The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America

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“The nation needs to be confronted with the crime that we’re committing and the promises we are betraying. This is a book about betrayal of the young, who have no power to defend themselves. It is not intended to make readers comfortable.”

Over the past several years, Jonathan Kozol has visited nearly 60 public schools. Virtually everywhere, he finds that conditions have grown worse for inner-city children in the 15 years since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. First, a state of nearly absolute apartheid now prevails in thousands of our schools. The segregation of black children has reverted to a level that the nation has not seen since 1968. Few of the students in these schools know white children any longer. Second, a protomilitary form of discipline has now emerged, modeled on stick-and-carrot methods of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons but targeted exclusively at black and Hispanic children. And third, as high-stakes testing takes on pathological and punitive dimensions, liberal education in our inner-city schools has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.

Filled with the passionate voices of children and their teachers and some of the most revered and trusted leaders in the black community, The Shame of the Nation is a triumph of firsthand reporting that pays tribute to those undefeated educators who persist against the odds, but directly challenges the chilling practices now being forced upon our urban systems by the Bush administration. In their place, Kozol offers a humane, dramatic challenge to our nation to fulfill at last the promise made some 50 years ago to all our youngest citizens.


From The Shame of the Nation

“I went to Washington to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations,” the president said in his campaign for reelection in September 2004. “It’s working. It’s making a difference.” It is one of those deadly lies, which, by sheer repetition, is at length accepted by large numbers of Americans as, perhaps, a rough approximation of the truth. But it is not the truth, and it is not an innocent misstatement of the facts. It is a devious appeasement of the heartache of the parents of the poor and, if it is not forcefully resisted and denounced, it is going to lead our nation even further in a perilous direction.


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About the author

Jonathan Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Death at an Early Age, Savage Inequalities, and Amazing Grace. He has been working with children in inner-city schools for more than 40 years.


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Additional Information

Publisher
Broadway Books
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Published on
Sep 13, 2005
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780307339416
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Education / Philosophy, Theory & Social Aspects
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A passionate plea to preserve and renew public education, The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a radical change of heart from one of America's best-known education experts.
Diane Ravitch-former assistant secretary of education and a leader in the drive to create a national curriculum-examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated. Drawing on over forty years of research and experience, Ravitch critiques today's most popular ideas for restructuring schools, including privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and the feckless multiplication of charter schools. She shows conclusively why the business model is not an appropriate way to improve schools. Using examples from major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego, Ravitch makes the case that public education today is in peril.

Ravitch includes clear prescriptions for improving America's schools:
leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmendevise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learningexpect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schoolspay teachers a fair wage for their work, not "merit pay" based on deeply flawed and unreliable test scoresencourage family involvement in education from an early age
The Death and Life of the Great American School System is more than just an analysis of the state of play of the American education system. It is a must-read for any stakeholder in the future of American schooling.
   In this powerful and culminating work about a group of inner-city children he has known for many years, Jonathan Kozol returns to the scene of his prize-winning books Rachel and Her Children and Amazing Grace, and to the children he has vividly portrayed, to share with us their fascinating journeys and unexpected victories as they grow into adulthood.

   For nearly fifty years Jonathan has pricked the conscience of his readers by laying bare the savage inequalities inflicted upon children for no reason but the accident of being born to poverty within a wealthy nation. A winner of the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and countless other honors, he has persistently crossed the lines of class and race, first as a teacher, then as the author of tender and heart-breaking books about the children he has called “the outcasts of our nation’s ingenuity.” But Jonathan is not a distant and detached reporter. His own life has been radically transformed by the children who have trusted and befriended him.

   Never has this intimate acquaintance with his subjects been more apparent, or more stirring, than in Fire in the Ashes, as Jonathan tells the stories of young men and women who have come of age in one of the most destitute communities of the United States. Some of them never do recover from the battering they undergo in their early years, but many more battle back with fierce and, often, jubilant determination to overcome the formidable obstacles they face. As we watch these glorious children grow into the fullness of a healthy and contributive maturity, they ignite a flame of hope, not only for themselves, but for our society.
 
   The urgent issues that confront our urban schools – a devastating race-gap, a pathological regime of obsessive testing and drilling students for exams instead of giving them the rich curriculum that excites a love of learning – are interwoven through these stories. Why certain children rise above it all, graduate from high school and do well in college, while others are defeated by the time they enter adolescence, lies at the essence of this work.

   Jonathan Kozol is the author of Death at an Early Age, Savage Inequalities, and other books on children and their education. He has been called “today’s most eloquent spokesman for America’s disenfranchised.” But he believes young people speak most eloquently for themselves; and in this book, so full of the vitality and spontaneity of youth, we hear their testimony.
In a stirring departure from his earlier work, Jonathan Kozol has written his most personal and hopeful book to date, an energized and unexpected answer to the bleakness of Death at an Early Age, the prize-winning classic that he published more than 30 years ago.

Like his most recent book, Amazing Grace, this work also takes place in New York's South Bronx; but it is a markedly different book in mood and vantage point, because we see life this time through the eyes of children, not, as the author puts it, from the perspective of a grown-up man encumbered with a Harvard education. Here, too, we see devoted teachers in a good but underfunded public elementary school that manages, against all odds, to be a warm, inviting, and protective place; and we see the children also in the intimate religious setting of a church in which they are watched over by the vigilant grandmothers of the neighborhood and by a priest whose ministry is, first and foremost, to the very young.

A work of guarded optimism that avoids polemic and the fevered ideologies of partisan debate, Ordinary Resurrections is a book about the little miracles of stubbornly persistent innocence in children who are still unsoiled by the world and still can view their place within it without cynicism or despair. Sometimes playful, sometimes jubilantly funny, and sometimes profoundly sad, they're sensitive children, by and large -- complex and morally insightful -- and their ethical vitality denounces and subverts the racially charged labels that the world of grown-up expertise too frequently assigns to them.

The author's personal involvement with specific children deepens as the narrative evolves. A Jewish man, now 63 years old, he finds his own religious speculations growing interwoven with the moral and religious explorations of the children, some of whom have been his friends for nearly seven years. The children change, of course, from year to year as they learn more about the world; but the author is changed also by the generous and tender ways in which the children, step by step, unlock their secrets and unveil the mysteries of their belief to him.

Salvation in these stories comes not from the promises of politicians or the claims of sociology but from the ordinary resurrections that take place routinely in the hearts of children. "We all lie down," a theologian tells the author. "We all rise up. We do this every day." So, too, when given a fair chance, do many of the undervalued urban children of our nation. In this book, we see some beautiful children as they rise, and rise again.
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