An Ode to Difference
in a Standardized World
Presenting student data of a different kind, Schooled in Indianapolis is an oral history about an urban school system and the variety of life to be found there. Although low-income and minority students make up the majority in public schools today, city schools have served and still serve a disparate bunch: black and white, immigrants and longtime residents, privileged and poor, artists and bean counters, builders and dreamers, players and haters. Their stories illustrate that sometimes the pot melts and sometimes it boils. But perhaps most important of all, Schooled in Indianapolis introduces urban families not in stereotype but as gifted storytellers and keepers of history.
Each chapter presents a new voice and a new perspective on school and life. The 100 narrators, aged 15 to 94, include current students and parents and past students who went on to teach, push brooms, practice law, tend bars, fight wars and do time. Together they chronicle eight decades of segregation, busing and the rise of charter and online schools. Their personal remembrances show us where African Americans crossed into forbidden territories, highways paved over homes and jobs evaporated along with the “good” school ratings. Their stories illustrate that school, like life, is plagued by an eternal battle for resources and blessed by a perennial exchange of kindnesses. They also teach us that school success may depend on whether you are “gifted” or “special” or came from a “good” family. The impact of reputations and relationships are as profound as any standardized test.
With warmth, sometimes heat and 20-20 hindsight, young and old offer up tales of community, isolation and individual differences that refuse to be sanded down.