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Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. 1999. City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 9)

In Chapter 9, Frug moves on to education, a very important component of community building. In reality, however, public education has lost its public nature as local education systems have been stratified along economic, social, and racial lines. For communities with high-performing schools, the value of the school becomes capitalized into surrounding land prices, effectively excluding all those without the financial means to purchase these select properties.

Historically, government policy has attempted to use the classroom as the site of economic and social reform, in the hope that school integration would combat inequality in school funding. However, residents viewed these measures as an attack on schools, a proxy for an attack on neighborhoods. In response, residents became highly organized to protect their interests, arguing in favor of full choice in education to combat the fear of others. However, Frug is quick to point out that there is no such thing as parents full choice. The power always rests either on the school admissions officers or the school district who determines the composition of the schools.

To overcome these traditional parental defense mechanisms, Frug suggests that broad-based community building must be utilized to help reorder school boundaries. The most important factor is the school district boundaries set by the state, which determine the kind of students attending a school and the amount of funding it gets. Reconfiguring district boundaries on a regional scale - along with eliminating preferential admission decisions - could also engender support for more integrated neighborhoods, furthering the notion of an integrated society. By employing such strategies, conflicts over access to excludable community-goods would be minimized and instead shared across the broader metropolitan region. School funding would be more fairly allocated and everyone would be able to place their children in the best school of their choice without having to move there, decreasing concentrations of wealth and poverty.

In his final section, Frug asserts that the concept of community building must also be introduced into the school curriculum itself. He believes that education is essential for dispelling social stereotypes, but points out that the school system itself is based on exclusionary policies. Schools are sites of natural fragmentation, driven by the tracking of higher- and lower-performing students. Rather than advance learning, these groupings discourage and demoralize students and create more opportunities to reinforce fragmentation. Instead, he argues that students should be taught to work with people of different capacities and backgrounds in order to help build integrated communities and reduce societal conflict.