Our Schools Suck

Students Talk Back to a Segregated Nation on the Failures of Urban Education

304 pages

May, 2009

ISBN: 9780814783085



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Gaston Alonso is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

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Noel S. Anderson is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

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Celina Su is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

All books by Celina Su

Jeanne Theoharis is distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of CUNY.  She is the author of numerous books and articles on the black freedom struggle, including the award-winning The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon Press, 2013) and most recently A More Beautiful and Terrible History (Beacon Press, 2018).

All books by Jeanne Theoharis

"Our schools suck." This is how many young people of color call attention to the kind of public education they are receiving. In cities across the nation, many students are trapped in under-funded, mismanaged and unsafe schools. Yet, a number of scholars and of public figures like Bill Cosby have shifted attention away from the persistence of school segregation to lambaste the values of young people themselves. Our Schools Suck forcefully challenges this assertion by giving voice to the compelling stories of African American and Latino students who attend under-resourced inner-city schools, where guidance counselors and AP classes are limited and security guards and metal detectors are plentiful—and grow disheartened by a public conversation that continually casts them as the problem with urban schools.

By showing that young people are deeply committed to education but often critical of the kind of education they are receiving, this book highlights the dishonesty of public claims that they do not value education. Ultimately, these powerful student voices remind us of the ways we have shirked our public responsibility to create excellent schools. True school reform requires no less than a new civil rights movement, where adults join with young people to ensure an equal education for each and every student.


  • Our Schools Suck offers a clear and unmitigated analysis of the perspectives and voices of students who are trapped in schools that fail at meeting their intellectual and social needs.”

    —Pedro A. Noguera, co-editor of Unfinished Business: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Our Schools

  • “This book reminds us that there are lives and futures at stake and that young people are passionate and tenacious, despite the obstacles they face every day in our urban schools.”

    —Nadine Dolby, author of Constructing Race: Youth, Identity, and Popular Culture in South Africa

  • Our Schools Suck is a passionate, hard-hitting critique of a re-emerging hurtful and offensive discourse on the alleged ‘culture of failure’ among youth of color. Rather than demonizing children, we need to take aim at the role that schools play in the creation and maintenance of social hierarchies. This multi-voiced account is a soulful, if poignant, re-framing of what really is an urgent, national crisis to which we must all attend.”

    —Angela Valenzuela, author of Subtractive Schooling and Leaving Children Behind

  • “For anyone desperate for a fresh look into the apartheid education system, in which Black and Latino students are currently trapped.”

    The Daily Voice

  • Our Schools Suck aims to give voice to some of the youth caught up in the maelstrom of 21st century urban education, within a critical framework of the cultural values and larger socioeconomic forces that shape the decade.”

    City Limits