Shame of the Nation: Separate and Unequal by Jonathan Kozol Reviewed

Glazer, Nathan. "Shame of the Nation." Review of Separate and Unequal by Jonathan Kozol, The New York Times, September 25, 2005.

Excerpt: Jonathan Kozol has been writing books rather similar to this one since “Death at an Early Age” in 1968. He is persistent, it is true, but so is the problem that has aroused his passions since he began teaching in a Boston school more than 40 years ago, when he was a young civil rights activist. That problem is the conditions under which we educate the children of the poor and minorities. In his account, they are trapped, almost uniformly, in old schools that are overcrowded, in poor repair, with scanty teaching materials and disgraceful toilets, and staffed by generally underqualified teachers.

In the five years up to the writing of “The Shame of the Nation,” Kozol visited approximately 60 schools, in 30 school districts, in 11 states. Some of these schools are in the South Bronx, and he became familiar with their principals, their teachers and many of their students. (He dedicates the book to a teacher in one such school.)

But along with his familiar theme of the inadequacy of the education we provide the children of the poor and minorities, he has a new focus in this book – the return of a substantial degree of segregation in our urban schools. Black and Hispanic students, he writes, are concentrated in schools where they make up almost the entire student body.

The New York Times