Cortland speaker to discuss "Hope and Despair in the American City"

The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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CORTLAND, N.Y. – Sociologist Gerald Grant likes to compare the fates of schoolchildren in two urban areas, his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., and Raleigh, N.C., in order to examine the causes and consequences of the nation’s ongoing educational inequities.

Grant, who currently is the Hannah Hammond Professor of Education and Sociology Emeritus at Syracuse University, will discuss “Hope and Despair in the American City” on Thursday, Oct. 15, at SUNY Cortland.

Grant’s lecture begins at 4:30 p.m. in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.

His talk fits into SUNY Cortland’s yearlong program of lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions and concerts themed on “Where Are We?”

The series explores the role that local communities play in the greater society’s achievement of economic health, environmental resilience and overcoming inequalities of all types. Presented by the College’s Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee (CICC), all the events are free and open to the public.

A total of three “Where Are We?” events are scheduled during October.

“Landmarks” Exhibition

The first program is an exhibition of eight photographs with drawings in local artist Robert Sherrill’s ongoing “Landmarks” project. Sherrill’s exhibition of eight studies for larger works will be displayed from Monday, Oct. 12, through Friday, Dec. 18, in the Dowd Gallery hallway gallery.

A Cortland resident who has been working actively as a visual artist for more than 30 years, Sherrill will give an artist’s talk at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the Dowd Gallery in the Dowd Fine Arts Center.

After photographing a local landscape, Sherrill uses charcoal, chalk and graphite to transfer the image into a drawing. His interest lies in exploring the nature of spatial experience and the rhythms inherent in both the landscape and the process of making marks. These drawings are not a documentation of any specific place but rather are based on the dynamic of space and how it is experienced.

Sociologist to Lecture

In the Oct. 15 presentation Grant, who is the author of Hope and Despair in the American City (Harvard University Press, 2009), will explore the central question of why education reform keeps failing.

In shining a light on some of the nation’s deepest educational challenges the discussion also points toward the potential for school reform that remains today.

“In this perceptive and important book …. the choice between one America and two Americas ,” writes Richard Kahlenberg of The Washington Monthly. “In most cities, he writes, there is an ‘invisible wall’ that keeps inner city children separate from more affluent suburban kids.  If (U.S. President) Barack Obama genuinely wants to provide equal educational opportunity for children, however, he needs to take steps to tear down that wall.”

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Gerald Grant

Grant is the author of articles published in Commonweal, Daedalus, The New Republic, Minerva, the Harvard Educational Review, The Progressive, The Public Interest, The Washington Post. Born in Syracuse, Grant graduated from Syracuse Central High School. He joined The Washington Post in 1961 and was promoted to its national staff in 1964. A Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, he earned his doctorate in the sociology of education. As a postgraduate, he served as research fellow in Harvard’s Sociology Department. At Syracuse University he accepted appointments in the Cultural Foundations of Education and Sociology departments and was named the Hannah Hammond Professor and Distinguished University Professor.

He co-authored Teaching in America: The Slow Revolution (Harvard, 1999), winner of the Virginia and Warren Stone Prize awarded annually by Harvard University Press for an outstanding book on education and society, and the 2000 American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award.

His recent work addresses broader questions of urban social policy. His essay “Fluctuations of Social Capital in an Urban Neighborhood,” appears in Making Good Citizens: Education and Civil Society (Yale University Press, 2001).

Grant’s book, Hope and Despair in the American City, is one of four “common readings” relating to upcoming lectures that the campus and community are encouraged to read in advance. Additional selections include Will Allen’s The Good Food Revolution, Naomi Klein’sThis Changes Everything, and Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.

Local Tales of Terror

For the third event during the month, Tuesday, Oct. 20, the campus and community will gather on 37 Tompkins St. at The 1890 House for an evening of “Local Tales of Terror”: ghost stories and dramatic readings in the “spirit” of the season and treats.

The program, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., is co-sponsored by the staff and board of trustees of The 1890 Museum House and the Hollenbeck Cider Mill in Virgil, N.Y.

The impressive limestone mansion, once the home of 19th century Industrialist Chester F. Wickwire, aims to promote and interpret the historical and cultural significance of this property to the public. The 1890 House seeks to collect, preserve, research, display, and interpret objects that promote local and national history of America’s cultural heritage during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

During the event, visitors may also explore the grandeur of Cortland’s Castle, its many rooms, the history of the Wickwire family, the grounds and its carriage house. A suggested donation of $3 for students and $5 for adult guests will help support the continuing restoration work of one of Cortland’s architectural gems. For more information on the 1890 House, its events and its history, visit

By holding an annual series on a different intellectual theme, the CICC committee aims to generate common topics of discussion and to establish traditions of intellectual discourse on campus. The series encourages faculty and staff to infuse the theme into their course curricula, engage in classroom discussions and debates around the theme, and propose campus events or speakers on topics connected to the theme.

The series also is sponsored by the Campus Artist and Lecture Series, the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs’ Office, the President’s Office and the Cortland College Foundation.

For more information, contact CICC co-chair Scott Moranda, associate professor of history, at 607-753-2052.

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