Nitpicking: An Exploration of the Marginalization of Gender Equity in Urban School Research and Reform

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Why has gender been marginalized as a consideration in decisions about how conditions in urban schools should be improved? To answer this question I examine research about home and school relations to analyze my experience as a parent activist in the urban public school that my daughter attended. I use the activity of “nitpicking” as both a literal explanation and a metaphoric representation of the ways that women's responsibilities for maintenance of children's emotional and physical well-being interfere with the political task of making schools more equitable. Moving to a scrutiny of research on urban school organization and improvement, I explain how structures of urban schools, the ideology of professionalism, and the chronic scarcity of resources combine with working women's dual jobs to obscure gender as the subject and object of school reform. I conclude that for gender equity to be put on the table as a consistent consideration in school reform, it must be one facet of a broader agenda for school reform that addresses status and power differentials among researchers, parents, teachers, and school administrators, due to race and class, as well as gender.

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