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Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,719 ratings  ·  238 reviews
“Failing schools. Underprivileged schools. Just plain bad schools.”
That’s how Eve L. Ewing opens Ghosts in the Schoolyard: describing Chicago Public Schools from the outside. The way politicians and pundits and parents of kids who attend other schools talk about them, with a mix of pity and contempt.
But Ewing knows Chicago Public Schools from the inside: as a student
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 5th 2018 by University of Chicago Press
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Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is so well written. I am biased in my praise for this book because I am a CPS teacher, and have been for 8 years. My former school was on the list of schools slated to close. I attended many a public meeting and watched teachers, families, students, and community members beg and plead to keep their school open. So I can say that Eve Ewing hits every emotion that happened during that time period, and explains what it was like to an outsider. I’m not that outsider, but I’m here to tell you th ...more
Esther Espeland
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tbh a must read!! Especially if you live in Chicago or work in education or have received public education. I thought it was gripping and readable so I just zoomed through it! Could not put it down! Rly a great opportunity to learn more bronzeville history since that is the neighborhood I work in. Also teehee Eve Ewing both cites and quotes my MOM and dangggg that was cool to see 😎 go mom go!
Rachel León
Feb 17, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2018
Can we all agree that Eve Ewing is amazing?
Kayla Cruz
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"People will take everything you have, then blame you for having nothing." ...more
Rosemarie Donzanti
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this book because it was on the discussion list for the Open Discussion Project at Anderson’s, our local bookstore. It is a pretty fast read and provided a lot of information on the challenges within Bronzeville, the almost exclusively black area on Chicago’s south side. Very eye opening for me to learn about the challenges and history associated with the CHS (Chicago Housing System) and CPS (Chicago Public Schools). This book specifically focused on the 2013 closings of 50 elementary sch ...more
In 2013, then-mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a plan to shut down “failing” public schools at a rate previously unseen. Citing budget deficits, declines in overall enrollment, and low test scores, the closures were framed as an unfortunate inevitability, driven by objective metrics and Chicago Public Schools administrators’ desire to do better by students “trapped in underutilized schools”. Given the city’s explanation, Emanuel’s plan might easily have been interpreted as a hopeful shift; once their ...more
Megan O'Hara
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
i feel like in quality and content this book is a 5 but my rating system has no real logic. regardless this book was great i want to read more books about chicago history. she really walks you thru how institutional racism came to be/operates today in CPS. also loved her analysis about neoliberalism and schools.
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“People will take everything you have, then blame you for having nothing”
A sociologist examines the 2013 Chicago public school closings, bringing in the history of Chicago social movements, city systems, neighborhood reputations...It's a fascinating and disturbing topic. I think the book is hampered a bit by being very clearly graduate work--Chapter 4 in particular reads like a chapter from an academic's dissertation or thesis. A lot of really interesting points are for some reason relegated to the notes section. And by interesting points I mean some of the endnotes ...more
Wow. I knew the Chicago Public School system was bad, but this opened my eyes to a whole new world of gentrification, racism, elitism, and more in one of the most segregated cities in America. What is terrifying is the way nothing has changed -- from protests in the 1960s for black children to go to better schools to now -- much is the same. Great, easy must-read.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edubooks, grad-school
Beautiful and brilliant. An incredible work of sociology.
Carol Tilley
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education, race, sociology
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Parts on this book were a bit dry to me (I think just due to the author taking the perspective of a sociologist/researcher in her writing style), but parts of it were also really powerful and those parts taught me a lot and will stay with me for a long while. I would highly recommend it to those interested in inequity in our school systems. This book provides a unique perspective on that conversation that I haven’t seen anywhere else.


“These events and policies are racist because they
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fan of Ewing's other diversely genre'd projects, I was eager for this opportunity to read a volume of her scholarship. Ghosts in the Schoolyard is a serious book about a serious topic, but don't mistake that seriousness for dryness or distance. Ewing is forthright about her personal and professional investment in the Bronzeville community and her analysis is stronger for it. Whether you are a born and raised Chicagoan, a transplant, or have never even set foot in the city, this book offers cru ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
“As the people of Bronzeville understand, the death of a school and the death of a person at the barrel of a gun are not the same thing, but they also *are* the same thing.”

Eve Ewing does not disappoint. “Ghosts in the Schoolyard” tells a story of the unprecedented public school closings in Chicago under Mayor Rahm Emanuel starting in 2013. It centers the voices of the students, parents, teachers, and other community members who resist narratives about their so-called “failing” schools, and plac
Megan Sanks
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, race, adult
"This, we insist, is our home. Broken though it may be, it remains beautiful, and we remain children of this place. We insist on a right to claim it, to shape it, to keep it. We took the freedom train to get here. Might as well do the work to get free." ...more
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good look not just at Chicago school closings but at the history of CPS and Chicago in general. Some chapters I wish had a bit more detail, but I loved how she tied together the divestment from CHA into the decreased enrollment, and also her section on how and why these schools are so important to their communities was illuminating.
Traci at The Stacks
Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it
A super interesting book about school closures. I was happy to learn the content but was unmoved overall by the book and felt like I didn’t really get armed with more ways to discuss and approach the school closure situation. I also feel like the book lost steam in the last 1/4. Good but not great.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it
There is nothing wrong with this book but I had serious issues with the author's methodology and can't fully endorse this book because of that issue. ...more
Jay Coyden
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very impressive writing with incredible accuracy of these events. I covered most of the news stories Eve writes about in this book. When people question why Chicago is the way it is, or in particular, why some parts of the African American community are in the situation they are in, the problems with the public education system in Chicago should be considered one of the main pillars of crime and disorder. Eve points this out in an easy to understand way for those who truly want to know the probl ...more
Emma Hutson
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in learning more about a school’s impact on community and what happens when schools in a community are forced to close their doors. Loved learning more about Bronzeville and the Chicago policy landscape!
Nick Klagge
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although it's less of a fun read than "Electric Arches" (or Ironheart #1!), "Ghosts in the Schoolyard" is a worthwhile read. This book grew out of Ewing's PhD dissertation, and I think it strikes a good balance between rigor and accessibility. The focus, as the subtitle suggests, is on a series of school closings by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) a few years ago.

Along with the contemporaneous debate over the school closures, Ewing documents the history of de jure segregation and public disinvestme
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018nonfic
I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
"We see that this community's choice to resist a school's being characterized as 'failing' is in fact about much more than the school itself: it is about citizenship and participation, about justice and injustice, and about resisting people in power who want to transform a community at the expense of the people who live there."
This book was excellent. It is nonfiction, but it is short and the author's style moves i
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
incredible observations on school closings on the Chicago south side. Rather than focusing on a broad level, Ewing focuses around a single community and the reactions expressed by those within it. Her choice to do this gave a detailed portrait of the school and the people around it, but this microscope perspective brings limitations along with it. I am fully convinced that the closing of these schools is racist, but I don’t have any insight into the inner workings of CPS aside from the fact that ...more
Karen (idleutopia_reads)
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing. I knew going in that Eve Ewing was going to blow my mind and I was not disappointed. This book is wonderfully researched but what's more is that you can tell the empathy and the passion that Ewing has for the topic that she is discussing. Much like she says in the book this goes beyond CPS schools and touches on the systematic racism that plagues our history and our present times. She is able to make the connections to history and to ripple effect that affects people today. I ...more
Sean Cox-marcellin
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ewing investigates the effects of school closures in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. There is a dearth of quantifiable measurements available, and as she notes those that exist 1. don't support the justifications made by authorities at the time and 2. cannot paint a full and honest picture, anyways. She is a part and not apart of the unfolding drama, a "boundary-sitter" spurred into action by her own connection to the places and communities affected. She peels sback the flawed narrative ...more
Karen Adkins
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is tremendous. While Ewing's subject is the closing/"turnaround" of schools in Chicago's South Side, her analysis and arguments are relevant for anyone who lives in a large or gentrifying city. She efficiently documents why communities fight so hard to keep schools that are impersonally labeled failing by removed bureaucrats, and gives a brief but effective history as to how school segregation has formed communities. It's a brave book; while Ewing is well versed in the scholarly litera ...more
William Thomas
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Written in an accessible essay style that can be comprehended by grade school students on up if needs be, Eve Ewing has incorporated a multitude of the systemic issues surrounding the lives of black people in America while focusing on the school closures in Chicago to highlight them. At times the accessibility of it bothered me, the firm being that of the typical 5 paragraph essay and not citing enough of a variety of sources (FYI Judith Butler is not the way to go, lmao) but in the end it wasn' ...more
Leah Weyandt
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Using Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood as a living example of systemic and historical segregation and racism, Ewing’s work is wonderfully written, backed by rich research, and should serve as a powerful call-to-action for all of us who value education and the future of our city communities.

“...empty school buildings did not arise spontaneous. From the violent bombings and restrictive covenants that kept those who arrived in the Great Migration hemmed into Bronzeville, to CHA site selection tha
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Dr. Eve Louise Ewing is a writer and a sociologist of education from Chicago. Ewing is a prolific writer across multiple genres. Her 2018 book Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism & School Closings on Chicago's South Side explores the relationship between the closing of public schools and the structural history of race and racism in Chicago's Bronzeville community.

Ewing's first collection of poetry, e

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