“Here’s the high school. It’s so huge, it takes a minute just to drive by,” says John Diamond as we pass a giant brick Victorian building surrounded by a lush green lawn. We’re on a tour of Evanston, Ill., which borders Chicago, runs along Lake Michigan, and is home to Northwestern University. In some ways, Evanston is an American idyll. People move here and stay, because it’s a diverse, relatively affluent, and well-read community. Two-thirds of its residents have library cards. Yet, to the dismay of the progressive citizenry, Evanston educates white students far more successfully than students of color.
Diamond, 47, is the parent of an Evanston seventh-grader, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the co-author of Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools. His book is based on a five-year examination of an unidentified Midwestern high school that’s diverse and affluent and still treats black and white students differently. Diamond promised never to reveal the school’s location. Maybe it isn’t in Evanston. But it could be.