Amy Brown

A Good Investment?

Philanthropy and the Marketing of Race in an Urban Public School

University of Minnesota Press 2015

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in EducationNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books Network February 23, 2017 James Stancil

There has been much talk in the news recently about funding for public education, the emergence of charter schools, and the potential of school...

There has been much talk in the news recently about funding for public education, the emergence of charter schools, and the potential of school vouchers. How much does competition for financing in urban public schools depend on marketing and perpetuating poverty in order to thrive? Are the actors in this drama deliberately playing up stereotypes of race and class? A Good Investment? Philanthropy and the Marketing of Race in an Urban Public School (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) offers a firsthand look behind the scenes of the philanthropic approach to funding public education a process in which social change in education policy and practice is aligned with social entrepreneurship. The appearance of success, equity, or justice in education, the author argues, might actually serve to maintain stark inequalities and inhibit democracy.

A Good Investment? Philanthropy and the Marketing of Race in an Urban Public School shows that models of corporate or philanthropic charity in education may in fact reinforce the race and class hierarchies that they purport to alleviate. As their voices reveal, the teachers and students on the receiving end of such a system can be critically conscious and ambivalent participants in a school’s racialized marketing and image management. Timely and provocative, this nuanced work exposes the unintended consequences of an education marketplace where charity masquerades as justice.

Amy Brown is an educational anthropologist and a faculty member in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania. In her research she often explores how the increasing privatization of public education affects teaching and learning practices. Another area of focus for Brown is how “philanthrocapitalism” and reliance on private sector funding influence constructions of gender, class and race as well as distribution of power and resources. A Good Investment? Philanthropy and the Marketing of Race in an Urban Public School is her first book.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.

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