand class, race, and inequality in America in 2021, it’s far more instructive to look at the suburbs not only because they portend the mix of cultures, ethnicities, and incomes that will make up America’s demographic future but also because we know so little about them.”
To help make this point, Kang highlights a 2020 symposium published by Diamond and Posey-Maddox that is titled, “The Changing Terrain of the Suburbs: Examining Race, Class, and Place in Suburban Schools and Communities,” in which they speak about the lack of research focused on suburban schools.
Kang references this statistic from Diamond and Posey-Maddox’s introduction to the symposium: “Between 2000 and 2018, the top five American Educational Research Association journals published 164 articles focused explicitly on urban schools compared to only 24 on suburban schools, and only 17 on rural schools.”
Diamond and Posey-Maddox also write: “It appears that our scholarly focus on large city school districts has led us to miss the spaces where most of the demographic and educational change is occurring.”
To learn more about this critical issue, check out Kang’s full op-ed at nytimes.com.