Jonathan Kozol‘s 2005 book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, looks at the issue of racial integration in the nation’s schools. Over 50 years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and forcing the immediate integration of America’s schools, we have not yet achieved that goal. Kozol uses the passionate voices of teachers and students, mostly from urban New York City schools and the suburban areas of Long Island, to tell how the nation has been failing a large portion of its children and, in fact, creating a system of apartheid by withholding a proper education from so many children.
TeacherJay has been a fan of Kozol’s for many years… ever since reading his first non-fiction book, Death at an Early Age, which first opened his eyes to the way that African-American students are so often cheated out of a quality education by administrators who have lower expectations and scale back the curriculum in order to give the appearance that students are succeeding. In his latest book, Kozol returns to the idea that minority students are still being sent to segregated and unequal schools. In fact, he introduces statistical evidence that schools today, in the 21st century, are actually more segregated than they were a half-century ago. Even more alarming is that there seem to be some efforts to keep them that way.
The title of the book reminds the reader that the United States of America should be ashamed for what it is doing to its children. Historically-privileged populations are better able to get their kids into better schools, better jobs and have more money to support school programs outside of the funding provided by the school districts. With these advantages, students at those schools are likely to do better on state exams and receive more money in the future. Students in schools made up of immigrants and under-served populations do not have the same advantages that their more well off counterparts do. Unfortunately, instead of providing more resources for them, under NCLB, these schools wind up losing funding and, if they want to keep the federal funding they are receiving, are subjected to following very basic curricula that teach their students to be drones, not challenge them to be critical thinkers (more on this in a later post).
All kids can learn, all kids can succeed in school, and do whatever they want in life. The real shame is that America’s schools are on a two-tier system – one for the privileged students where they are challenged to grow intellectually and another for under-served populations where students are taught to follow directions and not ask too many questions. This is a way to keep people down and is no different than the apartheid that has been present in this country for hundreds of years.