Essay about Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
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Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
In Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol documents the devastating inequalities in American schools, focusing on public education’s “savage inequalities” between affluent districts and poor districts. From 1988 till 1990, Kozol visited schools in over thirty neighborhoods, including East St. Louis, the Bronx, Chicago, Harlem, Jersey City, and San Antonio. Kozol describes horrifying conditions in these schools. He spends a chapter on each area, and provides a description of the city and a historical basis for the impoverished state of its school. These schools, usually in high crime areas, lack the most basic needs. Kozol creates a scene of rooms without heat, few supplies or text, labs with no…show more content…
Kozol comments that, “nearly forty years after Brown vs. the Board of Education many of are schools are still separate but no longer even remotely equal.”
Kozol’s main argument is that public education should be free and equal to people of all economic classes. Kozol believes that children from poor families are cheated out of a future by unequipped, understaffed and under funded schools in the United State’s inner cities and less affluent suburbs. The majority of these children are non-white, and living amongst poverty and crime. Kozol argues about the unfair standards we expect these underprivileged children to rise to. Children in these poor areas are being compared to children in affluent areas where the quality of their education is much higher. Kozol asks how these children will succeed in today’s world if they are not given the same opportunities as affluent schools give their children. Kozol believes that by depriving our poorer children of their basic needs we are forcing them into lives of crime, poverty and a never-ending cycle of inequalities in education. Kozol stresses that these students must be taught that “savage inequalities” do not have to exist between them and students in more affluent schools, and that all children are entitled to an equal education.
I had many different reactions to this book. At first, I was horrified and shocked to learn about the conditions of these poor schools. Growing
In 1967, in DEATH AT AN EARLY AGE, Kozol accused the Boston public school system of miseducating black schoolchildren. In 1991, in SAVAGE INEQUALITIES, Kozol, having visited inner-city schools in East St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey, finds black and Hispanic schoolchildren to be isolated from white schoolchildren and shortchanged educationally. Only by closing the gap between rich and poor school districts in the amount of tax money spent on education, Kozol contends, can we give poor minority children an equal chance. To show just how high are the barriers to learning arising from inadequate school funding, Kozol paints a bleak picture of severe overcrowding; dilapidated school buildings; a shortage of supplies and aids to learning; and teacher salaries too low to let a school either attract good teachers or do without substitute teachers. He repeatedly contrasts inner-city austerity with the bounty of suburban schools.
Kozol blames an unjust and uncaring society for inner-city children’s low levels of academic performance, high rates of dropping out of high school, classroom discipline problems, and low levels of college attendance or completion. Although the emphasis on societal guilt can be overdone, it has value: Learning about overcrowding in ghetto high schools makes the dropout phenomenon easier to understand.
Kozol’s perspective on the woes of inner-city schools is incomplete. Improving student performance requires not merely spending more tax money but also getting parents to take more interest in their children’s educational progress. Kozol, who concedes that equalization might alienate affluent parents, shows that spending more tax money might help poor schoolchildren; he offers no airtight case either for funding equalization as a panacea, or against such remedies as choice plans or magnet schools. Yet by letting readers hear the voices of studious, articulate inner-city teenagers, he combats stereotypes; by challenging comfortable assumptions, he contributes to public debate.
Sources for Further Study
Chicago Tribune. October 13, 1991, XIV, p. 5.
The Christian Science Monitor. October 21, 1991, p. 13.
Library Journal. CXVI, September 15, 1991, p. 92.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 6, 1991, p. 2.
The Nation. CCLIII, November 18, 1991, p. 620.
National Catholic Reporter. November 22, 1991, p. 38.
The New Republic. CCV, December 16, 1991, p. 18.
The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, October 6, 1991, p. 7.
The New Yorker. LXVII, October 28, 1991, p. 119.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, August 16, 1991, p. 40.
The Washington Post Book World. XXI, October 20, 1991, p. 3.