03 January 2006

Book Banter -- The Shame of the Nation

Title: The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
Author: Jonathan Kozol
Length: 317 pages
Genre: social sciences/education
Banter Points: When Word Nerd found out that Kozol has a new book coming out in 2005, there was much excitement. Kozol first garnered a lot of attention with his 1991 book, "Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools," which offered a sharp and poignant look at the plight of children in inner city schools. Kozol contends in his new book that schools are becoming more, rather than less, racially segregated. These racially segregated schools also often have the poorest conditions for students and the lowest test scores in the nation, in direct conflict with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that separate schools are not equal. Kozol highlights the pressures that teachers and principals in these schools are under to teach students only what they need to know to pass the rigid standardized tests and how students in these schools are often tracked into programs to prepare them only to work in lower-paying job and never informed of options for more rigorous academics or higher education. As Kozol writes, " the general idea that schools in ghettoized communities must settle for a different set of goals than schools that serve the children of middle class and upper middle class has been widely accepted" (98).
What makes Kozol's latest book good is dogged reporting about the state of schools in the nation and how he liberally incoporates the voices of teachers and students in these schools to tell the story.
Bummer Points: "Shame of the Nation" wasn't quite as gripping as "Savage Inequalities," although Word Nerd wonders if that's because for readers who have read both, there's a sense of disbelief that so little has changed for these students in inner city schools in the 14 years between these books.
Word Nerd recommendation: If you have any interest in topics about social justice or education, read it.

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