New Article: Risky Education

New Article: Osamudia James, Risky Education, 89 G.W. L. Rev. 667 (2021). Abstract below:

Inequality in American education is not only about race and class. Rather, it is also about risk: the systematic way in which parents and caregivers deal with the hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by the state’s abdication of responsibility for public education, particularly against a backdrop of rising economic and social insecurity for Americans. Education risk can take several forms, including: (1) the risk of educational failure of one’s own child; (2) the risk of school failure and closure; (3) the risk of racialized educational vulnerability; and (4) the risk of downward social mobility despite quality education. Three examples—school choice in New Orleans, selective school admissions in New York City, and gatekeeping to elite higher education on the East and West Coasts—illustrate how parents attempting to navigate these types of risk in education do so by shifting that risk to the most vulnerable among them, corrosively impacting both American education and American democracy. Mitigating education risk requires interventions that, at a minimum, tie the hands of some parents on the education “marketplace” while untying the hands of others. More robust solutions, however, include augmenting the role of the state so that it can mitigate risks in education by engaging structural obstacles to quality education—rather than insisting parents engage risk in their individual and isolated capacities—and adopting cultural and political narratives of shared education fates that acknowledge relations of interdependence. The state can then use these connections to manage and mitigate risk for all Americans.

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