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The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
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“The nation needs to be confronted with the crime that we’re committing and the promises we are betraying. This is a book about betrayal of the young, who have no power to defend themselves. It is not intended to make readers comfortable.”

Over the past several years, Jonathan Kozol has visited nearly 60 public schools. Virtually everywhere, he finds that conditions have grown worse for inner-city children in the 15 years since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. First, a state of nearly absolute apartheid now prevails in thousands of our schools. The segregation of black children has reverted to a level that the nation has not seen since 1968. Few of the students in these schools know white children any longer. Second, a protomilitary form of discipline has now emerged, modeled on stick-and-carrot methods of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons but targeted exclusively at black and Hispanic children. And third, as high-stakes testing takes on pathological and punitive dimensions, liberal education in our inner-city schools has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.

Filled with the passionate voices of children and their teachers and some of the most revered and trusted leaders in the black community, The Shame of the Nation is a triumph of firsthand reporting that pays tribute to those undefeated educators who persist against the odds, but directly challenges the chilling practices now being forced upon our urban systems by the Bush administration. In their place, Kozol offers a humane, dramatic challenge to our nation to fulfill at last the promise made some 50 years ago to all our youngest citizens.

From The Shame of the Nation

“I went to Washington to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations,” the president said in his campaign for reelection in September 2004. “It’s working. It’s making a difference.” It is one of those deadly lies, which, by sheer repetition, is at length accepted by large numbers of Americans as, perhaps, a rough approximation of the truth. But it is not the truth, and it is not an innocent misstatement of the facts. It is a devious appeasement of the heartache of the parents of the poor and, if it is not forcefully resisted and denounced, it is going to lead our nation even further in a perilous direction.

Also available as a Random House AudioBook and an eBook

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Another Brilliant Analysis By Jonathan Kozol
    Jonathan Kozol has done it again. He has written what is most likely the single best book of the year about public education in America today. As Kozol makes clear the main problem with contemporary education is the fact that the public schools have become resegregated. Poor minority youth in the inner city, rich and middle class white kids in the suburbs.

    Kozol also tackles other problems afflicting public education. This includes the fact that for the past 4 decades, both government and media have idiotically trumpeted false solutions as being the ultimate cure-all and have heralded every new principal or superintendent as being the solution to the problem at hand. Likewise, every time there is a slight increase in test scores, that is presented to the public as proof positive that the schools are working.

    Kozol also points out that the inner city school situation is much worse than what the media often reports. The media all too often paints a rosy picture of inner city schools. The public has been greatly misled about the real nature of the inner city schools. In fact, as Kozol reports, reading levels among urban youth are much lower than among their suburban counterparts. One reason for this distortion of reality is that school districts all too often lie about dropout rates and reading levels and the media is too lazy or unconcerned to hold school districts accountable.

    The Shame of the Nation : The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America is a great book. Everyone who cares about the state of public education needs to read this book.

    ...more info
  • Kozol addresses the national reality of racial segration in schools
    Kozol addresses the critical unsolved problem of racial inequality in our public schools. He visited over 60 schools and focuses on 6 major cities to show the problems of racial inequality that threaten the very possibility of equal educational opportunities for disadvantaged, immigrant, urban and of-color students.

    These problems are not just each city's or districts or town's problems. They are the result of the dual education system in which the poor and of color and hispanic children are on mostly one side and the rest with more money on the other. He gives detailed facts and lively interviews that illustrate the facts about this dual education in the USA.

    This is a national reality that is affecting every American city. The deepening isolation of large groups of urban students threatens to marginalize them completely from the American mainstream.

    As US schools become more class-segrated and race-segrated than ever, students of color and hispanic students are falling further behind, dropping out more, ending up in prison at higher rates, earning less and completing fewer years of college than we as Americans should find morally acceptable or econimically justifiable.

    For all those readers comitted to a public dialogue which can lead to solutions,Kozol's book is a start. I recommend it to teachers, parents, public leaders and private donors, the young, the middle aged and the elderly. There is a moral need to change this reality of racial and economic equality for children's education that has unfortunately existed for at least the 40 years that Kozol documented in his book. This need is especially great for those of us who have been of the receiving side of an good education due to birth, color, or opportunities that were a gift of fortune. We talk about charity but this is justice for all our chidren....more info
  • Those who ignore Kozol aren't being honest with themselves
    Anyone who's spent five minutes with children of virtually any age will quickly see that each wants what the others have, and that they all too readily perceive that "it's not fair" for one to have more than the other. Jonathan Kozol's critique of our outrageously unequal educational system is based on this simple observation. Adults don't like it any more than they like having to give all children equal amounts of everything, for they understand, as children cannot, that people are not equal and cannot and should not be treated the same way by all people.

    Here in the US, the states have long retained the right to budget disbursements for education; thus Mississippi children have never, historically, received allotments as generous as New York children have. But to treat children unequally on the basis of color and economic disadvantage within the same state, and often within the same city or town, is to compound an already "unfair" situation and turn it into a moral obscenity.

    I have taught in public and private, urban and rural, secondary schools for nearly fifteen years and have had the opportunity to teach in racially integrated and newly-built schools. In these I saw greater enthusiasm and drastically better conduct than in the smelly, dilapidated, and/or racially segregated buildings elsewhere in the same city. It was obvious! and it would be obvious to anyone with eyes to see with and ears to hear with.

    I can't change the perceptions of children. We may want them to be "good soldiers", the way we are when we trudge into work and go about jobs we may hate, in spite of the "unfairness" of our lives. We're adults and have privileges (like sex and cars and incomes) that remove us from our physical surroundings somewhat. But these are children. They will retain these emotional and intellectual scars all of their lives. Ask any psychologist about the influence of early deprivation on subsequent behavior--(s)he'll give you an earful.

    If anyone deserves beautiful new buildings and equipment and nice and well-trained people to spend time with all day, it's our ACTUAL children, not the adult-age people of infantile mentality that our society actually caters to. Any society that relegates its children to these dark and dangerous places, in the shadow of office complexes, sports stadiums, and other pleasure-domes, the public expenditures for which could rebuild an entire nation of new schools, is, quite frankly, pursuing a course of fascism and ought to own up to it now. That's all Kozol is saying, and the fact that he's been saying it for so long doesn't obviate its essential truth. ...more info
  • The Shame of the Nation
    If you are a teacher who is interested in how urban schools are being managed, you will definitely like this book. Kozol has done many observations in different school, he shares his thoughts and experiences with the reader. ...more info
  • Where is Oprah, Imus, et al?
    This book should be instigating a national debate. It's author should be making the rounds of Oprah, Today, Imus, etc.

    If you choose to read this disturbing text, you will ask the same question....more info
  • Fascism in action
    This is what happens when uneducated reactionaries dictate to a concept that is beyond their comprehension. It's just more sanke oil from the same pigs who gave us the scams of deregulation (capitalism governing itself), privatization (the giveaway of what our taxes bought to those who pay little or no tax), and globalization (repositioning the Republican Party to a time predating the Emancipation Proclamation). Hitler and Mussolini would certainly approve....more info
  • Move to Pennsylvania, then.
    [...] indicates that for 2006, the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia School Districts spent [...] per student. This is vs. an average expenditure of [...] per student for the state as a whole.

    In case anyone hasn't figured it out, the title is sarcastic - anyone that moves to PA for the quality of the education in the big cities will be sorely disappointed, despite the higher expenditures per student. Throwing more money at the problem does exactly nothing............actually, the argument can be made that it makes things worse.

    The author should think about including this data in the next edition....more info
  • Kozol aptly describes schools for impoverished youth
    Kozol aptly describes schools in Kern County, California. He says "a state of nearly absolute apartheid now prevails in thousands of our schools." He says "a protomilitary form of discipline has now emerged, modeled on stick-and-carrot methods of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons." He says that liberal education in our inner-city schools has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society." Kozol has got it right, not just for inner-city schools, but schools where a high proportion of the students quality for free or reduced price meals. Louis Wildman, Professor of Educational Administration, California State University--Bakersfield
    ...more info
  • Truth, but. . .
    I have worked as a resource teacher in the inner city schools, and agree with Kozol 99% of the time. It is not true that ALL inner city schools are unclean, and some cities are building new schools in the inner cities; but there is, without question, segregation because of the return to neighborhood schools.

    But this review threw me because I am currently teaching in a suburban school as a resource teacher: >>Mostly white children in 'nice' suburbs have clean and safe schools with a curriculum that stimulates their interests and creativity.<<

    I won't argue with the clean and safe. I admit fully that I feel safer here than I did in the inner city - where several times I had knofes drawn on me, etc. No need to hash through all the horror stories. Bit to say that the curriculum stimulates interest and creativity in suburban schools is simply wrong these days. All schools are facing the same mandates from the feds: NCLBA, and because of that all creativity has left all but the very best teachers, and let's face it - those have always been few and far between. The main focus these days is getting children to pass the federally mandated tests, and that won't stop until we get some true leadership back in this country. I'm ashamed of the state governments who are rolling over backwards and bowing down to federal guidelines, and very happy for Utah and Connecticut for at least stepping forward and questioning the wisdom of NCLBA. It has destoryed the possibilty of creativity in the classroom for all studnets who are not lucky enough to run into the 1 in 100 teacher. And what's your chance in 12 years? ...more info
  • A Must Read for all Parents
    This book is a must read for all parents with children in America's public education system. It is shocking and saddening to see the difference in the quality of education afforded to our children based on class and race in this country.

    I hope that this book will help awaken American parents to stand up for an equal education for all. I hope that book will shock Americans so they will rally for change and shame federal, state and local governments to make equal education a reality.

    I was so happy that Oprah mentioned this book on her show. If you were angered and shocked by what she featured, you will be completely outraged by the conditions of the education system revealed in this book.

    I once thought that every 5 year old entering school would have the same chance to succeed in life as any other in America regardless of their race or economic background. This book shows in shocking details, that this is not the case.
    ...more info
  • It DOES happen HERE.
    Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation is the most critically engaged, emotionally charged, and socially aware book I have read in quite a while. While much of the academic literature on subjects of oppression and cruelty proceed more like VCR manuals than realistically concerned commentary, Kozol's undertaking into the reinstitution of apartheid schooling rips into the fabric of one's emotional being. Shame of the Nation is a searing exploration into the United States public education system's inequalities and blatant racism as told by the teachers and students that experience this reality every day. Kozol writes with unmatched compassion and a sense of urgency that begs the reader to stop thinking about injustice and to start working to change it.

    I have read quite a bit of literature on subjects of oppression, inequality, injustice, and outright fascism in the United States, but nothing has really been able to swirl up such a whirlwind of emotions quite like this book. I think it comes right down to the fact that this is not about economics, politics, or ideologies (which, yes, it clearly is), but more importantly about children. How anyone can read this book with an open mind, and not be completely sick about the society they live in is far beyond my cognitive ability. Kozol engages the reader in the reality of reactionary government policies that seem tailored to producing a completely regressive environment for this nation's minority children. The fact that Kozol does not pull any punches in his writing, and that he goes right after those who are forwarding this agenda of backwards authoritarianism strikes me as one of the more noble things that can be done.

    Shame of the Nation does a marvelous job of outlining exactly what the result of neoliberal free market fundamentalist policy agendas produce when social institutions come under their fiendish grips. Across the board high stakes testing under what Kozol refers to as the "No Child Left Untested Act" are completely draconian measures designed not to benefit our nation's poorest children, but to punish them for something they never had control over to begin with. Stories of children weeping and some wetting themselves as they are forced to take tests as early as kindergarten and first grade abound throughout the book. If that alone is not enough to get someone white knuckled, then we have completely lost our social conscious as a society.

    The brave underpaid and overworked teaching staff at many of these inner-city learning prisons are turned into fascistic automatons that become pawns of the system of stale test-based curricula, and even those few outstanding teachers that challenge the system are forced to comply or be removed from their "teacher-proof" positions. Students are lead around dingy, sometimes even condemned, buildings in fashions more similar to military marching than those of playful schoolchildren. The classroom has been completely removed of any sense of compassion, fun, and monkey business that are typical of young children, and instead has been replaced with totalitarian salute systems, reminiscent of Nazi party gatherings, and stringent lesson plan instruction.

    Kozol does not offer much, explicitly, in the way of how to change the system other than good old fashioned activism, but the changes that need to be made are implicit throughout the text. These schools need much more funding and its not just education that needs a fundamental transformation, but the whole society. The energy and rage of the civil rights era needs to be instilled in people, and the country has to come together to fight for its children. Because without our children, what will we have when our future comes and our society looks to the next generation?
    ...more info
  • A must read for anyone interested in education in the USA
    As a New Yorker who used to teach a lot as a teaching artist in many NY schools, I have long been dubious of (but curious about) the much-touted positive effects of "No Child Left Behind." What I saw in those schools was many passionate teachers working against terrible conditions (poor buildings, overcrowded classes, insufficient schools supplies). How would funneling more money into 'testing' the teachers, instead of supporting them, improve their students' education?

    I was excited and disturbed to read Kozol's insightful, anecdotal, well-researched analysis of the national (and New York) school system - and how NCLB works to dull teachers' instincts and students minds and rob them of precious class time through over-testing.

    But more than this, I was inspired to learn that what Kozol suggests is that increased money for education (not testing) is only part of the solution. The biggest imperative towards changing the fate of young Blacks and Hispanics in America is to actually fulfill the desegregation ruling of Brown v. Board of Ed - and make institutional changes to undo the de facto racial segregation of our public schools.

    I also was saddened to read the reviews that criticize Kozol's book on this website. Several of them mischaracterize his argument so much, it seems clear that these reviewers are unable to see past their own ideology - or just plain didn't take the time to actually read the book.

    I recommend that everyone read this book. It's important....more info
  • Very Informative
    Jonathan Kozol's book "Shame of the Nation" is a great book to learn about the apartheid that is happening in our school systems and to learn about the separation of funding for our schools. He feels that the school system in the United States needs to become more integrated because integration would give the students an equal opportunity in the world. Predominately "white" schools get more school funding, more often from private sources, thus creating segregation in our schools. He notes the irony of the schools that are named after great leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. and Rosa Parks and he reveals that such schools are in the worst condition. Jonathan Kozol's solution to this problem is to give more funding to schools that need the funds, he wants the money to go to the students that need it.
    I agree with Jonathan Kozol, in the sense that the schools need more funding. Through personal experiences and with my own investigations, I've found that segregation is a common factor in society as a whole. I think that our schools need to have higher paid teachers, and teachers who are vastly more qualified than the teachers of today. The qualifications for becoming a teacher need to be more tough because these are the people who are teaching our youth, our future, and it's important that they receive the education that is necessary to have a promising future....more info
  • Shame of a Nation review
    This book is amazing. It is such an eye-opener into how divided our nation's educational system is. It shows the differences monetarly, culturally, and racially between cities. It shows how below the surface of our Happy Go Lucky educational system, there is corruption and somewhere in there the real truth lies. ...more info
  • Kozol's Ideas Have Ruined Black Lives
    Kozon's ideas have ruined thousands of black lives. The Orleans Parish School system is an example. It has applied his theries for 30 years. The board is predominately black. With the exception of one Hispanic, all the superintendents have been black. Almost 100% of the teachers, administrators, and students are black. The test scores are the lowest in Louisiana. Armed guards at every school and sometimes in every classroom cannot stop the crimes, including murders and rape. At Fortier High School, the valedictorian failed the exit exam four times. The black power structure has looted more than $100 million from the system. These are the victims of Kozol's educational theories. You may have seen some of them at the Superdome and Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina. They were totally dependent on the government. By contrast, the parochial and charter schools who do not use Kozol's theories are able to successfully educate blacks from the same population. If you buy this book, you will become Kozol's accessory. ...more info
  • Interesting read!
    I was required to read this book for a graduate class and was actually pleasantly surprised. I'm a teacher and there's a lot of things in this book I never thought about! Great read!...more info
  • A Great Argument for Vouchers
    Kozol spews his normal emotional stuff but fails to get to the underlying problem: government-provided goods always have at least 2 out of 3 features: they cost a lot, they are low in quality, and they harm the poor. Government education wins the Trifecta: it does all three.

    If someone said that lower income people who get food stamps should have to spend their food stamps in government run supermarkets, we would see the idiocy: government has no edge in producing or distributing food. Well, now we have government giving education stamps but saying they have to be spent in government run education stores. Kozol has no right to be shocked. ...more info