Sunday, June 5, 2011
Kozol: Talking Points- Argument
In "Still Separate, Still Unequal", Kozol argues that schools in the United States are still very much segregated. In fact, Kozol says that in the last decade, there has been a resurgence in what he calls "resegregation" indicating that we are moving backwards as a nation. Kozol talks a lot about diversity in this article, or lack there of. He references several school districts around the country that claim to be "diverse." However, when delving deeper, he found that these so-called diverse schools are made up of mostly African-American or Hispanic students; in some cases these children make up 99% of the school population!
Kozol writes about the problems in inner-city schools, such as: unsanitary conditions, structurally unsound buildings, no art or music programs, nonexistent libraries, deficient medical facilities, etc. One principal that he spoke to remarked, "This would not happen to white children." The bottom line is that the white kids "have" and the other kids "do not have."
Inequities between per-pupil cost are also addressed in this article. Kozol gives the example that in 1997-1998 a third-grade student in a New York City school was given about $8,000 per year. If that student was in a typical white suburb of New York, she would have received an education worth about $12,000 a year. And if she was in one of the wealthiest white suburbs, she would have received a yearly education worth about $18,000. There are also some major inequities in teacher salaries between city schools compared with upper-middle class income schools.
Kozol speaks about an unequal playing field for white children and inner city children that starts as early as age two. Often times the white children are send to private preschools or "Baby Ivies" that cost as much as $24,000 a year. As Kozol poignantly remarks, "There is something deeply hypocritical about a society that holds an eight-year-old inner-city child 'accountable' for her performance on a high-states standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years ago." In other words, these kids coming into kindergarten already have such an advantage over the inner city kids. Is it really fair to even try to compare the two?
As I was looking for a solution to this problem in the article, I came up a little empty. Kozol talks about the SUCCESS FOR ALL (SFA) program that was adapted in many inner city schools. This is a type of scripted curriculum that is very routine and regimented. One teacher remarked, "I can do this with my dog." There was even a "Rubric for Filing", which graded children on how they walked in lines down the hallway. Kozol is definitely not an advocate for the this method, and remarks later that this teaching technique has been discontinued in New York City but it is still being used in 1,300 schools across the United States.
Although there was no real direction for where we should go from here, Kozol makes one thing crystal clear- what we are doing currently is not working. We're not narrowing the achievement gap, we're actually widening it. We're not desegregating schools, we're actually resegregating them. Like the Delpit and Johnson articles, I got the impression that Kozol believes that the people in power need to be the ones to make the change (or at least start it). He says this about change, "If it takes people marching in the streets and other forms of adamant disruption of the governing civilities, if it takes more than litigation, more than legislation, and much more than resolutions introduced by members of Congress, these are the prices we should be prepared to pay."