In the summer of 2003, in preparation for working in the public school system, I read the book Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. To say that the book changed my view of the public school system would be an understatement. Initially it shocked me that inequalities like this still existed even 30+ years after the Brown Ruling and that I had not heard about these recent (copyright 1990) inequalities. He opened my eyes to this injustice and made me forever an advocate of just public schools. In 1990 Kozol wrote revealing decrepit schools, out of date textbooks, segregated schools, and basically little of the change we thought had come from Brown vs. Board of Education on May 17, 1954.
Kozol has recently published a new book that gives a current account of the public school system, and the picture is not pretty. The Shame of the Nation, with a subtitle that speaks volumes: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.
The stories, first-hand accounts from children in our education system, are moving and impacting. You must hear their stories. But, Kozol also writes deep and challenging words that challenge the way we discuss what is occuring in our school system. This paragraph took me a few reads to take in but it’s statement is intense:
“Perhaps most damaging to any serious effort to address racial segregation openly is the refusal of most of the major arbiters of culture in our northern cities to confront or even clearly name an obvious reality they would have castigated with a passionate determination in another section of the nation fifty years before—and which, moreover, they still castigate today in retrospective writings that assign it to a comfortably distant and allegedly concluded era of the past. There is, indeed, a seemingly agreed-upon convention in much of the media today not even to use an accurate descriptor like “racial segregation” in a narrative description of a segregated school. Linguistic sweeteners, semantic somersaults, and surrogate vocabularies are repeatedly employed. Schools in which as few as 3 or 4 percent of students may be white or Southeast Asian or of Middle Eastern origin, for instance—and where every other child in the building is black or Hispanic—are referred to as “diverse.” Visitors to schools like these discover quickly the eviscerated meaning of the word, which is no longer a proper adjective but a euphemism for a plainer word that has apparently become unspeakable.”
To get more of a taste of Kozol before you go and check this book out of the library you can read Still Seperate, Still Unequal an article pulled from the first chapter of the book.