Common reading author speaks on inequality

Kozol blames government for public education shortcomings

Miriam Williamson

Photo by Laura Bradford

Photo by Laura Bradford

Every child, regardless of race or class, deserves the opportunity for a solid education. But this is not the case in America today.

Jonathan Kozol, author of 2005 bestseller “The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America” put much of the blame for the lack of opportunity for students in inner city schools on government officials at the 2008-2009 Common Reading Lecture.

“Good teachers … especially teachers of young people, are not, and should refuse, to be drill sergeants of the state or servants of global corporations,” Kozol said.

According to Kozol, government officials treat public education in inner city schools like a corporation. The teachers though, are not to blame for this. Instead, Kozol praised them for their efforts.

Unlike the schools of upper-class white students, inner city schools with minority children do not have the same standards. This, plus the implementation of No Child Left Behind, has left these students to face serious consequences in the quality of their education.

Kozol criticized government officials for establishing policies for something they have no idea about.

“Very few of the people in the U.S. Department of Education would ever survive as first grade teachers because children wouldn’t stand them,” he said. “They are mean and stiff and gloomy.”

Kozol has lobbied in Washington to alter the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, criticizing the effect it has on inner city school children and the teachers.

Kozol said that No Child Left Behind should not be a part of U.S. education because it does nothing to improve situations for students. Instead of providing funds for the schools they expect to comply with testing requirements, they are simply punishing the schools.

According to Kozol, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, a sponsor of No Child Left Behind, promised the law would not be reauthorized.

“I don’t believe [No Child Left Behind] can be fixed,” Kozol said. “I believe it needs to be repealed. Abolished. Eradicated.”

During his speech, Kozol also discussed the benefits of working with and teaching young children.
He taught in the Boston Public Schools for a while, but was fired for reading a Langston Hughes poem to his fourth grade class.

As a result of this experience, he wrote “Death at an Early Age.” He has also written “Letters to a Young Teacher” and “Amazin Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation.”

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One Comment on “Common reading author speaks on inequality”

  1. Janna Says:

    Miriam, this is solid reporting. An excellent reporter would have captured more detailed, deeper storytelling direct quotations. Keep working to grab the meaning and convey it to the people who weren’t there in the words of the speaker him or herself.

    Remember to hyphenate compound modifiers – go through the story yourself and see if you can find a few you did not tie together with a –


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