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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools

This is one of those books that I have been needing to read for years. It comes up in educational research all of the time and I always said to myself, "One day." Well, I decided this summer was actually the day to pick up Jonathan Kozol's seminal Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools.

Across this nation, a gulf exist between the funding of schools based upon whether a family is low socioeconomic status or higher SES. Disparities can be seen in tax rates and numbers, but some of the larger disparity can't be seen unless you go in, sit down, and make yourself comfortable. In this education classic, Jonathan Kozol enters into classrooms across the country to explain to his readers exactly what these disparities look like. He visits Mississippi, Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Texas, and paints for his readers a portrait of what savage inequality looks like on a day-to-day basis in the classroom.

I should have read this a decade ago. There's just so much to read, and so little time. I'll forgive myself knowing that I picked it up now. This book was written in 1991, but very little has changed. Sure, the hard numbers have, but when you just things for inflation they are the same 25 years later. Children are segregated in this country not just by socioeconomic status, but also by race. These two things are so closely intertwined that it's hard to tease out which is which, but we do know that the economically disadvantaged tend to be minorities. We also know what districts in this country are listed as apartheid school district, and once you start to get down to the nitty-gritty, Kozol is spot on. It's just hard to tell the difference between 1991 and 2016.

My copy of this book is highlighted and annotated and written and it's been thrown across rooms. If you care even remotely about the education of our countries people, you probably read this book. You're probably angry about the state of her education system. And the truth is, if you genuinely believe that the system is not rigged, and that everybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, well then, you probably ought stop reading this blog post. It's a little bit like preaching to the choir, and I am unsure what else I can say to convince you that there's a major issue in this country, and it begins in our education system.

Kozol is a superb writer, and there's no doubt in my mind that this book became a sensation and has remained such because of his work. The insight he brings to his writing as a teacher and a writer provides the perfect underpinning for what is one of the most super pieces on education ever written. He poured his heart and soul into this book, and I have mad respect for him.

I leave you with this quote from the prologue.

"What seems unmistakable, but, oddly enough, is barely said in public settings nowadays, is that the nation, for all practice and intent, has turned it's back upon the moral implications, if not yet the legal ramifications, of the Brown decision. The struggle being waged today, where there is any struggle being waged at all, is closer to the one that was addressed in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the court excepted segregated institutions for black people, stipulating only that they must be equal to those open to white people. The dual society, at least in public education, seems in general to be unquestioned."

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