Eaton, Susan E.
Eaton, Susan E.
Education: Attended University of Massachusetts—Amherst; Harvard University, Ed.D.
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, former assistant director of Project on School Desegregation, former consulting researcher for Civil Rights Project, research director at Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at the Harvard Law School. Has also worked as a journalist.
Awards from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the National Association of Black Journalists.
(With Gary Orfield) Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education, New Press (New York, NY), 1996.
The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Nation, Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, Education Week, and the Hartford Courant.
Susan E. Eaton has written several books about the unfinished school desegregation movement that, she argues, have left American students in poor sections of the country behind their affluent peers. She argues that U.S. courts are reversing early attempts at desegregation and she recounts the effects these judgments are having on school children. In Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education, written with Gary Orfield, Eaton describes how court rulings since Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954 have eroded progress in several cases in the 1990s. The authors provide examples of school systems in such places as Detroit, Michigan, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Little Rock, Arkansas, where there have been both advances and gains. They conclude that busing students does not work all that well, but that the solution lies in greater efforts to desegregate residential communities, an answer that a Publishers Weekly contributor considered "possibly good, if not yet politically feasible, advice."
In The Other Boston Busing Story: What's Won and Lost across the Boundary Line, Eaton focuses on the case of Boston's Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program (METCO), a voluntary school desegregation program founded in 1965. Interviewing dozens of adults who attended schools through the program, the author found that many felt they had received a better education but that the program also left them feeling alienated from their neighborhoods. Some interviewees, interestingly, also commented that what seemed to matter was not that they actually got a better education but that the perception was that they did. While Eaton does not offer alternatives in this book, "her research, she feels, may help in the designing of future programs to ease racial tensions in education," according to Terry Christner in the Library Journal. American Enterprise reviewer Naomi Schaefer felt that "it's unfortunate that Eaton gives short shrift to other options that are now, or might soon become, available to children similar to those who participated in Metco," but a Publishers Weekly writer concluded that "general readers who are seriously interested in race relations or education reform will want to read this book."
A lawsuit that lingered in the courts for eighteen years, Sheff v. O'Neill, is at the center of Eaton's The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial. The case concerned the way school districts were drawn in Hartford, Connecticut, in such a way that the poorest section of the city was effectively cut off from the surrounding affluent districts. Sheff v. O'Neill was an attempt to counteract the earlier Milliken v. Bradley case, which allowed for busing without actually having poor students sent to the richer white suburbs. Eaton, in particular, describes the students in one classroom at Simpson-Waverly Elementary led by teacher Lois Luddy. Although Eaton portrays Luddy as a remarkably talented and dedicated teacher, all her efforts cannot adequately compensate for the racial and economic segregation and concentrated disadvantage of the school the children attend and the neighborhood where they live. American Prospect contributor Richard D. Kahlenberg commented that the book contains "the subtext that we could make segregated schools work if we only had more truly dedicated teachers. But Eaton turns this familiar script on its head" in this "well-crafted book." Calling Eaton a "graceful and fluent writer," a Publishers Weekly critic stated that by "bringing this situation to light, [Eaton] has significantly articulated the problems that challenge politicians, school boards and concerned citizens."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Adolescence, winter, 1996, review of Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education.
American Enterprise, October 1, 2001, Naomi Schaefer, review of The Other Boston Busing Story: What's Won and Lost across the Boundary Line, p. 55.
American Prospect, January 1, 2007, Richard D. Kahlenberg, "Back to Class," review of The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial, p. 41.
Booklist, August 1, 1996, Mary Carroll, review of Dismantling Desegregation, p. 1864; March 15, 2001, Vanessa Bush, review of The Other Boston Busing Story, p. 1336; February 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of The Children in Room E4, p. 21.
Education, summer, 2001, review of The Other Busing Story.
Entertainment Weekly, January 19, 2007, Gilbert Cruz, review of The Children in Room E4, p. 85.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2006, review of The Children in Room E4, p. 1053.
Library Journal, April 1, 2001, Terry Christner, review of The Other Boston Busing Story, p. 112; December 1, 2006, Jean Caspers, review of The Children in Room E4, p. 137.
Michigan Law Review, May 1, 1997, Davison M. Douglas, review of Dismantling Desegregation, p. 1715.
Publishers Weekly, June 3, 1996, review of Dismantling Desegregation, p. 68; February 12, 2001, review of The Other Boston Busing Story, p. 193; November 13, 2006, review of The Children in Room E4, p. 45.