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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Twenty-One: Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (1991)

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TWENTY-ONE

Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (1991)

Sue Books

With the publication of Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools in 1991, Jonathan Kozol brought to public attention the devastating inequalities that permeate U.S. classrooms, given our heavy reliance on property taxes to fund public schools and given the racism, scorn of the poor, and callous indifference that sustain this destructive situation. More than anyone before him—and, arguably, since—Kozol set out to educate the public on the hows and whys of school finance—its tax levies and foundation formulas—as well as its consequences and moral import. Students in sub-par schools (almost always poor and disproportionately Black and Latino) get less of everything that money can buy for schools: good teachers, skilled administrators, buildings in good repair, books, technology, and engaging extracurricular activities. Chronically receiving less than others takes a harsh toll on children, educationally and existentially. As one middle-school student in East St. Louis, Illinois, told Kozol, “It does not take long for little kids to learn they are not wanted” (Kozol, 1991, p. 35).

Kozol’s work in education began in the 1960s, in the heat of the civil rights struggle, when he accepted a job as a fourth-grade teacher in a poor Black neighborhood in Boston. He did not last long, as he was fired after assigning reading not on the school’s approved list: the poetry of Langston Hughes. Nevertheless,...

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