“The Shame of the Nation” is somehow the perfect title for a book by liberal guru Jonathan Kozol. The subtitle is “The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.”
Abigail Thernstrom, who with her husband, Harvard professor Stephan Thernstrom, is the author of a groundbreaking book on race, says that the new book is “vintage Kozol–a jeremiad. His core complaints are familiar: American public schools are segregated, and those that have few whites in them are financially starved. He adds only one new element: The standards, testing and accountability ‘juggernaut’ has crushed the ‘humane and happy’ education we once had.”
The book, as Thernstrom reviews it, sounds as if Mr. Kozol is a good entrepreneur but hardly more mature than the kids he interviewed:
“‘The Shame of the Nation’ is basically an updated version of Mr. Kozol’s 1991 book, “Savage Inequalities.” That book reportedly sold 250,000 in hardcover alone, so one can understand the entrepreneurial logic of recycling its ideas. To be sure, Mr. Kozol has a seductive formula: Ignore most social scientists, listen to the children themselves and react with deep moral outrage to the tales of deprivation they tell. The most reliable evidence as to what actually goes on in schools, he writes, does not come from experts but from children, who are ‘pure witnesses.’ ‘You have all the things and we do not have all the things,’ a third-grader tells Mr. Kozol. She gets it: The principle of ‘simple justice’ has been violated. Everyone should have the same ‘things.’…
“Is he suggesting that, with more money to buy those clean places and green spaces, inner-city kids would catch up with their higher-performing peers? Mr. Kozol pays such scant attention to academic achievement that it’s unclear. He is against longer school days, summer school for kids who need it, charter schools (and other forms of choice), merit pay and every promising avenue of school reform. He does, as an aside, acknowledge that kids should learn ‘essential skills,’ but his main concern is with schools that exude ‘warmth and playfulness and informality and cheerful camaraderie among the teachers and their children.'”
Sounds like a recipe for continued academic failure to me.