Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What would you do if your kids went to overpopulated schools with insufficient teachers, books, and in some cases, classrooms to learn? In Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, Kozol travels from New York City to San Antonio to investigate this travesty. His findings bring out the de facto racism that is ingrained in the United States and reveal that even after the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954, American public schools are still separate, and unequal. Kozol does an excellent job of explaining how US public schools contribute to the wage gap, racism, and the unfair socioeconomic divide in American society.
The massive wage gap that exists in the US starts with public schools. Kids believe that school doesn’t matter because of the sparse amount of teachers and resources in these schools. Without school, it is much harder for children to succeed, which leads them to drop out and work at a low paying job or go to prison. While visiting a kindergarten classroom in Chicago, Kozol makes the statement that “by junior year of high school… 14 of these 23 boys and girls will have dropped out of high school… four of these kids will go to college… one of those four may graduate from college”(55). These children are not given any opportunities from the beginning of their education. Lack of achievement contributes to the expanding wage gap in the United States because it creates a cycle for children from lower income families to stay below the poverty line. Without an education, these inner city children have no way to make it out of their low-income neighborhood.
Systematic racism results from underachieving public schools. Most of these schools Kozol visits are almost all Black and Latino. Many of these kids and their families struggle to pay bills and put food on the table. The parents are busy with jobs and other worries; children are given no attention and are left on their own, which can lead to bad decisions. According to the New York City Department of Corrections, “90 percent of the male inmates of the city’s prisons are former dropouts of the city’s public schools”(144). Many African Americans are stereotyped as negative roles in society because of a lack of opportunities, such as a poor education. In the early to mid-1900s, many minority groups were put into impoverished neighborhoods with high crime rates and bad schools. Because these school systems have been notorious for their dropout rates, these people are given no way out, which has led to generations of failure for some families. Kozol does a great job of connecting these social injustices and the education system, which can change opinions and preconceptions of some people, and educate the public about the origins of these oppressing stereotypes.
Kozol also points out that most white people are given a free pass in education since they tend to live in more suburban communities. While this does not hold true for all white people, the majority of high achieving schools contain a predominately white student population. They are sheltered from the hardships that other people in inner city schools have to face, and this only contributes to helping white people succeed instead diversifying the field of success. Predominately white schools succeed while predominately black and Latino schools fail “offers symbolism that protects the white society against the charges of racism”(236). These schools are majority white, which shelters the kids from systematic racism because they aren’t exposed to other socioeconomic backgrounds nor a diverse group of races.This takes away the opportunities that could be given to underprivileged children that would help them get out of their unfortunate circumstances. With a “divided and unequal education system that is still in place nearly, four decades after Brown”(236) schools remain separate from each other, and with many left with different classrooms, teachers, and dropout rates. The differences between majority white and majority black schools are devastating and give affluent whites advantages they don’t deserve. Kozol explains the huge gap between the two types of public schools, and to reach equality, the public education problem must be addressed. Kozol suggests that there should be more integration in suburban schools and that major cities, such as New York, should prioritize funding their public education system. He also notes that charter schools (which were brand new at the time) can also give children in low-income neighborhoods a much better education.
American public schools are great where the wealthy live, but give those in poverty and poorer communities no opportunities and no resources to make them successful. The divide in the public school system has contributed to racism and must be fixed to improve low-income communities. Kozol does a fantastic job of explaining this issue and giving reasoning of why schools must be set, which is why Savage Inequalities is a great read if you want to learn more about social injustice and the problems with education in the United States. ~ Student: Alexander G.
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