From the 1890s through World War II, the greatest hopes of American progressive reformers lay not in the government, the markets, or other seats of power but in urban school districts and classrooms. The Importance of Being Urban
focuses on four western school systems—in Denver, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle—and their efforts to reconfigure public education in the face of rapid industrialization and the perceived perils [GDA1]
of the modern city. In an era of accelerated immigration, shifting economic foundations, and widespread municipal shake-ups, reformers argued that the urban school district could provide the broad blend of social, cultural, and educational services needed to prepare students for twentieth-century life. These school districts were a crucial force not only in orchestrating educational change, but in delivering on the promise of democracy. David A. Gamson’s book provides eye-opening views of the histories of American education, urban politics, and the Progressive Era.