Celebrationites are a unique crew hailing from all over the country for reasons as varies as hoping the monorail system at Disneyworld could use a retired doctor as the conductor to expecting the cutting edge, progressive school to improve teenage grades and angst. Ross interviews the citizenry allowing them to tell their stories to an honest interviewer and fellow townee as opposed to their usual experience of giving five minute sound bite interviews from media folk in town for the afternoon. Celebration comes across as a town with incredible civic involvement and interesting inhabitants. Most citizen issues seem common to small neighborhoods, although some do have to do with the Disney Company and their poor construction of houses.
Ross demonstrates how the Disney Co. established Celebration as an (overpriced) homestead for varied income level inhabitants and racial diversity. Unfortunately neither was accomplished and the town is largely white and upper middle class. Celebration was designed to combat the ills of the urban sprawl overtaking the central Florida region and to promote clean living, community sentiment and an alternative to the glare of franchise neon lights. Interestingly, Ross points out that at the same time the Disney Co. is daily recruiting underpaid labor from Florida's immigrant pool of Mexicans and Central Americans who are forced to squeeze into tiny apartments on the strip thus adding to the urban sprawl as well as exploited laborers.
Ross relies on concrete data and solid interview to critique Disney's plans and true motivations for building celebration - 20 years worth of permits to develop their property holdings in Central Florida and continue to fortify their kingdom.
An excellent book, I highly recommend it!
He does an especially good job - not surprising, for a college professor - of describing and analyzing the parents v. school war that had such an incredible influence on the town's development. Ross covers the external and internal politics, the education theory, and the human details of the school, as well as the many other, varied factors that fed into the battle.
The book also displays the results of the author's wide-ranging, thorough research. Ross appears to have entered into every social circle that would have him and even a few that wouldn't. He attended every town meeting, even those where he was the only resident present. He visited many residents and talked with the full range of social groups. He even carefully documented every rumor that blossomed on the flourishing town grapevine - that chapter makes for humorous reading indeed. All of Ross's research means that this book provides a very clear picture of the range and diversity of the residents and their lives in Celebration.
The book does founder a bit in the places where Ross's own leanings become too clear. His opinions - which, I'm grateful to say, are generally quarrantined in their own sections and chapters - about the town's issues are just what you'd expect from a hugely liberal educator without children. In the famed school battle, for example, his sympathy and empathy is all for the teachers and the lost innovative instruction paradigm. He appears totally incapable of understanding the parents' viewpoints, so his personal opinion is unbalanced.
Overall, though, this is a well-balanced, well-written, well-researched book. Considering the depth and complexity of the topic, this is an astounding work. Absolutely worth reading and owning, even if you'd never in your life consider residing in a place like Celebration.