Jonathan Kozol speaks at Blair

Sept. 19, 2005, midnight | By Juliet Garlow | 18 years, 7 months ago

Education author discusses his new book

Education writer and critic Jonathan Kozol discussed his most recent book "The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America" from 2:00-4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Blair. Kozol held a book signing after the presentation.

Kozol has written several books about the U.S. education system, including "Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools," "Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation" and "Savage Inequalities." He is currently involved in discussing his new book on an 80-day book tour across the country.

Teachers and students lined up to have their copy of "The Shame of the Nation" signed by author Jonathan Kozol on Saturday, Sept. 17. The line stretched around the perimeter of Blair's auditorium by the time the signing began. Photo courtesy of Zoe Norvell.

The event, sponsored by the Center For Teacher Leadership, brought an audience of approximately 500 teachers, students and parents from all over Maryland. The event was co-sponsored by the Equity in Education Coalition in Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Education Association, the NAACP Parents Council, the Montgomery County Education Forum and Blair's own Students for Global Responsibility group.

Kozol's latest book analyzes the segregation that still allegedly exists in U.S. schools today, despite the efforts of activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education (BOE). His book draws from his experiences in the school systems of the four most segregated states: New York, which harbors "hyper-segregated schools," Michigan, Illinois and California. "[The] segregation of black and Latino children has returned with vengeance," said Kozol.

Kozol explained that the achievement gap "diminished dramatically" after Brown v. BOE, but started to widen again during the 1990s.

Shocking many of the audience members, Kozol revealed statistics that he gathered while traveling across the country, visiting about 60 schools. Most schools, he observed, were home to large populations of black and Latino students, usually accounting for more than 95 percent of the student body at the schools. Kozol also reported that of the 11,000 elementary school students living in the South Bronx, NY, only 26 were predominantly white.

Kozol said that 60 percent of black parents believe that integration is a necessity and also believe that the federal government should ensure that it happens. He then described a program in Boston in which 3,300 minority students are chosen each year to be bussed out of the city to 34 different rich, suburban, white schools, where a high percentage graduate and continue on to college. Because minority parents are so eager to provide their children with a better education than that which is offered within the city, one third of all Boston minority students are on the acceptance waiting list for the program.

Inner city schools are dilapidated, dangerous, overpopulated and understaffed, putting a huge damper on the students' education, according to Kozol. Some schools, he said, do not have playgrounds, windows or roofs. Many children are forced to share classrooms with three different grades.

Kozol expressed his frustration and anger towards many politicians who ask accusingly whether "throwing" money at schools will really solve the problem. To try and explain that "throwing" money at these schools will help, he used one of his most vibrant and innocent students, Pineapple, as an example. This little girl receives about $11,000 a year for school, but if she were to move two cities over, in a richer neighborhood, she would be receiving about $22,000 for a year of school.

Criticizing Bush's process of closing the achievement gap through testing, Kozol informed the audience that only a small percentage of minorities are provided with adequate resources to help them pass standardized tests. He emphasized the injustice that young minority children are subject to as their "only sin was to be born poor and of the wrong color."

In segregated schools, classes are worse than their physical appearance, explained Kozol. While touring one school, Kozol witnessed a second grade class practicing their writing skills by filling out job applications. Kozol described the epitome of the lack of quality classes he came across, through telling the story of a high school student named Mariah who wanted to take an AP English class, but was forced to take a hair dressing class instead. Kozol told the audience she burst into tears and said, "I don't want to take sewing or hair dressing, my mother sews in a factory, I hope for something more." Kozol labeled this situation "a form of cognitive decapitation."

Kozol proposed a solution to problems with the American school systems, calling for increased federal funding to all schools, to start solving problems for the youngest students first, where changes can be most easily achieved and to "scrap the whole system" of educating children in America that believes to be "inherently preposterous" and "inequitable."

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Juliet Garlow. CAP junior Juliet Garlow loves almost all music but is especially fond of country. She plays softball too much and is training for the upcoming field hockey season. She is terrified of clowns and being eaten by a shark. Her guilty pleasures include watching entire … More »

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