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Afternoon Conversation Series

  • ACS

This week's topic is "Race, Space, and Education in the Postwar American City: St. Louis, Missouri as a Case Study" led by Kyle Steele.

As the New York Times recently noted, "More than half of the 28 public school districts...in the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County combined are at least 75 percent black or white." Districts like the St. Louis Public Schools and Normandy, for example, are well over 80 percent black. And in those schools, free and reduced lunch rates are nearing 100 percent, and less than a third of the students pass the state test in reading in either third or eighth grade. Meanwhile, affluent districts like Clayton and Ladue are roughly 70 percent white. In stark contrast to their neighboring districts, just over 10 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and more than 80 percent pass the state test in reading in both third and eighth grade.

Unfortunately, the story in St. Louis—a story of segregation and inequality—is well-known, and it plays out in every American city. This informal talk and discussion, then, will rely upon history to illuminate why and how this situation came to be. For instance, how have discriminatory policies regarding housing, transportation, and the labor market—made at the federal, State, and local level—affected the people of St. Louis since World War II? Further, how have racial and spatial arrangements in St. Louis affected the nature and quality of public education?

Beyond exploring this history in St. Louis, we will also make time to discuss other books, documentaries, novels, and films that tell us more about race and space in the American city.

Kyle P. Steele studies education policy and American history. He works primarily on the history of the public high school, as both an educational and cultural institution. His master’s thesis, which traces the impressive growth of Milwaukee's high schools between 1918 and 1940, privileges student coursetaking choices to add nuance to the more typical telling of secondary education in the interwar period. Much broader in scope, his dissertation—titled “Making a Mass Institution: Indianapolis and the American High School, 1900 to 1954”—similarly elevates the student experience, making use of yearbooks, student newspapers, and student senate reports, among other documents, to describe how young people themselves shaped the trajectory of the high school as it moved closer to the center of the American adolescent experience. In telling these histories, Kyle focuses on the ways in which a student's identity (race, class, and gender, for example) affected his or her high school experience, as well as how he or she understood the relationship between education and the world of work.

Beyond his scholarship, Kyle is passionate about teaching. He enjoys, in particular, helping students discover America's unique educational past and how that past is indispensable in contextualizing present debates. Prior to graduate school, Kyle taught the world's most delightful fourth and fifth graders in St. Louis, his hometown.

Join us every Friday for a FREE pastry and a choice of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate at Afternoon Conversation Series (ACS)! 

ACS is held at the Prairie Fire Coffeehouse in Union South from 2:30-4pm every Friday.

ACS is a facilitated weekly experience where you can engage in friendly conversations over different interactive themes presented each week.

Come and join us for a relaxing Friday afternoon and make new friends. Refreshments are served on a first-come, first-served basis each week—come early to ensure your treat!

This free event is intended for UW-Madison students, faculty, staff and Union members and guests.




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