Book Talk! Much Given, Much Required: Philanthropy and the Marketing of Race in a New York City School

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - 9:30am
Location: GSE Room 114
Presenter: Amy Brown, PhD, faculty member Critical Writing Program, University of Pennsylvania

Discussant: Kathy Hall, Associate Professor of Education and Anthropology, Graduate School of Education


In 2008, The College Preparatory Academy (“College Prep”), a traditional public school in New York City, created its own in-house nonprofit organization to solicit corporate and individual donations. College Prep’s student body is primarily Black and Latino, while teachers are predominantly White. Approximately 78% of the student body is eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch. Ideally, some felt, the creation of the school’s nonprofit would contribute towards eradicating entrenched and systemic inequalities; New York City’s public schools are reported to be the most segregated in the United States by race and poverty, and many struggle for resources. In the interest of “leveling the playing field”, school administrators decided take advantage of the generosity of funders who wished to make a difference through their gifts. While at first glance, the school’s successful marketing to donors seemed to lead to greater resources for its students, Brown demonstrates the drawbacks of a “political spectacle” in an education marketplace where charity masquerades as justice. Based on two years of qualitative teacher-research at College Prep, her critical ethnography foregrounds the voices of students, teachers and parents as she connects corporate philanthropy with the maintenance of race, class and gender inequalities. The work calls into question the viability of private sector involvement as a means to attain educational justice or social equity and in fact, asserts that models of corporate or philanthropic charity in education ironically reify the race and class hierarchies they purport to alleviate.