Educational Inequality: Race, Schools and Urban Development in Phoenix; 1968-1982

O'DONNELL, Michael (2019). Educational Inequality: Race, Schools and Urban Development in Phoenix; 1968-1982. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis argues that to understand why bilingual education did not achieve its aims, the program must be analysed within an urban history context of residential and school segregation in Phoenix. When passed by Congress in 1968, the Bilingual Education Act (BEA) was considered the signature civil rights achievement for Latinos of that era. Ten years later, bilingual education was increasingly considered ineffectual and failed to effect a meaningful change in the attainment gap between Latinos and their Anglo classmates, as was the main objective of the BEA 1968. By focusing upon Phoenix, Arizona between 1968 and 1982, this thesis argues that bilingual education and the place of Mexican Americans in the southwest was fundamentally contested in ways that historians have not fully captured in previous works. This thesis contributes to knowledge by showing that unlike in other Sunbelt locations, in Arizona bilingual education was opposed by conservative politicians throughout this period and its survival remained uncertain. Although hopes for accessing the opportunities granted by Great Society legislation were curtailed by this opposition, it was a series of urban development, school site selection and school desegregation policies which undermined the effectiveness of Phoenix schools in ways that bilingual education could not remedy. These policies created an unequal metropolitan landscape that was reflected in the increasingly racially imbalanced enrolments in Phoenix schools. Ultimately, they caused the closure of inner-city high schools and, by 1982, the creation of a thirty square mile radius without a school. This narrative of underlying discrimination against Mexican Americans also contributes to knowledge by challenging the contemporary marketing of Phoenix as a modern, racially tolerant city. In many cases, Mexican Americans were subject to many of the same prejudiced practices that African Americans were subject to in other Sunbelt cities. Yet, some Mexican American public figures were able to escape the worst excesses of racism. This thesis, therefore, examines the complex environment in which Mexican American racial identities evolved during this period, as the community attempted to navigate the challenges of race4 making state practices and the opportunities that the introduction of bilingual education brought with it.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Collins, Bruce [0000-0002-4521-6302]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Professor Bruce Collins "No PQ harvesting"
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2020 14:04
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:04

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