Planning School Neighborhoods in an American Cosmopolis: A Spatial Policy History of School District, Housing, and City Planning Collaborations in Seattle, 1930-1980
Michael Bowman

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Washington, Seattle

Primary Discipline

A growing literature in the history of education illuminates the mutually constitutive nature of schooling and housing as drivers of differential access to resources and social goods. This literature shows that school siting, construction, and assignment policies have worked in tandem with housing policies and markets to structure race in highly racialized northern and southern cities with substantial black populations in the post-war North and the pre and post-Brown South. However, no study yet takes a substantially spatial approach to the history of education in the multi-ethnic, multi-racial, metropolitan U.S. West. In addition, earlier studies have been slow to see how both education and housing policy were part of broader social and physical planning movements that arose during the New Deal and continued for decades. This dissertation addresses these gaps through a focused analysis of five decades of collaboration between school district, housing, and urban planning professionals in Seattle, from 1930 to 1980. Throughout this period, an urban design philosophy of ?neighborhood unit planning? guided inter-agency collaborations. Drawing primarily on evidence from school district and municipal archives, this dissertation will examine both the claims by professionals that neighborhoods were the most rational and just units in which to organize and distribute education and counter-claims by advocates of a more participatory planning process who by the 1970s understood ?neighborhood unit planning? as a tool for ethnoracial and class segregation. I argue that this history is especially needed now as districts across the country return to neighborhood school models of educational provision.
About Michael Bowman

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