Monday, October 12, 2009

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's School [Kozol]

Book: Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools
Author: Jonathan Kozol
Reason for Reading: for fun
Genre: Nonfiction

Review: Based on research from 1989 to 1991, Kozol paints a vivid picture of public schools in America. He focuses primarily on poor inner city schools and their wealthy suburban counterparts. Kozol contends that poor children are cheated out of a future due to the appalling standards (lack of funds, not enough teachers, overcrowding), and believes racial segregation is alive and well in America contributing to these conditions.

Kozol does a good job exposing the poverty and decrepit condition with first hand accounts and interviews with administrators, teachers and students in cities such as East St. Louis, Camden, NJ, Bronx, NY, San Antonio, TX and Chicago, IL. Anyone reading this book would have to be heartless to not feel for the children who don't have access to a library, textbooks or toilet paper. He contrasts these schools with excepts from some of the top public schools in America. Comparing the best and worst is such a small slice of the pie that it would have been nice to see a comparison with moderate schools as well.

Kozol explains how property taxes impact school funding and explains how inner city schools are shortchanged. This is a reality and I agree that state funding should be more equalized. However-Kozol seems to have contempt for anyone with money (and especially those who have means to send their children to private school) and makes excuses for many of the parents in these impoverished area. He references suburban schools whose parents raise money so their kids can go on extravagant field trips (they should give the money to other schools) however he claims poorer parents don't have the means or ability (or are too intimidated due to generations of being put down) to take action.

Kozol's conclusion is that inner city "minority" schools near more funding and integration with suburban "white" schools so the minority children have a chance. While I don't disagree that money and integration will help some disadvantaged children, there are other issues that he ignores (crime, teen pregnancy, drugs, truancy) that are a critical part of solving this problem.

Overall-this was an interesting book.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

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