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National Book Award-winning author Jonathan Kozol presents his shocking account of the American educational system in this stunning "New York Times" bestseller, which has sold more than 250,000 hardcover copies. "An impassioned book, laced with anger and indignation, about how our public education system scorns so many of our children." -- New York Times Book Review


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National Book Award-winning author Jonathan Kozol presents his shocking account of the American educational system in this stunning "New York Times" bestseller, which has sold more than 250,000 hardcover copies. "An impassioned book, laced with anger and indignation, about how our public education system scorns so many of our children." -- New York Times Book Review

30 review for Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    Two cases of mothers lying about where they reside in order to get their young children into better school districts have made news recently. In Ohio in January, Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in county jail and three years probation for enrolling her children in the Copley-Fairlawn School District rather than Akron, where she lived. "School officials said she was cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it," said an ABC article. "T Two cases of mothers lying about where they reside in order to get their young children into better school districts have made news recently. In Ohio in January, Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in county jail and three years probation for enrolling her children in the Copley-Fairlawn School District rather than Akron, where she lived. "School officials said she was cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it," said an ABC article. "Those dollars need to stay home with our students," said officials with the Copley-Fairlawn district, which went to the trouble and expense of hiring a private investigator to film the mother driving her children into the district. They demanded she pay $30,000 in back tuition, for four years of schooling. When she refused, she was indicted. In Connecticut in April, Tanya McDowell, a homeless single mother from Bridgeport, is being charged with larceny and conspiracy for enrolling her 5-year old son in Norwalk schools, fraudulently using a friend's address. If convicted, she could face 20 years in prison. Jonathan Kozol wrote Savage Inequalities twenty years ago, but obviously its lessons haven't taken hold. Kozol described the vast funding disparities between rich and poor school districts in America, due to the way public education is primarily (or initially) funded by local real estate taxes. Local taxes on the value of homes and businesses in the district form the base of per-student funding. "In the wealthiest districts, this is frequently enough to operate an adequate school system," writes Kozol. In poor districts, because the properties are worth less, tax revenues will be inadequate and the state is supposed to kick in sufficient funds to raise the amount to a level approximately equal to the richest districts. In practice, this rarely happens, which is why schools in rich districts are lavishly equipped, teacher salaries are much higher, class sizes are smaller, textbooks are plentiful and up to date, athletic facilities are abundant, libraries are full of books, bathrooms are clean, and students white. In poor districts the opposite is true. Kozol tells tale after tale of deprivation. A 16-year-old South Bronx student in 1990 "is facing final exams, but, because the school requires students to pass in their textbooks one week prior to the end of the semester, he is forced to study without math and English texts." Another student says, "Most of the students in this school won't go to college. Many of them will join the military. If there's a war, we have to fight. Why should I go to war and fight for opportunities I can't enjoy - for things rich people value, for their freedom, but I do not have that freedom and I can't go to their schools?" He writes of science classes with no lab equipment, bathroom stalls with no doors, classrooms with leaking ceilings, playgrounds covered in broken glass, schools next door to factories belching dangerous levels of pollution. Bad teachers who are unwanted in better off schools are unloaded onto worse schools. Everything conspires against equality, and of course the children are the ones who are made to suffer. Kozol reminds me of Howard Zinn in the way he sees neutrality on an issue as pointless, even detrimental. The worlds that Kozol and Zinn looked at aren't neutral places. Power structures and systemic inequality are already in place; children are born into them. The question is, do we do anything to ameliorate these inequalities, or not? Money doesn't solve education inequities, is a constant refrain of conservatives, wealthier school districts, some reformers, the Wall Street Journal editorial pages. "Throwing" more money at poor, poorly-performing districts wouldn't do much if anything to improve them, they argue. Yet if anyone suggests redistributing school funds - taking money from rich districts and giving it to poor districts - the screaming, moaning and wailing reach a fever pitch. So it seems money does matter for rich districts, just not for poor ones. "Local control" is another buzzterm for keeping rich districts rich and poor districts poor. Kozol quotes President George H.W. Bush (a product of the very expensive Phillips Andover Academy) weighing in on education spending: More spending on public education, said the president, isn't "the best answer." Mr. Bush went on to caution parents of poor children who see money "as a cure" for education problems. "A society that worships money...," said the president, "is a society in peril." Paradoxically, Kelley Williams-Bolar and other parents like her are almost always paying taxes at a higher rate than their wealthier neighbors, notes Kozol (despite the school district's contention that Williams-Bolar was "cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it.") Poor, inner city residents pay at higher rates, but less of what they pay goes to education, because so much of it goes to services like police and fire protection. Every American ought to read this book. Whether or not you have children, whether or not they attend public school, whether or not you pay real estate taxes, you ought to read this book. Published 20 years ago, it remains profoundly relevant. It informs current debates about education reform; it ought to inform our opinions about the Michelle Rees and Wendy Kopps of the world. (Ree is the lavishly praised, reformist former head of D.C. public schools, Kopp the lavishly praised, reformist creator of Teach for America. Ree is now under something of a cloud for unsubstantiated claims on her resume and for a D.C. testing scandal; Kopp has never really been able to substantiate with hard statistics all of the media praise TFA has gotten.) Children who fail in school, who fail to learn, who drop out, have fewer and fewer jobs and opportunities available to them. Increasingly they end up in prison, where they cost us more than if we'd just spent the money to give them a safe school and a decent education. Even if you care nothing about education you ought to read this book because the way we treat children, whether ours or anyone else's, defines who we are as humans.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    A heart-wrenching jeremiad about the sorry state of minority schools in this country. Kozol has stated in interviews that we are worse off (both in conditions and segregation) than we were before Brown vs. Board of Education. That seems hyperbolic, but after reading his observations here, it's hard to argue. A blistering attack on the use of local property taxes to fund schools, it's also a sobering testament to the intractability of problems of class and race in America. Should be required read A heart-wrenching jeremiad about the sorry state of minority schools in this country. Kozol has stated in interviews that we are worse off (both in conditions and segregation) than we were before Brown vs. Board of Education. That seems hyperbolic, but after reading his observations here, it's hard to argue. A blistering attack on the use of local property taxes to fund schools, it's also a sobering testament to the intractability of problems of class and race in America. Should be required reading for libertarians and all those who wonder why ghetto kids don't just pull themselves up their own bootstraps. It's a miracle anyone makes it out alive, let alone succeeds.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It took me four months to read this book. It was just hard to read the realities of the poor in America and not feeling like anything had changed in 25 years. While I do believe this is a must-read for anyone at all interested in education in America, I am not sure at all what the solutions are. One thought is that the whole system is corrupt, inevitably so, that it should just be tanked and Americans should take responsibilty for educating our children. Could children be any worse off in our sc It took me four months to read this book. It was just hard to read the realities of the poor in America and not feeling like anything had changed in 25 years. While I do believe this is a must-read for anyone at all interested in education in America, I am not sure at all what the solutions are. One thought is that the whole system is corrupt, inevitably so, that it should just be tanked and Americans should take responsibilty for educating our children. Could children be any worse off in our schools than they are now? Kozol does point out that there is no constitutional right to education. Maybe the Government IS the problem. This is not what Kozol would say but his only answer seems to be complete equalization which is fraught with insurmountable problems as he clearly illustrates. I agree with Kozol that our schools need more money, even while also agreeing with others that money is not the final answer. I am constantly in shock over how little money my own child's public school has. It DOES send a message to our children when they are made to go to school but so little beauty surrounds them. Where is the money? I assume it is being misspent by top-heavy district infrastructure. At this point, maybe it is up to each of us as individuals to find a child and help that one child to get a better education. On a personal note, there is an interesting paragraph on the next to last page: " Cincinnati, like Chicago, has a two-tier system. Among the city's magnet and selective schools are some remarkable institutions-such a Walnut hills, a famous hgih school taht my hosts compared to 'a de facto private school' within the public system. It is not know if a child from Lower Price Hill has ever been admitted there. Few of these children, in any case, wold have the preparation to compete effectively on the exams that they would have to take in order to get in." In fact, my dad lived in a white, very poor, inner-city Cincinnati neighborhood on Eastern Ave.,just like Lower Price Hill, as a child. He is 82 now. I am not sure where he went to elementary school, but, hopefully, I can find out. He did indeed take the exam to get into Walnut Hills at his mother's insistence, even missing a beloved baseball game in order to ride the bus to Walnut Hills on a Saturday morning to take the exam. He passed the exam and attended Walnut Hills for 3 years claiming that it changed his life. At that time, Walnut Hills was basically a classical school where he learned Latin, logic, and rhetoric.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Every American should be required to read this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    *FIRST IMPRESSION* Is this just going to be Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Education Chapter? *HALFWAY THROUGH* Answer to the question above: yes. Look, Mr. Kozol, I'm not anti-expose, but I hate being confronted with a tragic and intractable problem to which the author presents no viable solution. Sure, it's important - and crucial - to acknowledge the inequities, to publicize them. But Kozol's hortatory exclamations of "yes, let's equalize the money" do little, if anything at all, toward buil *FIRST IMPRESSION* Is this just going to be Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Education Chapter? *HALFWAY THROUGH* Answer to the question above: yes. Look, Mr. Kozol, I'm not anti-expose, but I hate being confronted with a tragic and intractable problem to which the author presents no viable solution. Sure, it's important - and crucial - to acknowledge the inequities, to publicize them. But Kozol's hortatory exclamations of "yes, let's equalize the money" do little, if anything at all, toward building the public and political will to make that a realistic goal. Kozol wants out of the system completely, and understandably so. It's an unfair system that puts the power in the hands of those who have lived in the lap of luxury, who have no interest in lifting up those who have not. (People like me, for instance. I went to public school in Great Neck, one of the communities Kozol repeatedly cites [villifies?] for its astronomical expenditures per student.) But you can't so easily opt out of the system. Self interest is too powerful. And if you can't opt out, and you can't present a viable solution within the system, then what have you accomplished? I'm hoping Kozol presents an answer somewhere in the rest of this book... *ALMOST DONE, BUT SO GOD DAMN FRUSTRATED* Ok, Mr. Kozol. You want to be blunt. That's great. I'll be blunt too. All the excuses that we rich Great Neck folks present in opposition to cross-busing, or equalization of funding - the bullshit argument that money doesn't matter, or the racist one that Those People are lacking in family values, or the pretextual one that local control is important - are just that: excuses. What our real argument is: Why should our money - even if it's an "inheritance" to which we, we winners in this race, feel entitled - go to improve your kid's education? Why should your self-interest trump my self-interest? Ultimately, we pay lip service to equality, because, once ahead, it's not in our interest to aim for equality anymore. Is Kozol saying that it is in our interest? That it should be in our interest? Is he saying screw our interest, this is what's good for society? And, you know, whatever he is saying doesn't make one iota of a difference, because however troubled those who read his book will feel, we will not be troubled enough - into action. *FINALLY DONE* This paragraph sums up neatly why the book is important, but also supremely frustrating: "There is a deep-seated reverence for fair play in the United States, and in many areas of life we see the consequences in a genuine distaste for loaded dice; but this is not the case in education, health care, or inheritance of wealth. In these elemental areas we want the game to be unfair and we have made it so; and IT WILL LIKELY SO REMAIN" (emphasis added).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karan Bajaj

    I picked this book up while researching for my book, since my protagonist grew up in the Bronx housing projects. But Savage Inequalities ended up meaning so much more, and led to a big Jonathan Kozol reading spree. Racial inequality, our apathy for the poor, all such concepts that seemed distant, became urgent and real for me. Having grown up in India, I have to admit, I didn't know this side of America, and I was struck deep in the gut by the stark description of the realities in the housing pr I picked this book up while researching for my book, since my protagonist grew up in the Bronx housing projects. But Savage Inequalities ended up meaning so much more, and led to a big Jonathan Kozol reading spree. Racial inequality, our apathy for the poor, all such concepts that seemed distant, became urgent and real for me. Having grown up in India, I have to admit, I didn't know this side of America, and I was struck deep in the gut by the stark description of the realities in the housing projects.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    A college professor of mine who i greatly admire once labeled Jonathan Kozol as a modern day prophet. The idea is that he is a person willing to say things that most of us don't want to hear. And that he is willing to say it starkly. Its true. Kozol does an excellent job in this book talking about a number of failing school systems in the country, and then comparing them to thriving (and well-funded) school systems very close by. I read the book a long time ago, but it still resonates, and i st A college professor of mine who i greatly admire once labeled Jonathan Kozol as a modern day prophet. The idea is that he is a person willing to say things that most of us don't want to hear. And that he is willing to say it starkly. Its true. Kozol does an excellent job in this book talking about a number of failing school systems in the country, and then comparing them to thriving (and well-funded) school systems very close by. I read the book a long time ago, but it still resonates, and i still pick it up on occasion to read a chapter or two. Most striking was the chapter on Cherry Hill and Camden, NJ. I mean, the fact that districts can have such differences in wealth, and be so close together, well its shocking. Growing up in Washington, DC i knew this, though its different when you realize that the problem is more widespread and not just local. Kozol is an excellent writer. Its an easy read, though his words don't leave you as quickly as they come. If this is a topic that even remotely interests you, i highly recommend.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    The reason I became a teacher

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Everyone knows that this is a masterpiece. If you ever found yourself trying to argue with someone who believes that money does not matter in schools and that urban schools need tough leaders to getthemselves together, then read this book. It tears this argument into scraps. Also it helps to debunk the myth that Hollywood sells of dedicated teachers who work magic in the classroom. Schools need resources like buildings and classroom materials. Teachers just need to be not evil before anything el Everyone knows that this is a masterpiece. If you ever found yourself trying to argue with someone who believes that money does not matter in schools and that urban schools need tough leaders to getthemselves together, then read this book. It tears this argument into scraps. Also it helps to debunk the myth that Hollywood sells of dedicated teachers who work magic in the classroom. Schools need resources like buildings and classroom materials. Teachers just need to be not evil before anything else. True it takes talent, but too much pressure is on teachers today partly as a result of this myth.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I first read Kozol's Savage Inequalities in a college education course, and I remember that what I read left me confused, sickened, and hoping for change. That was about 10 years ago--and Kozol's book was written 10 years before that. The first thing to remember and consider when picking up this book--however challenging it may be--is that it is 20 years old. I think things have changed for urban schools in a lot of ways. Not completely, not entirely, not "equally"--but changes have been made. T I first read Kozol's Savage Inequalities in a college education course, and I remember that what I read left me confused, sickened, and hoping for change. That was about 10 years ago--and Kozol's book was written 10 years before that. The first thing to remember and consider when picking up this book--however challenging it may be--is that it is 20 years old. I think things have changed for urban schools in a lot of ways. Not completely, not entirely, not "equally"--but changes have been made. The stories that Kozol tells are compelling. The statistics he repeats again, and again, and again throughout the book are chilling. The schools he describes are disturbing. It sickens me to read of such discrepancy in our education system. Ultimately, however, I think the book wasn't as well written as it could have been. The problem with having a cause is that occasionally, the writer or journalist loses objective. I think Kozol loses his objectivity in his tangible rage at the inequalities he saw in urban schools. I am not criticizing his rage, I am not disparaging his cause, but, I do think that there are portions of the book that are sheer emotional manipulation and, frankly, drivel. I hate to say this about a book and an author who so clearly has a heart for the plight of the poor, but he rages so severely against the conservatives that he runs the risk of alienating the very people who need to change their mindset about urban schools and funding for poorer school districts. When writing a persuasive argument, it is crucial to avoid preaching to the proverbial choir, and distancing the very people who need to hear the message, who need to be persuaded. Perhaps if Kozol was not quite so vituperative of his perceived conservative nemeses, this book would be more effective. The point is not to convince the people who are already convinced: the point is to convince those who are not in favor of his views. Kozol's main point is that money will improve everything in urban education. He consistently makes this point again, and again, and again. He consistently derides anyone who partially disagrees with this. He sees any arguments that counter that money may not be the only answer to improving urban schools as stupid. Again, when forming an argument, it's more effective to explore both sides of the argument, and then disprove the one you disagree with after a balanced examination. I think Kozol sees red far too often to give actual balanced, intelligent counter-arguments to the "money doesn't solve everything" camp. I admit: I am in the "money doesn't solve everything" camp, to some degree, and I found his constant harping about this frustrating. I'm willing to be convinced--but only with reasoned rhetoric. I am not saying I think that urban schools should be left with over crowded classrooms, and bathrooms with no toilet paper, and teachers who can't teach--I think urban school districts should, indeed, get every opportunity that the richer suburban school districts get. But, I don't know that money will solve all social problems facing the underprivileged populations of America. Savage Inequalities offers a poignant and challenging portrait of urban schools in the early 1990s. I believe he probably could have been as effective without so much repetition of the same argument in every chapter (chapters which lead the reader to believe they will focus on a school, but instead, by the final two or three chapters, are repetitions of the same arguments about property taxes and education and money--again, and again, and again.) I think this book is probably an important read for any education--one who is called to inner-city school education, or not. I wish that Kozol had a follow-up chapter in this later edition of the book: I'd like to know how we're doing now: 20 years later, is anything any better? Have we put this dark chapter in education behind us, shunted to the history books and Educational Philosophy courses? Let us hope so--although, sadly, I believe this is not the case.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meen

    As it did for some other folks who have posted reviews, this book cemented my desire to go into sociology. It is a devastating critique of our educational system and how it perpetuates inequality, keeping poor children from achieving their potential and locking them into poverty. This book was written almost 20 years ago, and rather than improving the quality of education for ALL children in impoverished school districts, we now give vouchers to allow the "good" children to leave them, creating As it did for some other folks who have posted reviews, this book cemented my desire to go into sociology. It is a devastating critique of our educational system and how it perpetuates inequality, keeping poor children from achieving their potential and locking them into poverty. This book was written almost 20 years ago, and rather than improving the quality of education for ALL children in impoverished school districts, we now give vouchers to allow the "good" children to leave them, creating even more of a vaccum for the children who are INDEED left behind.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    This book makes me simultaneously want to scream and sit down to write a revised education budget. A quarter century later and you *know* none of this has changed for the better. We should make this required reading in high school... Or at least in the high schools where students can read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    Important, seminal book. Class, money matters. New Trier is not Crane HS. The separate but unequal treatment of Amerca's children through school funding is tragic, criminal.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Henry

    Sad to read this in 2020 and think about how not a lot has changed for public education since the late ‘80s / early ‘90s when it was written. Really makes you think if a lot of the problems in our society couldn’t be traced back to education. (Shocking take, I know.) I took off one star because, although I think this is an extremely important book that should be read by everyone, it got pretty repetitive. The book was organized into chapters by city, but the underfunded public schools in every ci Sad to read this in 2020 and think about how not a lot has changed for public education since the late ‘80s / early ‘90s when it was written. Really makes you think if a lot of the problems in our society couldn’t be traced back to education. (Shocking take, I know.) I took off one star because, although I think this is an extremely important book that should be read by everyone, it got pretty repetitive. The book was organized into chapters by city, but the underfunded public schools in every city had a lot in common and all sort of blended together. As a result, by the third or fourth description of the author visiting a dilapidated elementary school and talking to its resigned staff, I started wondering if this was the best way to have organized the book. Maybe the point was to use repetition to create a sense of inescapable poverty and induce frustration in the reader, spurring them to action? (That’s what I would have written on the AP Lang exam.) Anyway, solid book, got kind of repetitive but at least it was never boring.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    It's a very disheartening book and is sadly still relevant today. I hope we can come up with solutions to education inequality problems and implement them but it will be tough to do.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cortney

    ""But [no one] can tell us what it means to a child to leave his often hellish home and go to a school -his hope for a transcendent future-that is literally falling apart."- Jonathan Kozol If I could choose one book to give to people who seem to be oblivious to the ways in which racial inequalities are often put into place from a very, very early age, it would be this one. I'm often dumbfounded when I encounter someone who honestly believes that every has the same opportunities in life in Americ ""But [no one] can tell us what it means to a child to leave his often hellish home and go to a school -his hope for a transcendent future-that is literally falling apart."- Jonathan Kozol If I could choose one book to give to people who seem to be oblivious to the ways in which racial inequalities are often put into place from a very, very early age, it would be this one. I'm often dumbfounded when I encounter someone who honestly believes that every has the same opportunities in life in America, and that "anyone can make it if they work hard enough". They seem to truly believe that we all being life on the exact same "START" line, with the same resources afforded to each one of us. This is sadly not true at all. This book is an excellent example of how public schools consistently fail the poorest children, who are also often minority children. Yes, it was written in 1991. However, in 1991, I was 8. So the children Kozol writes about are a bit older and a bit younger than me. This is *my* generation, feeling the lasting effects of these inequalities- and no, savage is not an overstatement. The descriptions of the conditions under which these schools are asked to function and educate are atrocious. Passages about children meeting in bathrooms for reading classes, or senior students sharing 8th grade history texbooks that are 20 years outdated, are just the tip of the iceberg. The conditions that Kozol documented, in which children were expected to learn, and teachers were expected to teach despite the depravity, enraged me. I have done some preliminary follow up research on this subject, and many schools are still in such conditions today. It is a disgusting fact in a nation as rich as ours, and it is an entrenched inequality that is enshrined in our laws, and the ways in which the American system finances education. Reading some of the court cases made me see red. I came across quotes from parents saying that "money doesn't matter" in education, yet turning around and fighting tooth and nail against a more equitable distribution. If money "doesn't matter", the obvious question is- why won't you let *your* child go to school in a windowless skating rink turned elementary school, with two bathrooms for 1,300 students? Or attend a school where 11 classes are crowded into the falling down gymnasium? Or try and learn when there are 15 textbooks for a class of 30+ students? Or do science experiments in classrooms with no running water? To even try and say "money doesn't matter" with a straight face to a school that is falling down around its students is a peculiar type of cruelty.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kellie

    Ahhh! This was so frustrating to read! How can this be happening? In America? Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but what students receive from public education is far from equal and definitely not even close to equitable. “One would not have thought that children in America would ever have to choose between a teacher or a playground or sufficient toilet paper. Like grain in a time of famine, the immense resources which the nation does in fact possess go not to the child in the gre Ahhh! This was so frustrating to read! How can this be happening? In America? Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but what students receive from public education is far from equal and definitely not even close to equitable. “One would not have thought that children in America would ever have to choose between a teacher or a playground or sufficient toilet paper. Like grain in a time of famine, the immense resources which the nation does in fact possess go not to the child in the greatest need, but to the child of the highest bidder- the child of the parents who, more frequently than not, have also enjoyed the same abundance when they were schoolchildren.” “But children to one set of schools are educated to be governors; children in the other set of schools are trained for being governed.”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Connor Oswald

    In short, sad in 1992, sadder still that little has changed in 2018.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Renee Bhanvadia

    The eye-opening information presented in Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools will surely leave readers in a state of shock when they learn about the challenges poor American students face on a day to day basis. Jonathan Kozol’s brilliant novel left me open to learning about how different conditions and economic stances of schools across America would lead to drastically different perspectives of the US school system. Because of Jonathan Kozol’s beautiful writing, I could imagine The eye-opening information presented in Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools will surely leave readers in a state of shock when they learn about the challenges poor American students face on a day to day basis. Jonathan Kozol’s brilliant novel left me open to learning about how different conditions and economic stances of schools across America would lead to drastically different perspectives of the US school system. Because of Jonathan Kozol’s beautiful writing, I could imagine the unsanitary and hopeless environment that some schools emanate. Great writing was one reason why I was able to enjoy the book. The interviews with kids were another reason why I liked this novel because they were entertaining to read since the interviews were in the viewpoints of children. The themes presented throughout the book, such as injustice, power, and economic prosperity moved me, which I liked. One reason why I disliked the novel was at some chapters that droned on with statistics and facts. The last reason why I enjoyed this novel was that it kept the privacy of people who wanted to remain that way by changing the names of people. Although I enjoyed this novel, for the most part, the endless list of just facts in specific chapters droned on to a certain point that it bored me, and this brought my overall rating of the book down. From all across America, schools from East St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Camden, Washington DC, Detroit, and San Antonio all show how economic disparities can lead to an inferior education. Factors such as sewage leakage, contaminated food, and little dental care lead to a tough life for young children who don’t understand how poor they are. Deficient statistics of life expectancy and income also lead to a life of hardship. In this book, many of these statistics are explained, educating people about the unfortunate situations of many neighborhoods and making people more thankful for the education they received. Many readers have written reviews on Goodreads, expressing their opinion on this book. One Goodreads reviewer rated this novel as one star and said that this book endlessly droned of the same tired statistics about lack of funding and poor conditions of inner city schools. I believe that to a certain extent, this is true, but for the most part, it isn’t. The reason why Jonathan Kozol talks a lot about statistics is that he wants to emphasize the lack of proper conditions in these schools and wants readers to understand that what is happening in these schools majorly alters a child’s education level. Another reviewer rated this book three stars and wrote that the first time she had read the book was ten, the statistics had left her shocked, but the book was written ten years before that. She said that the information in today’s day and age is not relevant because inner city schools have changed, but she still really enjoyed the book. Again, I agree with this comment partially. This is because I believe that this book still applies today, even if it was written long ago. Conditions for individual schools may have improved a little or not at all, but the concept of poor schools lacking funding because of low property taxes and affluent schools economically prospering still applies in today’s society. The final reviewer that I will be mentioning rated the book five stars and said that the book meant something more than its common themes because he saw economic instability when he grew up in another country, and he didn’t know that there was a weak side to America. It is refreshing for me to see that people view things differently when growing up in a different country. The great American Dream contains no weak side, and this book educates people on the various aspects of typical American education. Overall, this nonfiction book is truly an educational piece of literature that I recommend for people who want to learn about the different sides of the American school system.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Although I agree with the premise that all children should have equal opportunity via material needs, I disagree with his tone in blaming the middle class for "oppressing blacks" for this I give this book 4 stars. Overall, a good worth it read and eye opening. It is clear that corporate toxic waste is not really free waste that the environment can absorb. Corporations need to be responsible in not polluting US soil in their search for profits. The real sin here is that while corporation plants l Although I agree with the premise that all children should have equal opportunity via material needs, I disagree with his tone in blaming the middle class for "oppressing blacks" for this I give this book 4 stars. Overall, a good worth it read and eye opening. It is clear that corporate toxic waste is not really free waste that the environment can absorb. Corporations need to be responsible in not polluting US soil in their search for profits. The real sin here is that while corporation plants like Mosano have company based in the poor areas and thus pollute the surroundings, they do not employ locals b/c the plants need skill laborers which b/c of the lack of education these men do not have. The people are disenfranchised so they do not vote to change their surroundings. It is clear that charter schools are needed in these places so innovation can occur in finding paths to success. It is also clear that these kids need role models to emulate who look like them and preferably someone with similar background. They have to see a greater why in order to reach for the stars. Teachers pay also need to be creative in seeking how to retain valuable talent. It is a shame that children learn they are not wanted at an early age by their white peers so they have to settle for a second rate education. The school infrastructure needs to be updated so that students are able to thrive in it. As with everyone else, who these children spend time with determine what they become. So, was it fine that mom forbade us from hanging out with our lower-middle-class neighbors? Tenured teaching positions are also an issue b/c teachers who are bad but who are tenured will have to be kept by the school system. Parents uninvolvement is also a big issue b/c of their disinterested in what happens to their children, the kids do not push themselves to succeed. It is clear having great innovative teachers who care about each of her students success is an important part of these kids education. It is clear that teacher personality is key to their success not just their methods. Teacher retainment are an important component of what needs to happen in these neighborhoods. It is also important that the supplies to these schools remain robust. I am for the poorer performing schools to have the greatest leeway for innovation in order for them to succeed. B/c property tax funds public education, it is incumbent for federal and state governments to make up the difference to equalize the funding b/w rich and poorer districts. I am for poor people having choice in where they send their children so that schools that are working will be rewarded. It is also clear that parents have to have initiative to have their kids attend a superior school and voting so they influence the make up of the politicians who directly influence their needs. Along with a choice policy, there has to be a grassroots movement for black empowerment to seek the best education environment for their children so they can demand an equal access to quality education for their children. While it is clear that social class largely determines a child's future, people of privileged should try to level the playing field by mentoring children of lower means who have promise and support policies that will help children level the playing field so that people's potential will truly shine. Poor people's leaders have issues with corporate partners b/c they are the same people who lobby to cut taxes that would fund school programs. Media is bad for kids b/c they see that they are underprivileged as a comparison to the media image they see on TV. Why do Asian place more emphasis on education as a path to success than Hispanics or Black people? Part of the luck of people is being born to the right parents with the right social environment and the right opportunities. Despite the wrong environment that some of the kids are born into, they should at least have a top notch innovative education so they have a way out of their deprived lives. I think mentoring programs are useful in people to see the opportunities in their lives. Perhaps it's a matter of parental expectation where people who are expected to do well, do better than people with lower expectation. Jonathan states that the fact that people in better schools have the facilities that they desire means they will be disengaged from the political process thereby creating a self-perpetuating cycle. I think that this is where grass-roots community activism can come in, in trying to empower the people to advocate for their children's future. The fact that some of these people need books and do not have the book supplies for a prescribed class is completely appalling. Also the teacher:student ratio is way out of bounds for a normal school. The teachers complain of a culture of teaching to the test without the necessary learning tools to accomplish the job. The culture of preparing for a test means that the students do not have the necessary critical thinking skills to be successful in college; thus the majority who make it to college drop out. Teaching to the test also allows a disuse of critical aspect of a subject in favor of teaching to a test. So the love of learning can be destroyed. I am for busing disadvantage children to richer neighborhoods with the topping of 10-30% so that the richer districts would rub off on the poorer kids. I am totally for equal opportunity in pursuing an education; the younger a child is the more equal the opportunity for advancement they should have. So that state money should go to shore up the poorest expenditure per capita of schools for the least of its citizens instead of making well off districts richer. If disadvantaged minorities want change, they have to be politically engaged so their voice will be represented in government. It must be sad being a principal of an elementary school when you know most of the kids you teach are doomed to failure. While I agree with the basic premise of the book that the public should equalize the children's school supplies for school, I disagree with the premise that it is somehow corporations fault for advertising that causes these kids to steal. I think that people should really have to participate in the political process in order to see any solutions to their communities. The divisions are institutionalized so that the rich districts do not want to have money to go to poor districts. I think someone who is rich should make a study on a well run school that has resources. Do their students do better than those without resources? I think this is what charter schools do... Kozol state that the fact that states have difficulty balancing their money negatively impacts school districts who are poorer. So why not have a state-wide school tax to even the playing field so money will not be @ the whim of legislatures or yearly state finances. So the issue here is that politics enters the equation for the states redistribution of wealth to schools. Instead of having all the money go to school districts who need it, it is evenly redistributed to all districts regardless of need. I think the minimum foundation should be determined by tests that equate what a normal student of that age should adequately know. Affluent Americans will resist the redistribution of funds to children of the disadvantage. The problem with paying for the minimum foundation when it comes to education is that a general inflation of prices will occur which will let the poor uneducated children remain uneducated. It is clear the Poor White people (Appalachian) also suffer from the lack of resources as Urban Blacks and Latinos suffer, too. So this is more a class issue not necessarily a race issue.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    Kozol does and should discompose suburban liberals like me. This extraordinarily thorough and compelling book goes far beyond suggesting that there is a problem with America's schooling and priorities; it delves deeply into statistics, causes, and, most powerfully, reasons why we have allowed the problem to persist. Spoiler alert: Americans don't come off looking particularly ethical or sensitive in this analysis. That's good. This journey through East St. Louis, Chicago, New York City, Camden, W Kozol does and should discompose suburban liberals like me. This extraordinarily thorough and compelling book goes far beyond suggesting that there is a problem with America's schooling and priorities; it delves deeply into statistics, causes, and, most powerfully, reasons why we have allowed the problem to persist. Spoiler alert: Americans don't come off looking particularly ethical or sensitive in this analysis. That's good. This journey through East St. Louis, Chicago, New York City, Camden, Washington DC, and San Antonio blasts a spotlight on schools and communities that complacent Americans wish were invisible...or that we use racist tropes to rationalize away. Kozol is mad -- it's hard not to be -- but his tone is almost entirely rational and calm. His book's strength flows from the statistics and details, even more than that the awareness of counterarguments, and most of all the interviews with children and educators. The most difficult point for him to make -- the one that should unsettle us all the most -- is that the problem in underfunded, abandoned poor, minority districts is exacerbated by the lovingly proper funding in other districts (like the one where I live and teach). In other words, this is not simply a cheerleaderly "Let's raise up the disenfranchised!" but more of a "The disenfranchised are disenfranchised because the enfranchised are enfranchised." Everyone can get behind the cheerleader; Kozol is asking us all to accept responsibility. As you can imagine, this didn't go down easily then and doesn't now. The Camden chapter notes, "the rigging of the game and the acceptance, which is nearly universal, of uneven playing fields reflect a dark unspoken sense that other people's children are of less inherent value than our own. Now and then, in private, affluent suburbanites concede that certain aspects of the game may be a trifle rigged to their advantage. 'Sure, it's a bit unjust,' they may concede, 'but that's reality and that's the way the game is played..." (177). The reader cringes, probably gets defensive; like some of the well-educated youngsters in Rye, NY, with whom Kozol engages in a vigorous discussion, the response is often something like What, do you want everyone to be mediocre?. This is a story about racism and segregation. Those kids in Rye agree that equity a moral goal to be desired but believe -- as many suburbanites, liberal and conservative alike, would say -- equity probably wouldn't make much difference because poor children "would still lack the motivation" and "fail...because of other problems" (126). Kozol writes of the Rye teenagers: The children are lucid and their language is well chosen and their arguments well made, but there is a sense that they are dealing with an issue that does not feel very vivid, and that nothing that we say about it to each other really matters since it's "just a theoretical discussion." To a certain degree, the skillfulness and cleverness that they display seem to derive precisely from this sense of unreality. Questions of unfairness feel more like a geometric problem than a matter of humanity or conscience. A few of the students do break through the note of unreality, but, when they do, they cease to be so agile in their use of words and speak more awkwardly. Ethical challenges seem to threaten their effectiveness. There is the sense that they were skating over ice and that the issues we addressed were safely frozen underneath. When they stop to look beneath the ice they start to stumble. The verbal competence they have acquired here may have been gained by building walls around some regions of the heart. (126-7) And later on that page: "I don't think that busing students from their ghetto to a different school would do much good," one student says. "You can take them out of the environment, but you can't take the environment out of them. If someone grows up in the South Bronx, he's not going to be prone to learn....Busing didn't work when it was tried," he says. I ask him how he knows this and he says he saw a television documentary movie about Boston." (127) "Keep them where they are but make it equal," as another Rye student says (127), wraps up the scene. It's classic Kozol: analytical, probing, insightful, unsatisfied with cliches and platitudes, empathetic of all but unwilling to let any off the hook. If the reader is not at least somewhat unsettled here, the reader lacks a heart. Indeed, Kozol's other great strength is the compassion with which he writes about those who suffer in these degraded environments: living in what is effectively a chemical dumping ground in East St. Louis, going to schools with holes in walls and ceilings and tattered books that have to be shared, dealing with teachers who have given up, attending class in tiny and unpleasant rooms. After descriptions of overcrowding throughout the Camden chapter, as they are in every chapter, he unwinds this passage that epitomize his more editorial moments: The crowding of children into insufficient, often squalid spaces seems an inexplicable anomaly in the United States. Images of spaciousness and majesty, of endless plains and soaring mountains, fill our folklore and our music and the anthems that our children sing. "This land is your land," they are told; and, in one of the patriotic songs that children truly love because it summons up so well the goodness and the optimism of the nation at its best, they sing of "good" and "brotherhood" "from sea to shining sea." It is a betrayal of the best things that we value when poor children are obliged to sing these songs in storerooms and coat closets. (159-60) Whew. The myth of America takes a beating in this book. It's hard to see how that is undeserved. It may be due to the changes in standardized testing over the twenty-four years since this was published that Kozol's obloquy against that particular hazard seemed less convincing to me than any of his other points. He is, however, on point in suggesting that the teaching to which these inner-city kids are subjected is the least imaginative to be found, largely because of the desperate need to stay with nostrils above the crashing waves. Maslow's hierarchy would tell us that. The core of this essential book is Kozol's thesis that education is a fundamental right, and that the nation has abrogated its responsibility toward the members of these communities with regard to that right. "How much does a person have the right to ask?" (195). More than they are getting. The contest between liberty and equity in education has, in the past 30 years, translated into the competing claims of local control, on the one hand, and state (or federal) intervention on the other. Liberty, school conservatives have argued, is diminished when the local powers of school districts have been sacrificed to centralized control. The opposition to desegregation in the South, for instance, was portrayed as local (states') rights as a sacred principle infringed upon by federal court decisions. The opposition to the drive for equal funding in a given state is now portrayed as local (district) rights in opposition to the powers of the state. While local control may be defended and supported on a number of important grounds, it is unmistakable that it has been historically advanced to counter equity demands; this is no less the case today. (210) Today as well. Woe to us if we don't heed Jonathan Kozol.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    3.5 stars. I know, I know, this is a well-known classic of nonfiction that has stood the test of time. And by no means do I disagree with his premise — since the time that I was in high school 15 years ago, I've been making the argument that funding public education with property taxes leads to entrenched inequalities, and that was without knowing the ways in which state and federal funding utterly fail to rectify the differences. But holy goodness, talk about beating a dead horse. This could ha 3.5 stars. I know, I know, this is a well-known classic of nonfiction that has stood the test of time. And by no means do I disagree with his premise — since the time that I was in high school 15 years ago, I've been making the argument that funding public education with property taxes leads to entrenched inequalities, and that was without knowing the ways in which state and federal funding utterly fail to rectify the differences. But holy goodness, talk about beating a dead horse. This could have been a powerful magazine article or — if written 20 years later — an eminently shareable blog post. But instead we get a book that says basically the same thing over and over again for six chapters, until I could practically write a chapter myself. "Take Big City X. At Poor Area High School, there is a large hole in the ceiling of the entryway. Most of the toilets don't work and there is no toilet paper. The gym is unusable because the flooring has been torn up, but due to overcrowding there are now four classes being held in there anyway. Class sizes average 35 students, and all the students are black and Hispanic. The library has about 200 books that are all from the 1960s and before. The graduation rate is about 50% and only about 50 students of 5000 will apply to college. "Five minutes down the street / across the tracks / up the hill is Rich Area High School. It has six gyms and a 'study lounge' and a 'music suite.' Students can take classes in 'geology' and 'music theory' and 'obscure literature of the 17th century.' Class sizes average 18 students, and the student body is 90% white and 9% Asian, with three black kids who are in all remedial classes. The library has 20,000 volumes, and 99% of students graduate, many going to Ivy League schools. Whereas Poor Area High School spends $1,000 per pupil, Rich Area High School spends $10,000." Don't get me wrong — it's important to draw attention to the degree of disparity that exists. And I'm glad Kozol has done so in such sharp contrast. But I don't need a rinse and repeat in ten different cities to get the point. What Kozol does do well is to show just how entitled and racist white suburban parents can be when it comes to trying to rectify these disparities. From protests to court cases, anytime major action has been taken to try to give poor districts enough money to function decently, all the rich people get up in arms about the "Robin Hoods" who are trying to make their precious children mediocre. Kozol talks in unflinching terms about how affluent white Americans believe that education is adequate for poor minority children as long as it teaches them enough basics to hold down a minimum-wage job, even going so far as to imply that they are so uncultured that they wouldn't know what to do even if they had better facilities and so innately stupid that they wouldn't learn anything from better teachers. It's hard to read, even more so because I know it to be true from my own experience. Kozol highlights New Trier High as the cream of the crop in the Chicago suburbs, but that's probably only because my high school hadn't been built yet. When it was, it was the most expensive high school to be built in the state. And while I'm grateful for the education I received, I hate the idea that it came at the expense (literally) of other students in other parts of the state. But even my very liberal mother disagreed with me on this, telling me that they paid to live in an expensive area so I could have the education I did, as if those born into poverty, whose children are born into poverty, just decided not to make the same "choice." Kozol returns to this idea of choice again and again, because it's an argument used often to assert that districts should retain control of their own schools from top to bottom so that "local choice" can play a role in how the school is designed. But as Kozol points out, the only choice that the poorest districts have is "negative choice": deciding whether to do without a nurse or a counselor, a gym or a lunchroom. So I'm fully on board with Kozol's thesis, and I think that he makes his points well, even if he does it ad nauseam. But the other thing that grated on me the entire time I was reading was Kozol's writing style. He quotes a lot of people — so much so that at times it felt like passages were just strung-together quotations — but some of them get names and some of them don't, and there's rarely an explanation given for the difference (e.g., "a teacher said on condition of anonymity"). In at least one spot (p. 216) there's an entire paragraph in quotes that's given no context whatsoever (though this may have been a Kindle formatting error). And many of the people are quoted as speaking in multiple, uninterrupted paragraphs, making many of the same points and using the same language that Kozol uses in his narrative, which makes me think either they were highly edited or Kozol was just scribbling notes in a notebook and then reconstructed them into sentences later. This is in sharp contrast to the way he quotes written materials, where he denotes any kind of editing with ellipses, including oftentimes, unnecessarily, at the end of a passage. And some quotations are just baffling, such as, "Morris High School in the South Bronx, for example, says a teacher who has taught here more than 20 years, 'does everything an inanimate object can do to keep children from being educated.'" Who is speaking? The building? Finally, I appreciate what Kozol was doing with his narrow focus on funding — and indeed, he argues well that those who say money doesn't make a difference are the same people not willing to redistribute any of their own money —but I also think he could have taken some of the space he used reiterating the same things over and over again and devoted it to a broader view of the factors that go into a quality education. He argues that giving districts more money, for example, would allow them to attract higher quality teachers, but I know from reading Radical: Fighting to Put Students First that there are other factors at play; when Michelle Rhee got outside funding to attract a huge number of would-be instructors in New York City, she discovered that there were hiring regulations and timelines that were stifling the recruitment within cities and losing many candidates to the suburbs. And I know from my own experience that being in a well-funded high school by no means guarantees quality teachers who understand their subject matter. (Kozol does make the point that affluent areas can better deal with a handful of poor teachers because they can afford tutoring for their kids, but he doesn't seem to believe that teachers in poorer districts would need to be held to any kind of standard as long as we could pay them more.) Despite my problems with the book, I do see why it's considered a seminal work on this topic, and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't already spent the better part of two decades thinking and arguing about this very thing. I doubt he's changed the minds of anyone who already had a firm stance going in, but for anyone who's never given much thought to disparities in public education funding, this is definitely worth reading as an introduction.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Jonathan Kozol shares anecdotes from his visits to schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods across America. Given that this book was first published in 1991, some of the information is out-of-date, but I still found it worthwhile to learn what the poorest school districts looked like back then. This snippet in which Kozol quotes John Coons summarizes my main takeaway from the book, a statement that is still relevant in today's society: The reliance of our public schools on property taxes and Jonathan Kozol shares anecdotes from his visits to schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods across America. Given that this book was first published in 1991, some of the information is out-of-date, but I still found it worthwhile to learn what the poorest school districts looked like back then. This snippet in which Kozol quotes John Coons summarizes my main takeaway from the book, a statement that is still relevant in today's society: The reliance of our public schools on property taxes and the localization of the uses of those taxes “have combined to make the public school into an educator for the educated rich and a keeper for the uneducated poor. There exists no more powerful force for rigidity of social class and the frustration of natural potential.…”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Berry-Smith

    However heart-wrenching it is to read about disparities in schools between the rich and the poor, as a millennial reading this it's old news. We shouldn't be surprised that funding differences result in unequal outcomes for children across our nation. I appreciate Kozol for bringing this issue into the popular discourse, but we can no longer be complacent. Change needs to happen, but unfortunately there is no strong argument for what can be done differently to affect this change. Good book, espe However heart-wrenching it is to read about disparities in schools between the rich and the poor, as a millennial reading this it's old news. We shouldn't be surprised that funding differences result in unequal outcomes for children across our nation. I appreciate Kozol for bringing this issue into the popular discourse, but we can no longer be complacent. Change needs to happen, but unfortunately there is no strong argument for what can be done differently to affect this change. Good book, especially for those who aren't informed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Escalante

    Savage Inequalities is pretty depressing and requires a tough stomach from the reader. Kozol explores the enormous disparity in the quality of public schools (and resources allocated to schools) throughout the US. The entrenched socio-economic and racial segregation in my country is multi-dimensional and an extremely difficult problem to understand and begin to address. I do however think that quality education is foundational to meaningful progress. I would love to see an increased focus on edu Savage Inequalities is pretty depressing and requires a tough stomach from the reader. Kozol explores the enormous disparity in the quality of public schools (and resources allocated to schools) throughout the US. The entrenched socio-economic and racial segregation in my country is multi-dimensional and an extremely difficult problem to understand and begin to address. I do however think that quality education is foundational to meaningful progress. I would love to see an increased focus on education opportunity parity throughout our public school system from the private and public sectors. I thought Kozol's book was solid. It offers more in the way of information and observation than in fresh thought, but still is an important voice in the conversation. I recommend it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Thalia Chloe

    This was an interesting read on contextual influences, especially with the backdrop of the College Board’s new SAT adversity score, but it was primarily descriptive. I would have liked to see a discussion of politically feasible proposals to redress the issue. There was also no mention of The Coleman Report, which was a significant omission given the book’s subject matter, and Berliner’s work was only briefly referenced.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Trent Mikesell

    While this was published several years ago, the information (sadly) is still all too relevant today. I absolutely believe in the power of public education--it should be the one thing that brings us all on equal footing. It should be a key part of the American Dream. It's horrible when it's underfunded and especially so when its underfunded in our most vulnerable and needful communities. This quote says it all: “Placing the burden on the individual to break down doors in finding better education While this was published several years ago, the information (sadly) is still all too relevant today. I absolutely believe in the power of public education--it should be the one thing that brings us all on equal footing. It should be a key part of the American Dream. It's horrible when it's underfunded and especially so when its underfunded in our most vulnerable and needful communities. This quote says it all: “Placing the burden on the individual to break down doors in finding better education for a child is attractive to conservatives because it reaffirms their faith in individual ambition and autonomy. But to ask an individual to break down doors that we have chained and bolted in advance of his arrival is unfair.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Roark

    I think this books says a great deal about America, poverty, and race. It is an interesting read that you won't stop thinking about any time soon.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Read this a long time ago, when it was new. Kozol is always good, in my experience.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cara Meredith

    I’m pretty sure I read this twenty year ago in college but it’s just as true now as it was then: these our are children. This is the reality of systemic inequality. When will we stop repeating the cycle?

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