Eve Ewing, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA), released her latest book, Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side on October 22. In it, she unravels the history and social dynamics at play during the 2013 wave of school closings ordered by Rahm Emanuel in his first term as mayor.
Emanuel’s push for the closing of 54 “underutilized, under-resourced” schools in 2013 and Chicago Public Schools (CPS)'s ultimate decision to shutter 49 schools in May of the same year ignited a wave of protest and backlash, including marches and hunger strikes. Most of these schools had majority-Black student populations, and Ewing’s book seeks to put these closings in the context of “systemic racism, inequality, bad faith, and distrust that stretches deep into Chicago history.”
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Ewing discussed the racial overtones of the closures, as well as the disconnect she saw between the rhetoric of “failing schools” and the people in communities protesting to save them.
“The city is so segregated, and most people don’t come to the South Side,” she said. “[‘Failing schools’] was basically a way of using the shorthand of ‘these schools, these kids.’”
She elaborated on the notion of school quality—specifically, the disconnect between average institutional grade metrics and a student’s individual educational experience—in another recent interview with Chalkbeat. “If you go to a school that’s super elite but all the black kids get suspended or tracked into lower-level classes or traumatized by racist things their teachers say,” she said, “that to me isn’t a good school, even though on paper to many people it may be a good school.”
Ewing herself is a Chicago-born graduate of Northside College Prep, a CPS school. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in English language & literature, after which she taught at Pershing West Middle School—one of the 49 CPS schools closed in 2013. She went on to receive a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, before coming to her current position at the UChicago’s SSA.
Ewing is a prominent faculty member with a large following on social media, and has written for a number of national publications, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times. She has also had an especially prolific output and profile over the past year. Besides Ghosts in the Schoolyard, Ewing’s poetry collection Electric Arches was released in the fall of 2017, with the latter receiving accolades from the American Library Association and the Poetry Society of America. She is also slated to write Marvel’s Ironheart comic book series beginning this November.