In recent years, federal mandates on education have become the subject of increasing debate. Adam R. Nelson's The Elusive Ideal - a postwar history of federal involvement in the Boston public school system - provides lessons from the past that shed light on the continuing struggles of urban public schools today. This wide-reaching analysis examines the failure of educational policy at local, state, and federal levels to afford all students equal educational opportunity. Exploring a deep-seated tension between the educational ideals of integration and academic achieyement over time, Nelson considers the development and implementation of policies targeted at diverse groups of urban students, including policies related to racial desegregation, bilingual education, special education, school funding, and standardized testing. An ambitious study that spans more than thirty years and examines all facets of educational policy from legality to funding, The Elusive Ideal provides a model from which future inquiries will proceed.
A probing and provocative work of urban history with deep relevance for urban public schools today, Nelson's book reveals why equal educational opportunity remains such an elusive ideal.