Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Earth & Environmental Sciences


Marianna Pavlovskaya

Committee Members

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Cindi Katz

Monica Varsanyi

Subject Categories

Africana Studies | American Studies | Educational Sociology | Education Economics | Geography | Human Geography | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Spatial Science | United States History


United States, geography, public education, Black liberation, production of scale, racial capitalism


Other than one or two studies that focus on specific state-wide systems of public education, there has been no accounting for how the U.S. public education system came about in relation to space and scale. My dissertation research seeks to fill in this gap. Through focusing on the development of public education in the North and the South, I provide a foundation for understanding the grounded and contested processes of scale production that largely determined the U.S. public education system’s design and function.

In each of the seven chapters, I detail how fights over the structure and purpose of public education were expressed through different visions of how educational boundaries should be drawn and at what scale governance should take place. Additionally, I show how processes of educational rescaling have helped to resolve large-scale economic crises in every era of American history. Lastly, I argue that for society to change, new scalar configurations need to be made. Taken together, this research project stresses the point that without an understanding of scale, we cannot fully grasp the ways that the U.S. public education system was structured to (re)produce a race, gendered, heteronormative, and classed society.

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