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ERIC Number: EJ986677
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 9
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0148-432X
Worlds Apart: One City, Two Libraries, and Ten Years of Watching Inequality Grow
Neuman, Susan B.; Celano, Donna C.
American Educator, v36 n3 p13-19, 22-23 Fall 2012
Like a bright beacon on the hill, the Lillian Marrero public library rises majestically above the deserted buildings and bulldozed voids below on Germantown Avenue. Here in the heart of what is known as the Philadelphia Badlands, makeshift garbage dumps line the sidewalks. The tall grass that surrounds abandoned lots does nothing to obscure the stacks of tires, worn stuffed chairs, and piles of bottles, bags, and takeout containers indicative of the profound decline in the economy of this part of the city since its heyday in the mid-20th century. Grabbing the #23 bus, and traveling just 6.6 miles from the Badlands, one will find the graceful Chestnut Hill library, next to the old trolley turnaround. "Picture perfect" is how one might describe the gentrified neighborhood of Chestnut Hill. The underpinnings of desperation so palpable in the Lillian Marrero library result from a confluence of circumstances hardly imaginable in Chestnut Hill: Poverty. Segregation. Environments where joblessness and lost hope are the norm. While many people may vaguely recognize the ghettoization of poverty, few can appreciate how it concentrates in environments that are isolated geographically, socially, economically, and educationally. This spatial concentration of poverty and affluence--in this case "within the same school district"--virtually guarantees the intergenerational transmission of class position. Poor children barely have a chance to succeed. Rich children have little option not to. The authors examine how each of these communities engaged students in the development of reading and information capital in a context where resources were fairly equal. They developed a series of studies to examine how these environments influenced individual behaviors and, in turn, how individuals influenced the environment. Throughout the authors' work, they have seen how the spatial distribution of poverty and privilege influences students' educational opportunities and, ultimately, their aspirations. Affluent people increasingly live, interact, and are educated with other affluent people, while the poor increasingly live, interact, and are educated with other poor people. This new political geography divorces the interests of the rich from the welfare of the poor, creating a more polarized and rigid society. The solution is to break down these barriers. (Contains 8 endnotes.)
American Federation of Teachers. 555 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001. Tel: 202-879-4400; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania