Theses Doctoral

The Work of Education: Community-Based Educators in Schools, Freedom Struggles, and the Labor Movement, 1953-1983

Juravich, Nicholas Albert

In the early 1960s, civil rights organizers in American cities designed a novel response to the urban and educational crises unfolding around them: hiring local residents, primarily the mothers of schoolchildren, to work in public schools. Local hiring, they argued, would improve instruction, connect schools to communities, and create jobs. Working with allies in antipoverty programs and teacher unions, they created demonstration programs and pushed funding for them into federal law. American school districts responded by hiring half a million community-based paraprofessional educators between 1965 and 1975. Today, despite the waning of the movements that created their positions, over one million paraprofessionals work in public schools.
“The Work of Education” explores the lives and labor of community-based para-professional educators from 1953 to 1983. These educators took part in struggles to create their jobs, and once hired, they made themselves essential to students, parents, and teachers. They built on these classroom solidarities to secure and expand community-based educational work through unionization. Their campaigns transformed the social geography of public schooling and expanded the social welfare state in an era of scarcity. Their work generated new pedagogies and curricula, new models for teacher recruitment, and new opportunities for progressive politics and labor organizing in the 1970s. This project reveals a structural, job-creating side of the War on Poverty and an understudied legacy of black and Hispanic freedom struggles led by women.
Community-based educators imagined a more equitable, democratic future for American cities. Their ideas and organizing strategies might yet inspire those who seek such a future today.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Ngai, Mae M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 12, 2017