44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake Up America
Anyone believing that America is the land of opportunity for our young people should read this book. Anyone convinced that America is not the land of opportunity for our young people, but wants statistics to back this belief, should read this book too. In chapter after chapter Kozol dispels the myth that all children in this country are provided with an equal...
Published on February 25, 2000 by Kathleen A. Bates
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard-hitting but soft when it comes to real solutions
Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities is heavy on details of the tragic conditions existing in our cities' public schools these days, but it is light in terms of tangible solutions to the crisis. For this and other reasons, Kozol's effort, while it packs a breathtaking punch, nonetheless fails to live up to its potential as a force that can be expected to make an impact in...
Published on October 4, 2004 by Andrew Asensio
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake Up America,
Anyone believing that America is the land of opportunity for our young people should read this book. Anyone convinced that America is not the land of opportunity for our young people, but wants statistics to back this belief, should read this book too. In chapter after chapter Kozol dispels the myth that all children in this country are provided with an equal opportunity for education. The stark contrast he provides between neighboring schools in some of our countries major cities is haunting and unbelievable. The conditions that some of our children face day after day, and year after year would break the spirits of even the strongest adults. For example: The children of Martin Luther King Junior High in East St. Louis have experienced repeated school closing due to sewage back-ups. Students in DuSable High School's auto mechanics class have waited 16 weeks before learning something so basic as changing a tire because of no instruction. "On an average morning in Chicago, 5,700 children in 190 classrooms come to school to find they have no teacher."(p. 52) At Goudy Elementary, in Chicago, there are two working bathrooms for 700 children and toilet paper and paper towels are rationed. In New York City's Morris High the black boards are so badly cracked that teachers are afraid to let students write on them, there are holes in the floors of classrooms, plaster falls from the walls, and when it rains waterfalls make their way down six flights of stairs. In Public School 261 in District 10 in New York 1300 elementary students attend school in a converted roller skating rink. The school's capacity is 900 and there are no windows, which Kozol describes as creating feelings of asphyxiation. In Camden, New Jersey, at Pyne Point Junior High, students in typing class learn on old typewriters not computers. The science lab has no workstations and the ceiling is plagued with falling tiles. At Camden High only half the students in 12th grade English have textbooks. Kozol's book is filled with statistics of this nature. Repeatedly there are inadequate supplies, untrained personnel, dilapidated facilities, and impoverished conditions.
As alarming as these conditions are, so too are the attitudes of those who are on the other side. Kozol shared conversation wtih senior high students in suburban Rye, New York. When asked if they thought "it fair to pay more taxes so that this was possible" (i.e., opportunities for other children to have the same opportunities they had)(p.128) one student expressed the lack of personal benefit this would provide. An attitude like this wouldn't have surfaced even in the wealthiest schools in 1968, according to Kozol. Implying we have passed on the self-seeking attutitudes so prevalent among the upwardly mobile in this country. The Supreme Court cases that have addressed this notion of equal opportunity have consistently supported the system of separate but "unequal."
What Kozol demonstrates so profoundly is what little progress has been made toward providing equal educational opportunities for all children since Brown vs. the Board of Ed. This book is a must read for anyone in local, state or national politics, administrators of all schools, teachers, and teachers in training, education professors, and any citizen wanting to understand one of the profound causes of what's wrong with schooling in America. I don't know what it will take or when we will share the idea that "All our children ought to be allowed a stake in the enormous richness of America." (p.233)
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth Exposed: The Conditions of Public Schools,
Jonathan Kozol Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools Crown Publishers, 1992 I extremely enjoyed reading Jonathan Kozol's book Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. To say that it is an invaluable tool to all educators, parents, and anyone concerned about the welfare of children, is vastly an understatement. This book provides the reader with graphic details about the gross realities of the public school system, and focuses not only on revealing the problem, but why the problem has occurred and what can be done about it. Chapter by chaper, Kozol brings to light the harsh realities of what children face everyday in different parts of the United States. His purpose for writing this book, I believe, was to inform the public these realities, because many people have no idea they even exist. The details he includes are almost unbelievable that our school system would allow these situations to exist. This book differs from the mainstream ideas that everyone receives a fair, quality education in the United States. I found it difficult to read, knowing that students faced these problems everyday. Problems such as not enough textbooks, no teacher, no classroom, or no supplies to start the year off with. Yet I could not put the book down. The truth hits the reader with such a force because the book is a gripping tale unlike anything heard before. This book reveals the tragedy of an inadequate school system, and contrasts the extreme differences between the wealthy and the poor. At first, reading through the book, I found it extremely offensive that a writer would expose these systems without feeling the pressure to do something about it. And then it hit me: he did do something. He wrote this book for everyone to read and understand and to see something not seen before. I support his ideas of how tax-based income is not fair because wealthier children receive a better education than poor children receive. Is not the whole system of education based upon the idea that everyone deserves a fair, quality education? I also support the idea that the people who are aware of these existing conditions have overlooked, and ignored the realities, hoping they would go away. That is simply absurd! These situations should not only be made aware to everyone, but some major changes should be implemented. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about the future of society. To those who want to point fingers at the parents, read this book. It will help you understand that these children die from the very gallows we hang them from. It also exposes these problems, and by that, makes the statement that this is no longer acceptable and something should be done. This book gives a good example of a diverse perspective on American education. It is important to have such a different perspective because sometimes it is hard to see beyond your own situation. Kozol takes you away from your familiar surroundings and puts you in the same situation these students face everyday. And if you don't like it, do something about it. Make the changes necessary. After reading this book, I was encouraged to go out and do the same.
44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eye opening,
i couldn't put this book down when i started reading it. each essay, which covers a particular city and school system, points out things wrong with public education in the USA, and who's getting the shaft: KIDS. some of the essays are jaw-dropping. i would've never believed it was so bad out there, but moreso, i didn't understand or even begin to see the politics involved in public education at each and every level. education may be a major political issue at the national level, but as it seeps down into district, local politics, that's where the mismanagement, corruption, bloat, and simple lack of care become most astonishing. as a teacher in the NYC public school system, most of what i read in kozol's book, i have come to see (i read the book before i started teaching) in real life: 30 books for 180+ students; roaches and rats in the classrooms; inept and careless administrators; rampant truancy and disaffection (but can you blame the kids? they are often left at home while the parent--usually one--works two or more jobs). the problems are severe and the solutions, you'd think, would be just as severe. but nothing changes and teachers are left in the middle, blamed by both administrators and parents. public education in this country needs to be seriouly revamped, but according to Kozol, and my own views and what i've seen, it's unlikely anything will change for URBAN education until racism and inequality are also addressed.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We know things other kids don't because we're taught them",
Jonathan Kozol started teaching at a segregated school in Boston in 1964. The students in his fourth grade class had to share a classroom with another class, a choir, and a drama group rehearsing for a play that was never performed. He was the 13th teacher they had in the year. After being fired for having his students read a poem that was not on a pre-approved list, he moved on to a wealthier school and found a much more accommodating system of education with smaller classes, better materials, and more innovation. In his study of underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods in East St. Louis, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and San Antonio, he found that little has changed.
This book is an eye opener as to the educational system in this country. Segregation is alive & well decades after Brown v. Board of Education. Most of the schools he visited are close to other wealthier (and predominately white) schools so he can really show the inequality between them. The poorer schools have limited to nonexistent materials and equipment. One school in New York (known simply as public school 261) conducts classes in an abandoned roller rink with no identification and not even a single encyclopedia set. One of the few exceptional teachers he found had to buy materials out of her pocket (pg. 47). The enormously high drop out rates at these schools are almost welcomed as they free up seats in the over-crowded classrooms (pp. 54 and 111). Most heartbreaking is that so many teachers and administrators he talked to seem to have given up on improving conditions and saving these kids. More than once, adults are quoted as dismissing the matter with "They're not going anywhere" (pp. 52 and 160). Kozol also looks at the neighborhoods outside of the schools as further proof that these children are at a disadvantage from the beginning. One neighborhood in the southside of Chicago has one bank, one market, 48 lottery stations, and 99 bars and liquor stores (pg. 41).
The author's solution is financial: more funding if not by diverting money from the more affluent schools than by state funding. As depressing as these stories are, sadly, I do not think this book will sway the opinions of those who feel added funding will be wasted on these schools. I sympathize with the author's goals but, even I begin to be exasperated by some of the attitudes of the teachers and school officials in these schools. One school has a barrel in the counselor's office because the roof leaks so bad (pg. 103). One of the counselors admits the students wish it would stop raining in the office (well, duh). I find myself wondering aloud why nobody fixes it, whether a custodian, male teacher, or someone in the community. Woodrow Wilson school in New Jersey has 50 computers. Sounds great, but 40 cannot be used because they've melted. Why? They're set up above the boiler room and they are still there! (pg. 149). Why aren't they moved? Someone points out the school's namesake, but Wilson stood for self-determination (i.e. the 14 points). I know these are easy questions to ask when one does not live and work in such conditions and there are probably good answers to them but that is what skeptical readers may think when they read this book. While the study is eye opening, unfortunately, I do not think it will sway the opinions of those who feel that funding such schools is sending good money after bad.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is there "liberty and justice for all" in public education?,
Lining up dozens of accounts of very real and often appalling disparities in public education, Kozol makes a strong case for the urgency of change in the urban public school system. Focusing largely on examples from East St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., New Jersey, and San Antonio, the author shows how students in these poor areas are drastically underserved in school systems that truly rob them of fairness in education. Overcrowded school buildings where classes overflow into storage closets, bathrooms, and gymnasiums; dilapidated structures with leaking roofs and dysfunctional heating systems; and significant shortages of books and supplies are all common features to many of these urban public schools. Furthermore, many children have teachers that sleep during class, ignore the students, or are so overworked that they can offer no personal attention. These are but a few of the reasons why Kozol raises such harsh criticism against the public education system.
Compared with bordering suburbs, where ultramodern public schools offer exceptional programs and facilities, one has to wonder how education provided and required by the government can be so unequal. Those who are quick to point to family problems as the source for poor results in urban education, or claim money is not the cure-all some would believe, ignore the abysmal learning conditions that urban children face. They certainly would not tolerate those conditions for the schooling of their own children, nor would they be likely to surrender the presumably superfluous differences in per-student spending. Certainly family problems contribute significantly to differences in a child's motivation to learn or early-childhood preparation for entering school, however this in no way means that these children should be taught under such dismal circumstances and given miniscule learning opportunities. Kozol squarely faces many of the objections to equalizing spending on public, and shows how urban public schools (which are predominantly populated by blacks, Hispanics, or other minorities) continue to be heavily segregated and unequal-- despite Supreme Court rulings decades ago, such as Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that segregated education was unconstitutional because it was "inherently unequal" (p. 3). This is a startling and compelling book that should be read by anyone concerned with the present and future of our students in American public education.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Urban Schools: The Loss of the American Dream,
By A Customer
My college professor recomended this book to me after I observed a classroom in an inner-city school of Pittsburgh. I was disguisted by the condtion of this building. I began reading Savage Inequalities and realized that the scool that I had seen is a palace compared to the schools Kozol describes. Kozol explores the nations poorest schools and reveals the horrible conditons in which we allow America's children to be educated, if they are educated at all. Readers will surely be shocked by the inequalities that exist in urban education. Savage Inequalities will sadden you and it will make you horribly angry at what we allow chlidren to endure: going to school in severly overcrowded buildings, having classes held in a bathroom or closet, sewage flooding the hallways of buildings, textbooks outdated by decades, holes in ceilings and roofs that lead to "rain showers" in the classroom. Kozol discusses the ignorance of government in recognizing the inequities that exist in education. He points out the failure of each state in providing an adequate education for our children - the truth is they could prevent some of these horriffic conditons yet they CHOOSE not to. As Kozol points out in his book, the children KNOW that governement CHOSE to deny them an education - they have seen nice schools and they know that they are being denied a clean building and a satisfactory education because the government decided that "these children" could not learn, they see them as a lost cause. Kozol brilliantly depicts the impact such an attitude has on children. While i learned much from this book, the most important thing i remember is that we are ruining our own future as well as the children's. we are denying these children even a chance at a future. if something is not done about the inequalites that exist, urban areas will only get worse, the cycle will keep on repeating itself. this is not acceptable. Ironically while reading Savage Inequalites i met a man who tutored in the South Bronx and East St. Louis, two of the poorest districts in the country and that Kozol visited in his book. This man said that what Kozol describes is a reality. Kozol has began a crusade that we must join! i have been on my own personal crusade, educating myself on what i can do to make a difference. we can all make a difference. that is why i highly recommend this book, it will open your eyes to a terrible world that we never knew existed.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative,
This book will prick the conscience of most Americans. It is a journal of observations from the author's visits to a half dozen urban school systems, and his interpretation of what he saw. He is basically arguing that segregation is still a reality in American education, and that it is so entrenched that it is no longer seriously questioned. His most powerful revelation is the total inadequacy of funding public education based on local property taxes. Wealthy areas receive more funding, poor areas are overwhelmed by inadequate resources. This book will help you see through all the platitudes of the media and politicians regarding answers to America's educational problems. Kozol calls for a complete overhaul of our system of funding education, in order to establish greater equality.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard-hitting but soft when it comes to real solutions,
Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities is heavy on details of the tragic conditions existing in our cities' public schools these days, but it is light in terms of tangible solutions to the crisis. For this and other reasons, Kozol's effort, while it packs a breathtaking punch, nonetheless fails to live up to its potential as a force that can be expected to make an impact in society. A decade after the book's publication, things have gotten no better, and while we can in no way attribute the blame for that to Kozol himself, we nevertheless can try to find ways in which the book may have been able to make a larger impact.
The most obvious problem with the book is its lack of solutions to the crisis. Kozol's main offering is simply to say, "give these schools more money." But since he can fall back on money and the lack of it as the root cause of the entire problem, Kozol largely ignores attempting to provide any type of suggestions for how individuals can make the system better. Instead of offering suggestions for what school administrators can do in terms of, say, curriculum reform, Kozol's biggest word of caution relating to school administrators is that some black school administrators should be ashamed of themselves for allowing people to put a black face in the public eye to deflect criticism. Instead of offering legitimate criticisms of how teachers in urban public schools should try to better relate to their poor young children, Kozol simply decries the fact that many of these teachers are ill-suited for their roles. And, Kozol continues, those teachers that are able to succeed in this environment, like Chicago's Corla Hawkins, are essentially nothing more than an inexplicable phenomenon: "But what is unique in Mrs. Hawkins's classroom is not what she does but who she is. Warmth and humor and contagious energy cannot be replicated and cannot be written into any standardized curriculum. If they could, it would have happened long ago" (51). Kozol provides no suggestions on how to apply the best practices of successful teachers like Corla Hawkins, but instead only treats them as merely a minor inconsistency that doesn't follow the remainder of his argument.
Kozol's transcripts of the discussions he holds with young students raises some caution flags. Some of the dialogue does not seem like it realistically could have come from the mouths of children, both in the cases of students at a well-off school or a poor school. Take some of the words of wisdom espoused by several students in Rye, New York: "... you cannot give an equal chance to every single person. If you did it, you'd be changing the whole economic system ... I can be as open-minded and unrealistic as I want to be. You can be a liberal until you have a mortgage ... Charity will not instill the poor with self-respect" (128-129). Are these really the words of sixteen-year-olds? Although it is impossible for us to substantiate the criticism, my intuition is that Kozol is editing these students words to make them look smarter than they are, to make the reader believe that they must be more privileged than they are. Likewise, the poor students seem to have an unrealistic level of self-consciousness, as when two Camden children are in discussion, and one's announcement that "I have problems with my self-esteem" is followed by the retort, "Don't let him shake your confidence" (156). These just don't seem like the words of children, and there's a significant question as a result as to whether or not we can really rely on Kozol the narrator.
In summation, Kozol's book is a disappointment if the reader entered with the expectation, as I did, of finding a treatise offering answers as to how we can really improve our public schools in the twenty-first century. This isn't to say that Kozol's research hasn't provided us with a lot of value. Instead, at the end of everything I was left with the impression of Savage Inequalities being a great research composition, best used for others who want to take these case studies as a starting point for moving the discussion of how to improve schools forward. In other words, this is the book that sociologists or public policy-makers will use as background when they are putting together their own books on improving public education. This isn't the final product; rather, these are the research notes, and we are left now to figure out how to use them.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sad Truth,
I loved reading Jonathan Kozol's book becasue he exposed the truths about the public school system. I have experinced public education in two drasticly different enviornments; one being white and rich, the other poor and made up of minorities. This is a good book for those who have only seen one side of the public school system, this book should open their eyes to many important isses. It amazes me how public education can be so different. Kozol is fair in reporting his information, which still holds true today. At times the book was very hard to read because the facts are so horendous. To think of the conditions that some children are forced to live, and learn in, is truely depressing. Kozol focus on a few schools on the east coast, and elaborates on them. I thought the book might be more interesting if he widened his search by including more schools from differnt areas of the U.S., so that I could compare them to eachother. At times the book seemed a bit repetitive hearing simular statistics throughout the book. But the intenstity of the issues he speaks about is what kept me interested. What I was reading made me so mad and worked up so many emotions in me, I wanted to keep reading. After reading the book I wanted to go out and help all of these poor children. After reading this book you will want to make a difference, you will want to try to make things fair for the underprivileged; anything that motovates you to make a difference is a good thing. The reading was fairly easy, the lanugae is simple and easy to follow. I would recommend this book to anyone. Education is an topic that everyone can relate to, so I think that many people will find it intersting.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Conservative and Republican and thankful for Kozol's book.,
By A Customer
Kozol's book is an eye-opener no matter what your personal philosophy of education is. He exposes atrocities that most of us will never see or experience... and wouldn't want to. Personally, he allowed me to see into the minds of those who have to deal with discrimination as a daily burden and caused me to cringe in shame that America could allow such apathy. I thought I knew what discrimination in education was all about. Kozol, led me to question everything that I had already "closed the book" on. Although I disagree with a lot of his personal conclusions, the facts he uncovered are real and should be addressed by all Americans. I will go on to say that I feel the need to re-read the book each summer, to gear up for the next year teaching at my high school where the majority is the minority.
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Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools by Jonathan Kozol (Paperback - July 24, 2012)