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The Shame of the Nation
Cover of The Shame of the Nation
The Shame of the Nation
The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
Borrow Borrow
"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.
"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.
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  • From the book

    CHAPTER 1

    Dishonoring the Dead

    One sunny day in April, I was sitting with my friend Pineapple at a picnic table in St. Mary's Park in the South Bronx. I had met Pineapple six years earlier, in 1994, when I had visited her kindergarten class at P.S. 65. She was a plump and bright-eyed child who had captured my attention when I leaned over her desk and noticed that she wrote her letters in reverse. I met her again a few weeks later at an afterschool program based at St. Ann's Church, which was close to P.S. 65, where Pineapple and a number of her friends came for tutorial instruction and for safety from the dangers of the neighborhood during the afternoons.

    The next time I visited her school, it was the spring of 1997. She was in third grade now and she was having a bad year. The school was in a state of chaos because there had been a massive turnover of teachers. Of 50 members of the faculty in the preceding year, 28 had never taught before; and half of them were fired or did not return the following September. Very little teaching took place in Pineapple's class during the time that I was there. For some reason, children in her class and other classes on her floor had to spend an awful lot of time in forming lines outside the doorways of their rooms, then waiting as long as 30 minutes for their turn to file downstairs to the cafeteria for lunch, then waiting in lines again to get their meals, then to go to recess, then to the bathroom, then return to class. Nearly two hours had elapsed between the time Pineapple's classmates formed their line to go to lunch and finally returned.

    On another day when I was visiting, before the children were allowed to have their lunch they were brought into an auditorium where old cartoons like Felix the Cat and Donald Duck and other flickering movies from the past were shown to keep them occupied before their class was called to file down into the cafeteria. The film in the film projector, which must have been very old, kept slipping from its frames. The lights would go on and kids would start to hoot and scream. I sat beside Pineapple and her classmates for three quarters of an hour while a very angry woman with a megaphone stood on a stage and tried to get the room under control by threatening the kids with dire punishments if they did not sit in perfect silence while they waited for the next cartoon.

    In the following year, when she was in fourth grade, Pineapple had four different teachers in a row. One of them was apparently a maladjusted person who, Pineapple said, "used swear words" to subdue the children. ("A-S-S-E-S!" Pineapple said politely, since she did not want to speak the word itself.) One was fired for smoking in the building. Another was "only a helper-teacher," Pineapple reported, which, a member of the faculty explained, might have been a reference to an unprepared young teacher who was not yet certified. Pineapple, who had always been a lively and resilient little girl, grew quite depressed that year.

    When Pineapple used to talk to me about her school she rarely, if ever, spoke in racial terms. Going to a school in which all of her classmates were black or Hispanic must have seemed quite natural to her--"the way things are," perhaps the way that they had always been. Since she had only the slightest knowledge of what schools were like outside her neighborhood, there would have been no reason why she would remark upon the fact that there were no white children in her class. This, at least, is how I had interpreted her silence on the matter in the past.

    So...

About the Author-
  • Jonathan Kozol is the author of Death at an Early Age (for which he received the National Book Award), Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace, and other award-winning books about young children and their public schools. He travels and lectures about educational inequality and racial injustice.
    Robertson Dean has acted on- and off-Broadway and in many leading roles at regional theaters throughout the United States. His film work includes Star Trek: Nemesis and Vanilla Sky.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine One of the best chroniclers of American education is at it again, and the message is not encouraging. Fifty years after the Brown decision, urban schools are still segregated, subjected to curricula that ignore teacher creativity, and tested in the same way that more affluent, mostly white suburban schools carry out assessment. Narrator Robertson Dean is magnificent as Kozol's voice. His rumbling baritone conveys the ominous tone inherent in the text, but he also injects a hopeful lightness to his reading when we hear about urban teachers who fight the bureaucracy and effectively teach children. Dean uses exceptional pacing, and he interprets the author's words with authority and passion. R.I.G. (c) AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine
  • AudioFile Magazine Examining the tough and intricate challenges of education, Kozol asks disturbing questions about the quality and equality of schools that have become essentially re-segregated in the 50 years since Brown v. Board of Education. Despite the long, complicated sentences and engaging comments dispersed throughout the book, Harry Chase navigates the text with a relaxed and welcoming tone that encourages one to follow along. Chase's talent lies in his range of tone and energy. His delivery emphasizes Kozel's essential message, and he also provides a wonderful jovial voice when quoting children. Though listeners might identify where the audiobook has been abridged, the performance and essence of Kozol's work still leave a lasting, albeit haunting, impression. L.E. (c) AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine
  • Elie Wiesel "Jonathan's struggle is noble. What he says must be heard. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference."
  • Kai Erikson, The Nation "Among the many virtues of Jonathan Kozol's strong and often beautiful books is that we cannot forget for even an instant that the poor are of our kind and live but a moment away. . . . There must be something special about Kozol--a warmth, a gentleness, a kind of mournful decency--that brings out the extraordinary in others."
  • Chicago Sun-Times "Today's most eloquent spokesman for America's disenfranchised."
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The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
Jonathan Kozol
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