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The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America

A-ShameNationFifty years after the Supreme Court declared public school segregation unconstitutional in its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, social critic Jonathan Kozol finds that most black children in the United States continue to attend segregated schools—with devastating consequences. This de facto segregation, or "apartheid education," results from economic inequalities that have allowed affluent families to enroll their children in private schools or move them to posh public schools in the suburbs, leaving behind poor, mostly minority students in grossly underfunded urban schools. Kozol, who visited 60 schools in 11 states, found crumbling and overcrowded buildings, inexperienced and overwhelmed teachers, and overly regimented curricula designed only to prepare students for standardized tests or workforce training.
Crown. 416 pages. $25. ISBN: 1400052440

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"As Hurricane Katrina so clearly demonstrated the disastrous effects of racial and economic segregation and the suffering and anger it breeds, so Kozol presents powerful evidence of the destructive results of the same conditions in public schools today." Leslie Baldacci

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Driving Kozol’s damning analysis of education in modern America is an unfashionable egalitarianism. He refuses to accept the status quo of inferior schools for black and Hispanic children. . . . After reading The Shame of the Nation it is impossible not to share his outrage." Thomas J. Sugrue

San Diego Union-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Jonathan Kozol keeps writing the same book, bless his heart. The Shame of the Nation is another muckraking look at America’s impoverished inner cities, and like Death at an Early Age and Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace before it, the outrage leaps from almost every page." John Wilkens

Dallas Morning News 3 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Kozol’s argument is, on the surface, idealistic: That we should all live life together, crossing racial lines. But at its core, it’s pure political pragmatism. Unless the kids of the powerful are in the same classrooms as the kids of the poor, it’ll be difficult to rally support for the kinds of changes Mr. Kozol wants." Joshua Benton

Houston Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"The Shame of the Nation reads like a sequel to his best-known and most searing indictment of American education, Savage Inequalities. But as in the past, he is not as adept at proposing viable solutions as in spotlighting problems." Marvin Hoffman

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"White children are being prepared to think creatively, to reason, to lead; minorities to provide a compliant workforce capable of following orders. . . . Kozol sensibly identifies the problem—the depth and persistence of inequality between minorities and whites—yet he fails to see that the attitudes and circumstances that create the problem are precisely what doom his solution." Sandy Banks

Critical Summary

Kozol has been one of the most relentless critics of educational and social inequalities in the United States. After 40 years, neither his energy nor his outrage appears to be exhausted. In turning his gaze to school segregation, he discovers what should be obvious to anyone who has spent time in public schools—they are more segregated than ever. Kozol’s research and reporting is so extensive that no one can challenge his conclusions: Separate is indeed unequal, and as a society we are robbing successive generations of poor, minority children of their only lifeline out of poverty. Kozol is, unfortunately, better at diagnosing the problem than prescribing a solution, but his optimism remains untempered.

Also by the author

Savage Inequalities Children in America’s Schools (1991): In this scathing look at racial segregation in inner-city schools, Kozol sees a "tracking" system that weakens minority children’s hopes and accomplishments.