Mark Santow is Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, where he teaches classes on U.S. political history, cities, race relations, social policy, and foreign policy. He also serves as Academic Director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities in New Bedford MA, which offers humanities classes to low-income adults for college credit. The co-author of Social Security and the Middle Class Squeeze (2005) and a forthcoming volume on Saul Alinsky and racial segregation, Santow is presently writing a book on home ownership. He blogs at

2 responses to “Gilding the Ghetto: George Romney Knew Better”

  1. cailin rua

    What you have written is so true.  The school reform movement seems to be little more than an effort to distract people away from the real problems created by systemic socio-economic inequality and the de facto segregation that is the result.  The current approach is a punitive one, one modeled on the law and order approach taken by the Nixon administration which was elected into power by a racist “silent majority” whose fears were stoked by the race riots of the sixties. In the eighties, under Reagan, with the help of so called democrats like Joe Biden, and even Tip O’Neil, the worst effects of laissez-faire Calvinistic self-righteous self indulgence were exacerbated,  resulting in the prison industrial complex we now have.  Punishing teachers whose students come from backgrounds where there is no stability, almost exclusively rooted in the fact that there is little possibility of economic stability, will inevitably be counterproductive unless you are an investor in Corrections Corporation of America.

    I think the Catholic School model is often used to make the point of how strict discipline is the panacea, that what is needed is for the individual to take personal responsibility for their success or failure.  I am a victim of Catholic school “discipline”.  It can come at the cost of soul crushing humiliation,  the fear and loathing of authority figures and have a stultifying effect on creativity.  For those reasons, I would never let my children be exposed to any of that.  I put them through the Providence public school system, where my oldest child was the only white kid in his kindergarten class, where the middle school was 66% minority.  Both my children have done exceedingly well.  Growing up in a diverse multi-cultural environment should be a very enriching experience for all concerned.  That has been my experience and that of my children.

    If anyone doubts what you have written, I would encourage them to visit the Olney neighborhood on the East Side of Providence, where the disparity could hardly be more glaring.  In fact, if you had spent the last thirty-five years observing the disparity and how much that disparity has grown, between Hope High School and Moses Brown with its lavish campus you would have noticed that Moses Brown’s juggernaut building program has taken up so much room that was formerly used for parking, it has left the “poor” Moses Brown kids no place to park their BMW SUV’s and Landrovers on campus.  They now have to park on the neighborhood streets just around the corner where the kids from Hope arrive on city buses every day.  The assertion that scapegoating teachers and bringing Microsoft, Walmart and Ruppert Murdoch in will save the schools would be a laughable one if it weren’t such a sad one.

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  2. Oswald Krell

    Very well said, both of you.

    This problem is so much deeper than teachers’ unions. But, the proposed solutions–charter schools, etc–aren’t about solving the real problem. The solutions are really intended to break the unions,and then eliminate public education entirely. 

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