Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Worthy of a Third-Grader"

So I take it Abigail Thernstrom did not like Jonathan Kozol's new book:

'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.'
My wife had to read 'Savage Inequalities' for one of her classes in college. Let's just say she was not happy.


greg said...

So did I. Same reaction. What's worse is that Dave Eggers, author of A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius has co-authored a book on the teaching profession. I hate people like Eggers and Kozol speaking for me. It's like someone from Hollywood or Berkeley spekaing for the entire state of California.

Jeff said...

I can understand why Thernstrom is annoyed with Kozol, his methodology is corny and his analysis for solving these problems are outdated and patently wrong. However, what he investigates, profound and back-breaking poverty in the midst of plenty, should shame Americans. Many of the kids Kozol speaks with don't have a chance; they are born into an American underclass and never have an opportunity to rise. Before I came to graduate school I worked with kids who lived in similar types of environments (urban slums, homeless shelters, etc) and I know that he doesn't exaggerate.

He is over the top but he has been observing America's public schools since the 1960s. I became angry when I read Death at an Early Age and Savage Inequalities but not at the author. Though his thesis that raising "per pupil spending" would raise education standards has been proven incorrect, Americans need to be forced to take a good long look at our poor and consider the human consequences for our passivity.

Paul said...

We have spent $4 trillion on poverty programs over the last 40 years and the problem has, at best, remained unchanged.
Poor people should be ashamed that they are poor in the land of plenty. This society provides free education, free lunches, job training programs, etc...
The problem with the schools is lack of parental involvement in a child's life. Pure and simple.