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Savage Inequalities Essay

Example 1

Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities is a haunting, disturbing look at the condition of some of America’s schools. Throughout the book, he describes the conditions in several cities: crumbling school buildings, teachers who do not care about the students, astronomical dropout rates, abysmal environments, and much more.

Savage Inequalities posits that the leading problem in the school system is the condition of these neglected schools and that this constitutes a social problem. Kozol views this social problem, and its causes, from a conflict theorist perspective.

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The definition of a social problem is as follows: “conditions, processes, or events that are identified as negative by analysts or by significant numbers of other people and that affect large numbers of people, stem from social causes, and/or can be solved through social action”. The first clause in this definition of a social problem is its negativity, and whether or not it is recognized as a problem. It is difficult to argue that the conditions of these schools, and the areas in which they are located, can be anything but negative.

These schools have administrative problems (Kozol 124), decaying buildings (Kozol 23-24, among dozens of other examples), and poor-quality teachers and guidance counsellors (Kozol 113, others). They are overcrowded (Kozol 158-160), and it is assumed that the way to alleviate this problem is for half of the student body to drop out of school at some point (Kozol 112-113). Among these problems, the conditions of some of the school buildings are outstandingly appalling; for example, at Morris High School, in the South Bronx,

Blackboards . . . are “so badly cracked that teachers are afraid to let students write on them for fear they ll cut themselves. Some mornings, fallen chips of paint cover classrooms like snow. Teachers and students have come to see humour in the waterfall that courses down six flights of stairs after heavy rain.” One classroom, we are told, has been sealed off “because of a gaping hole in the floor.”

In the band room, “chairs are positioned where acoustic tiles don t fall quite so often.” In many places, “plaster and ceramic tile have peeled off” the walls, leaving the external brick wall of the school exposed. I am somewhat stunned to see a huge hole in the ceiling of the stairwell on the school’s fourth floor. The plaster is gone; exposing rusted metal bars embedded in the outside wall. It will cost as much as $50 million to restore the school to an acceptable condition . . . (Kozol 99-101)

The environments surrounding these schools are even worse. In East St. Louis, for example, among other problems with violence and pollution, lead levels in the soil can reach 10,000 parts per million (Kozol 11). All of the schools examined in East St. Louis, Chicago, New York City, Camden, Washington DC, and San Antonio are located in dangerous areas. Even taxi drivers refuse to go to these areas (Kozol 14). The problems in these schools and the surrounding locales have been recognized as negative by other people, another qualification for the definition of a social problem.

To use another example from East St. Louis: The problems have been identified by, along with many others, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (Kozol 7), the University of Southern Illinois (Kozol 8), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, including the reporter Safir Ahmed (Kozol 7-8, 10, 15-20, 22-23), local health officials (Kozol 10-11), lead-poison experts (Kozol 11), the Daughters of Charity (Kozol 11-12, 14), Green peace (Kozol 17), and the Illinois branch of the Environmental Protection Agency (Kozol 17). Kozol himself fits into this category.

With the problem identified, the second criteria for meeting the definition of a social problem is that it must affect large numbers of people. Even when viewing the problem as only affecting the area in which it is taking place, the fact remains that the cities cited in Savage Inequalities specifically, East St. Louis, Chicago, New York City, Camden, Washington DC, and San Antonio are among the largest cities in the country.

In 1994, San Antonio was the ninth-largest city in the United States, Chicago was in third-place, and New York City was not only the largest city in the country but also the second-largest city in the world. Therefore, even if one believes that just these cities are involved with the problems, there are still a huge number of people being affected.

One can also take a much broader viewpoint; namely, that the problems in these cities are problems for all of American society. Some people believe that when society fails one group of people, it fails everyone. A more pessimistic approach to this train of thought would be that when the children from New Trier the wealthy high school graduate from the prestigious universities they were planning on attending, their tax dollars will be used for the food stamps that the Chicago children who dropped out of school will need.

Next, in order to be classifiable as a social problem, the problem must stem from social causes. This is the criterion where Kozol s thesis comes into play. It is Kozol s thesis that the problems stem from racial inequality:

What startled me most although it puzzles me that I was not prepared for this was the remarkable degree of racial segregation that persisted almost everywhere. Like most Americans, I knew that segregation was still common in the public schools, but I did not know how much it had intensified.

The Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education 37 years ago, in which the court had found that segregated education was unconstitutional because it was “inherently unequal,” did not seem to have changed very much for children in the schools I saw, not, at least, outside of the Deep South. Most of the urban schools I visited 95 to 99 percent were nonwhite. In no school that I saw anywhere in the United States were nonwhite children in large numbers truly intermingled with white children. (Kozol 2-3)

Racial inequality fits the given criteria because it is definitely a social cause.

Lastly, to be a social problem, it must be able to be solved through social action. This is less clear and is the major unanswered question of the book. Kozol believes that increased governmental funding is the answer:

If the school board has sufficient money, it can exercise some real control over these matters. If it has very little money, it has almost no control; or rather it has only negative control. Its freedom is to choose which of the children’s needs should be denied.

But, where the long-standing problems are more basic (adequate space, sufficient teachers for all classrooms, heating fuel, repair of missing windowpanes and leaking roofs and toilet doors), none of the pretended power over tone and style has much meaning. Style, in the long run, is determined by the calibre and character of teachers, and this is an area in which the poorest schools have no real choice at all. (Kozol 213)

Repeatedly, Kozol cites examples of the differences in public school funding. As a principal in Camden, New Jersey, remarked, “We spend about $4,000 yearly on each student,” he reports, as we are heading to the cafeteria for lunch. “The statewide average is about $5,000, but our children are competing also with the kids in places such as Cherry Hill, which spends over $6,000, Summit, which is up to $7,000, Princeton, which is past $8,000 now.” (Kozol 149)

Now we take a closer look at the chapters in Jonathan Kozol book Savage Inequalities.

Looking Backward: 1964-1991

In this chapter essentially sets up the entire book, presenting us, at first, with Kozol’s experiences as an educator, a social worker of sorts, and then his return to teaching. Kozol presents us with the incentive to write this book in the opening paragraph: “I had begun to teach in 1964 in Boston in a segregated school so crowded and so poor that it could not provide my fourth-grade children with a classroom. We shared an auditorium with another fourth grade and the choir and a group that was rehearsing, starting in October, for a Christmas play that, somehow, never was produced.

In the spring I was shifted to another fourth grade that had had a string of substitutes all year. The 35 children in the class hadn’t had a permanent teacher since they entered kindergarten. That year, I was their thirteenth teacher”(NA). When Kozol returns, years later, to teaching, he finds that conditions have not improved, which urges him to travel and investigate various schools across the country in order to better ascertain the realities of education and the conditions of schools. What he finds is seriously devastating in many ways, and as such becomes the subject of the rest of the book.

Life on the Mississippi

In this chapter Kozol focuses on East St. Louis, which is a city that presents itself as essentially a wasteland, a forgotten city. The city, in fact, has declared bankruptcy. There are no businesses and no services, and frighteningly enough, even the garbage hasn’t been picked up since 1987. Kozol illustrates that even the simple atmosphere of the city is depressing and certainly not conducive to any form of adequate education.

Children ride their bicycles along a dry creek bed, which is so polluted that it “smokes by day and glows on moonless nights” (Kozol NA). In light of this we clearly see Kozol’s descriptions of the school system and see how it emulates the surroundings, for the schools possess science labs without water or lab tables, windows that have no glass, and classrooms that have no books.

Other People’s Children

In this chapter, Kozol describes several classrooms in Mary McLeod Bethune School within Chicago. Kozol illustrates how the teachers have essentially given up. These teachers lack any human warmth as they offer lessons in a monotone voice, bark any instructions, and essentially ridicule the students for minor mistakes.

Kozol illustrates that these children are understandably stifled for they are given no incentive to succeed, as they sit and stare. With no efforts made to engage them, many children sit and stare. Kozol then describes the classroom of Corla Hawkins, who is a dedicated, optimistic sixth-grade teacher. She provides some hope for the reader, for she is a teacher who uses her own money for materials the children do not have, engages the children in a variety of activities, and encourages the students.

The Savage Inequalities of Public Education in New York

This chapter is incredibly detailed and illustrates a general condition that exists all over the country. In this chapter, we see the truly horrible schools, as well as the powerfully rich and media, loved schools which are supposed to represent the school systems of the entire country.

Kozol presents examinations of many schools, but perhaps the most powerful school discussed, in terms of reality and imagery, is the South Bronx School. The school itself is set up in a windowless skating rink next to a mortuary. The class size ranges up to 35, has lunch in three separate shifts, and a library that possesses only 700 books. There is no playground. This is a school that illustrates some

incredibly painful and real conditions, especially when we understand that the school is 90-percent black and Hispanic, and is only a few moments north of a more affluent part of the Bronx and a public school which is surrounded by trees, playing fields, and a playground. This school also possesses a planetarium and an 8,000-book library. The population in this particular school is essentially white and Asian.

Children of the City Invincible

This chapter deals with Camden, New Jersey, where Kozol compares the conditions and programs in several New Jersey school districts. He conducts interviews with students and faculty members from schools, which exist in this economically depressed city.

In these interviews, we are made aware that the students and faculty members appear to be very knowledgeable about the fact that much of the schools’ deficiencies are caused by an economic decline. The interviews also illustrate their frustration at their lack of ability to bring about any kind of lasting change.

The Equality of Innocence

Kozol begins by stating the following: “‘Children in a true sense, writes John Coons of Berkeley University, are all poor because they are dependent on adults. There is also, he says, ‘a sameness among children in the sense of [a] substantial uncertainty about their potential role as adults’” (NA). This can be seen or interpreted as equality of innocence. He further illustrates how, in times past, attaint of the blood was a serious consideration in assessing the abilities and needs of children.

“Terms such as ‘attaint of blood’ are rarely used today, and, if they were, they would occasion public indignation; but the rigging of the game and the acceptance, which is nearly universal, of uneven playing fields, reflect a dark unspoken sense that other people’s children are of less inherent value than our own. Now and then, in private, affluent suburbanites concede that certain aspects of the game may be a trifle rigged to their advantage,” claiming that it may be unjust but that is ” the way the game is played” (Kozol NA).

The Dream Deferred, Again, in San Antonio

This chapter focuses on Texas in an attempt to further emphasize the conditions of the entire country. He illustrates that ever since 1989, which is when the Texas Supreme Court did not go for the old school-financing system, which was based primarily on property taxes, numerous Texas political leaders have continued to look for a way to attain school equity. Kozol illustrates how Texas is currently, or supposedly, taking property taxes from wealthier districts and putting the money into less affluent school districts.

Kozol s views in the chapters clearly show the theoretical position he takes. Kozol’s ideas tie in with the conflict theory. This is evident due to his perception of society as divided into a social class system where those at the top have significantly more than those at the bottom:

According to our textbook, Americans abhor the notion of a social order in which economic privilege and political power are determined by hereditary class. Officially, we have a more enlightened goal in sight: namely, a society in which a family’s wealth has no relation to the probability of future educational attainment and the wealth and station it affords. By this standard, education offered to poor children should be at least as good as that which is provided to the children of the upper-middle class.

Inequality is mediated for us by a taxing system that most people do not fully understand and seldom scrutinize. How this system really works, and how it came into existence, may enable us to better understand the difficulties that will be confronted in attempting to revise it. (Kozol 207)

Kozol further asserts his conflict theorist views by his constant use of statistics in public school funding, an example of which appears above. Throughout the country, the people at the top of the stratification system also do not recognize that the problems exist. Kozol discusses interviews with students in wealthy areas, and parents of children in these areas (Kozol 124-130).

However, this does not change the fact that Kozol presents his arguments from a conflict theorist perspective. Thus, it is evident that the arguments presented in Kozol s Savage Inequalities prove that the problems in America’s schools constitute a social problem. The problems fit all four criteria of a social problem: They are conditions that are identified as negative by analysts or by significant numbers of other people.

They affect large numbers of people. They stem from social causes. Lastly, they can be solved through social action. Kozol presents his arguments from a conflict theorist’s interpretation of the sociological perspective: He believes that because the problems stem from economic inequality brought about by racial inequality, this represents those at the top of the stratification system holding down those at the bottom. He shows that the conflict theorist perspective is quite valid in the examination of this social problem.

This book has been an eye-opener for me in respect to the realities of our American school system. I thought that such conditions described in Savage Inequalities only existed in third world countries. Today one of the hot topics under the Bush administration is education reform.

It is safe to say that those who think school uniforms, vouchers, just say no, and after school, basketball programs have not read this book. When the basics are not available such as books, teachers, safe schools, and toilet paper, reforming schools must go way beyond the simple-mindedness of a new exterior coat of paint.

This book provides examples of inequality in the U.S. schools that should shame anyone who believes there is equality in U.S. schools. Giving an affluent kid (or at least a child whose parents can afford a private school education) provides an out for a few, but for the rest of the children who must survive at the public school they did not “choice” to attend, life will become even worse. The solution is clear, but neither Democratic nor Republican leaders want to hear it.

The solution is federal education funding. Then the next step is to rebuild and modernize all schools that need it. Finally, whether people like it or not this is a money first society. Teachers should be paid better salaries in hopes of recruiting more teachers and attracting those potential students who are not sure four to eight more years of school is worth $32,000 a year. In most cities, Taco Bell managers make more money, garbage handlers make more money, coaches make more money, police officers make more money, etc.

I believe being a garbage handler is an important job, and I believe in paying people a quality wage. However, the responsibility a teacher has in shaping the minds of our youth is monumental. It is obvious to the U.S. children and to the rest of the world that education is not the number one priority politicians say it is. This book is a testimony of that lack of concern by U.S. politicians, and of the privileged who have the power to change the status quo.


Example 2

In Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol documents the devastating inequalities in American schools, focusing on public education’s “savage inequalities” between affluent districts and poor districts. From 1988 till 1990, Kozol visited schools in over thirty neighbourhoods, including East St. Louis, the Bronx, Chicago, Harlem, Jersey City, and San Antonio. Kozol describes horrifying conditions in these schools. He spends a chapter on each area and provides a description of the city and a historical basis for the impoverished state of its school.

These schools, usually in high crime areas, lack the most basic needs. Kozol creates a scene of rooms without heat, few supplies or text, labs with no equipment, sewer backups, and toxic fumes. Schools from New York to California where not only are books rationed, but also toilet paper and crayons. Many school buildings turn into swamps when it rains and must be closed because sewage often backs up into kitchens and cafeterias.

Kozol’s descriptions of the schools help to instill the feeling of hopelessness and destitution that the children in these areas not only feel in their education but in their everyday lives as well. By describing the deteriorating conditions of the schools in the selected areas against those in the more affluent districts, he implies that money is the short-term fix to the problem. Money may fix the roof or the walls but more than just money needs to be put into these schools. Kozol writes with the intention to shock his readers with graphic details and push them towards change.

Kozol describes the enormous differences between poor schools, and affluent schools, usually located just minutes apart. When speaking of a North Lawndale kindergarten class of twenty-three, he states that in twelve years fourteen will have dropped out of school, only four will go to college, and three of the twelve boys will have spent time in prison.

A school in the South Bronx is set in a windowless skating rink next to a mortuary with a class sizes of up to thirty-five. The school contains a library of only seven hundred books and no playground.

This school is ninety- percent black and Hispanic. Only a few minutes north of that school Kozol visits another school in a more affluent part of the Bronx with an overwhelmingly white and Asian population. Flowering trees, two playing fields, and a playground surround this public school. The school has a planetarium and a library with over eight thousand books. Kozol comments that “nearly forty years after Brown vs. the Board of Education many of our schools are still separate but no longer even remotely equal.”

Kozol’s main argument is that public education should be free and equal to people of all economic classes. Kozol believes that children from poor families are cheated out of a future by unequipped, understaffed and underfunded schools in the United State’s inner cities and less affluent suburbs.

The majority of these children are non-white and living in poverty and crime. Kozol argues about the unfair standards we expect these underprivileged children to rise to. Children in these poor areas are being compared to children in affluent areas where the quality of their education is much higher.

Kozol asks how these children will succeed in today’s world if they are not given the same opportunities as affluent schools give their children. Kozol believes that by depriving our poorer children of their basic needs we are forcing them into lives of crime, poverty and a never-ending cycle of inequalities in education. Kozol stresses that these students must be taught that “savage inequalities” do not have to exist between them and students in more affluent schools and that all children are entitled to an equal education.

I had many different reactions to this book. At first, I was horrified and shocked to learn about the conditions of these poor schools. Growing up in an affluent suburb and attending private schools, I took my education for granted.

While reading the book my reaction changed to anger. I cannot believe that in this day and age, children have to attend schools in these conditions. It disgusts me to imagine schools with toxic fumes, and holes in the ceilings, when we complain about unimportant things like a bookstore not being large enough. It does seem unfair to these children that they have to receive such an unequal education when only a few minutes away children are receiving so much more.

Shock and anger turned to sadness. While reading the accounts told by the children, I often had tears in my eyes. These children know that they are not receiving an equal education, and many end up feeling like they do not deserve one.

These children have dreams and aspirations that most will never achieve due to the lack of opportunities made available to them. The part of the book that shocked me the most was when Kozol reported on the schools in Camden, New Jersey.

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Camden is so close to my home and my schools, that it is almost unbelievable that the conditions could be so horrid. Of course, you would come to expect these inequalities in New York or Chicago, but never this close to home. After finishing this book, the ways in which I view education has changed.

I hope now that I can become more involved politically, to advocate for these types of schools. Conditions in these schools have to change, and the public needs to become more aware of the situation.

Many problems were discussed throughout this book that caught my attention. Education in the inner cities seemed to be one of the worst problems in our public schools. Education in the inner cities needs money, support, the dedication of administrators and faculty, and family involvement. A key consideration in rebuilding our schools is linking the schools to the community.

Considering the impact on our society, it moulds to make more sense to spend money on preparing our children for the future instead of spending a great deal more money in the future on public assistance and prisons to support them.

Educational funding is not the only issue, it is however certainly central to the problem. Additional funds could be the beginning of a change in the inner-city schools. Repairing existing buildings or constructing new schools, updating lab equipment, technology, and texts, and hiring qualified staff members would help to improve the education these students receive.

Improving the learning environment is the first step to rebuilding our inner-city schools. More importantly, programs for the students and families will improve their future.

Studies have shown many benefits for poor urban students who engage in planned after-school activities. A large number of such programs have been implemented in cities around the country. One study reported that over three million children participated in some type of program in the nineties.

One such program is the Brotherhood/SisterSol program serving young Black and Latino men and women, ages twelve to twenty-one. In this program, members can find a safe place where they can vent their fears, anger, and pain. These children have space where they and their elders can come together to share knowledge, history and culture.

Other programs have also been started to help these underprivileged children stay on the right track. The International Youth Leadership Institute (IYLI) conducts academic, cultural, and leadership development programs that focus on local and international issues. It helps African American and Latino high school students to contribute to their community and the broader society.

Head Start is one national program that is helping the inner city, or underprivileged children. Head Start is a U.S. federally funded, educational program for disadvantaged pre-school children. It was established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

The program is aimed at preparing poor children for elementary school. The Head Start program is set up to meet the individual needs of every child in the classroom. Head Start provides medical services to low-income families, to prevent health problems to go on undiagnosed. Head Start encourages parent involvement inside and outside of the classroom. Head Start also provides services that assist families in need. Activities included are community outreach, referrals, and emergency assistance and intervention.

These programs as well as the many after-school and enrichment programs offer some desperately needed assistance. Although this is a good beginning, a lot more needs to be done before real improvement is made. The educational systems in America have many faults, but if more people become aware, things can only improve. I believe that we can change things, and with time may be equal education for everyone won’t be just a faraway dream.


Example 3

In Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol documents the devastating inequalities in American schools, focusing on public education’s “savage inequalities” between affluent districts and poor districts.

From 1988 till 1990, Kozol visited schools in over thirty neighbourhoods, including East St. Louis, the Bronx, Chicago, Harlem, Jersey City, and San Antonio. Kozol describes horrifying conditions in these schools. He spends a chapter on each area and provides a description of the city and a historical basis for the impoverished state of its school.

Kozol comments that “nearly forty years after Brown vs. the Board of Education many of our schools are still separate but no longer even remotely equal.”

Kozol’s main argument is that public education should be free and equal to people of all economic classes. Kozol believes that children from poor families are cheated out of a future by unequipped, understaffed and underfunded schools in the United State’s inner cities and less affluent suburbs.

The majority of these children are non-white and living in poverty and crime. Kozol argues about the unfair standards we expect these underprivileged children to rise to. Children in these poor areas are being compared to children in affluent areas where the quality of their education is much higher.

Kozol asks how these children will succeed in today’s world if they are not given the same opportunities as affluent schools give their children. Kozol believes that by depriving our poorer children of their basic needs we are forcing them into lives of crime, poverty and a never-ending cycle of inequalities in education.

Kozol stresses that these students must be taught that “savage inequalities” do not have to exist between them and students in more affluent schools and that all children are entitled to an equal education.


Example 4

In the United States, the mainstream idea is that everyone has equal access to education, regardless of his or her racial background. Kozol’s findings however are contrary to this assumption. Kozol, through his book, ‘Savage Inequalities’ exposes a highly biased education system in the United States, whereby resources are not equally shared among the public schools. The education agents discriminate against schools dominated by black children, resulting in a poor state of conditions that make normal learning a nightmare.

To raise the anger of the reader, Kozol exposes the challenges the schools face such as insufficient textbooks, absence of classrooms and teachers. The end effect of these insufficiencies comes out clear, much to the annoyance of the reader when Kozol says that three out of four children who do not make through in their education are blacks. Kozol also shows the wide gap which exists between school in the rural areas as well as in the urban areas.

The gap is shocking since even if the poor decide to pay tax at higher rates in order to develop their schools, the revenue accrued can neither decrease nor surpass the poor-rich gap. Instead, the poor become poorer and as a result, increase the gap further. The writer further engages the reader’s feelings when he brings up the idea of racism.

He juxtaposes two rural public schools and their modern equivalents, compares them, and analyses them based on racial affiliations and social class in the dissemination of education. He then suggests that the system’s idea is such that funds it is better they spend more on urban schools where the multitude believes that there is a greater likelihood of development.

This wrongly classifies poor children as poor investments. To end this practice, Kozol comes up with an idea and suggests that the level of funding to schoolchildren should be a function of their needs. He also comes up with a non-profit organization to help fight the outflux of teachers from rural schools in order to solve the teacher crisis.

Positive Aspects

One can identify many positive aspects of this book. The writer drafts the book in such a way that everybody can read, comprehend and spot a hitherto difficult to see the idea. He brings to the limelight things happening in the education system by using vivid descriptions. How Kozol has brought out the idea showing how authorities have not structured revenue from the tax is commendable. He brings out the unfairness by describing the poor as receiving inferior education as compared to the rich.

I do also acknowledge his idea that the few people in society lucky enough to see the inequalities end up not doing anything to change the situation. This is not ethically right and it is important that after one makes these serious situations known, people should endeavour to suggest and implement positive changes. The writer of Savage Inequalities has also come to the rescue of parents in an issue they have no control over.

Many times, everyone has blamed parents for the failure or any misgivings in their lives, be it related to health or academics. To these people, Kozol manages to prove that the wider society has a hand in the sufferings that children undergo and they need to do something to change this. He describes a rape case whereby a brother to the rape and murder victim cannot tell whether it happened in the past week or year.

Those entrusted with their care have neglected their dental health resulting in the case of a boy suffering from toothache. This masterpiece offers readers imperative insights on American education. It is paramount to view an issue from diverse perspectives because at times it is impossible to see beyond one’s situation


Though he has succeeded well in conveying his message to the reader, it is also important to criticize part of his literal work. Kozol fails to address the importance of reversing the notion that poor children, especially those of Africa- American origin do not have a good learning ability.

As such, he has failed to talk against racism, which is common in modern society. Kozol also emphasizes too much on matters of little significance. One instance is when he focuses too much on the absence of football uniforms and lockers, and gives a description of the lack of computer facilities in schools.

The important thing is that children learn sports and computers, but not owning computers. This book has been a good source of information since it has changed my earlier belief that there is equality in education dispensation in the United States. In addition, it has created the urge in me to act to ensure positive change in the education system. It can be a good recommendation for high school students.

Through his book, ‘Savage Inequalities’, Kozol has been successful in sensitizing readers about the current inequalities in education based on racism. Even though he does not address all problems like racism, this book is a good inspiration.


Example 5

The new millennium brings many advances in our children’s learning. The introduction of technology and breakthrough teaching methods display a positive outlook for the educational system our children count on. Yet, this optimistic view is believed by many to be looked at through rose-coloured glasses.

Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools looks at the ways the government, the society, and the educational system fail poor children, especially poor African-American children, in the United States. Kozol’s work, which examines six cities where he finds common problems, illustrates the key shortcomings that work against the education of the less fortunate.

Kozols major argument focuses on the notion that the United States government does not provide enough funding for the schooling of poor children; yet is generous with spending in districts where wealthier families reside. Therefore, the primary problem lies not with the childrens capabilities, but within the structure of the system, which has let them down.

This spending pattern is a fundamental part of public policy at all levels of government. Additionally, this financial inequality limits the rights of low-income children to obtain a solid education and limits their opportunities to become successful adults.

Three major points need to be illustrated in the analysis of Kozol’s work. First, it is important to express society’s view of low income equals low performance, which translates into less obligation of the government to put forth a true effort to support education. Second, this analysis will show the low-income cities are not capable of surviving in the community with the support of the funds needed for a good education.

This is further revealed through the political area that further perpetuates the problem. Third, this analysis will expose the separation of children in schools by income compounds the issue of segregation by forcing minority children to be surrounded by other low-income minority children, which creates a resentful, negative cycle.

The nation is caught in a brutal cycle of educational, racial and socioeconomic inequity. Kozol argues that the only solution to this problem is the increased role of the government in the financial support of the less fortunate children and the underfunded schools they attend.

The prosperous families will not voluntarily help the poor, who cannot assist themselves in this case. This solution will be a difficult one to achieve since the trend in the country is to cut back on government spending in all areas. Another trend is to have private resources fill in the gaps left by government cutbacks. However, as Kozol points out, “Cutting back the role of government and then suggesting that the poor can turn to businessmen who lobbied for such cuts is cynical indeed” (Kozol 82).

Kozol’s outlook is gripping because it takes aim at both the mind and the heart of the reader. He appeals to the intellect by using statistics, which show that the nation has a segregated, and imbalanced school system, in which the rich receive better educations and the poor, especially minorities, receive less of an education.

For example, he compares poor and wealthy school districts in San Antonio. The poor district spends $2800 yearly on each child’s education, and “72 percent of children [in that district] read below grade level.” In the wealthy district, $4600 is spent yearly on each child. In that district, “virtually all students graduate and 88 percent of graduates go on to college” (Kozol 224).

He appeals to the heart by showing how this unjust school system is also an ethical and spiritual failure that will eat away at the soul of the nation. He also appeals to the heart of the reader by, as has been previously expressed, letting the children speak for themselves for the reason that the children are the victims of this system. One 14-year-old girl says, “We have a school in East St. Louis named for Dr. King. The school is full of sewer water and the doors are locked with chains. Every student in that school is black. It’s like a terrible joke on history.” (Kozol 35).

Kozol is most effective because he shows his own fear and despair: “East St. Louis will likely be left just as it is for a good many years to come: a scar of sorts, an ugly metaphor of filth and overspill and chemical effusions, a place for blacks to live and die (Kozol 39)

Many skillful journalists are proficient at finding the heartfelt story inside all the rhetoric and confusion a large issue brings forth. This book exposes the foundations of the “savage inequalities” of the educational system. It is a clear and straightforward solution that the nation must spend more money on the poor and minorities in the schools if the nation is to remain great and to live up to its promises.

Though this apparent solution is idealistic, Kozol wants to show how racial segregation and socioeconomic deprivation of the underprivileged are causes of the schools’ failures, a fact which he says most leaders fail to recognize.

The effort to reform the schools has failed, he says, because they focus not on inequalities of money and race but on low reading scores, high dropout rates, poor motivation.” (Kozol 3), If the problem is in the students and not in the entire system, how can we explain the fact that lower test scores and higher drop-out rates are more prevalently found in poorer counties.

Kozol’s argument, then, is twofold. First, he argues simply that the nation does not spend enough money on the poor and minorities, especially African Americans in urban centers. The continuing segregation of whites and blacks is a major part of this political and economic failure.

There is no connection from the community to the community within a state. Kozol speaks of a bridge that separated East St. Louis from a more affluent county. Kozol points out the police were shutting down a bridge in East St. Louis for a Fourth of July celebration due to muggings in the past. He also said black leaders saw this as a suspiciously racist action. These actions showed a noticeable separation between social and economic classes living in a similar region.

Second, Kozol argues the notion to spend more money on the education of these students is presently a futile endeavour. Also, any reform, which does not include such added spending, will be a tragic failure. In all six cities, a ringing matter in each school comprises of missing and damaged textbooks, supplemental materials and normal building necessities such as clean classrooms and bathrooms needed to give the students a reasonable chance to be successful.

Kozol gives statistical data, which shows the more money spent on educating children; the more successful will be that education (Kozol 158). The school system, he demonstrates, is a system of separate and unequal education: “Behind the good statistics of the richest districts lies the triumph of a few. Behind the saddening statistics of the poorest cities lies the misery of many.” (Kozol 158).

Kozol points out both political and educational leaders understand that more money must be spent on the poor. However, the most powerful leaders who set policy fail to see the political and legal roots of the breakdown of the public schools for the underprivileged:

Government . . . forces us to go to [public schools]. Unless we have the wealth to pay for private education, we are compelled by law to go to . . . the public school in our district. Thus the state, by requiring attendance but refusing to require equity, effectively requires inequality. Compulsory inequity, perpetuated by state law, too frequently condemns our children to unequal lives (Kozol 56).

In other words, unfortunate children have no choice but to go to the underfunded school in their district. As a consequence of continuing social segregation, schools are still separated, both by race and by income. Many of the deprived are minorities who live in the same area and go to the same schools.

The affluent families go to public schools, but their schools are more heavily funded because their districts have greater income from the wealthy people who live in those districts. The result is a school system, which is not only segregated by race but also by expenditure. The differences in spending result create differences in success in public school education, in college education, and in socioeconomic success in the world following education.

We have focused on the three major strengths of the book. These include the author’s in-depth research, his passionate, personal involvement in the lives of the people he studies, his clear focus on the problems in the school system, and the conclusions he draws with respect to what is needed to right the wrongs of the system. Furthermore, Kozol does not merely show how the schools themselves fail these children but also shows how the political system fails them, and how the terrible social and economic conditions of their lives also prevent them from receiving the education which they need and deserve.

Kozol is successful in showing that a school is an expression of the spirit of the nation. If the nation’s social and political leaders fall short of providing the means to educate these children, the nation suffers not only socially and economically, but also morally and spiritually. The nation, which lets down its poorest children, is an unjust nation.

Although Kozol’s work is thoroughly researched and documented, the strongest part of the book is his decision to let the children articulate their point of view. Kozol does not present his views in a confrontation manner that expresses a desire to win an argument on theory.

More accurately, Kozol keeps in mind the fact that these are very real children who suffer because the nation has unjustly regarded them as second-class citizens because of their race and their socioeconomic status, or lack thereof. As its written, “I decided . . . to listen very carefully to children and . . . to let their voices and their judgments and their longings find a place within this book (Kozol 6).

Kozol’s premise is that the failure to properly educate underprivileged minorities in this country is both political and financial. In addition, though, it is also a spiritual and moral failure of our nation’s citizens. The heart and soul of the nation is its youth. If you fail to give these children everything they need to succeed in life, you plainly undermine that national heart and soul.

The failure of the schools is a sign of the failure of the government, society, and the nation as a whole. When the United States denies these children a good education, it shows it is a nation that has lost its morality.

Surely there is enough for everyone within this country. It is a tragedy that these good things are not more widely shared. All our children ought to be allowed a stake in the enormous richness of America. Whether they were born to poor white Appalachians or to wealthy Texans, to poor black people in the Bronx or too rich people in Manhasset or Winnetka, they are all quite wonderful and innocent when they are small. We soil them needlessly (Kozol 233).

Therefore, Kozol articulates the failure of the educational system is a form of political, racial and socioeconomic abuse of these children.

The breakdown of the public school system is a moral and spiritual failure. It fails to meet the requirements of disadvantaged children. However, he concludes that all the spiritual and ethical pleas in the world will not make one bit of difference unless they are accompanied by more spending on the education of these children. Whether one likes it or not, this means that the government must increase spending on that education, or it will not be improved.

Kozol makes an emotional appeal for the government to act in the cases of these six cities as well as other cities in destitution or despair. However, one of the greatest arguments against the legitimate demand for more financial assistance to these cities is the review of your weekly paycheck.

When more than a fourth of the income the citizens earn is going to the government, the feelings of the public are sympathetic but not monetarily reactionary. Kozol’s writings are fascinating, effectual and most of all, uplifting. The ideology of Kozol’s approach purely becomes interesting reading but ineffective policy.


Example 6

Jonathan Kozol was born in 1936 in Massachusetts.  Throughout his life, he has been extremely active in public issues.  He spent several teaching in public schools, fighting against the inequalities there, but also fighting for the civil rights movement and equality for all, despite race or ethnicity.  Most of the schools Kozol taught at were inner-city schools, similar to the ones he writes about in his book (

Kozol’s purpose in writing the book was to expose the vast inequalities that are present in today’s schools.  He provided a snapshot of many different ways schools are unequal: funding, teacher quality, school environment, materials, and more.  He profiled several different schools, in particular, inner-city Chicago schools and suburban Chicago schools (New Trier), to show the vast differences in every aspect of these schools and the effects that these differences had on the students.

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Kozol also intended to show the multitude of different issues that went into creating the problem, such as lack of funding, lack of materials, lack of quality teacher, political laziness or outright disdain (towards inner-city schools), parent misinformation (or lack of information), lack of parental education and knowledge about the system, and more.  These differences all account for why the schools are so vastly different; money is not the only problem and simple solution.

Kozol accomplished his purpose.  As one is reading the book, one is filled with shock, horror, and indignation at the vast inequities that exist in the schools.  One particularly telling section is his illustration of the kindergarten students, who Kozol describes as bright and eager to learn, even in the inner-city.  However, these kids – who have every ability to learn – are given a few materials and poor teachers, and they fail to thrive.

This failure, he explains, results from the education system failing them, and not from their own lack of anything.  He clearly illustrates the unfairness of the school system and proposes some interesting solutions.  In the kindergarten class in one of Kozol’s examples, there are no pictures on the wall, there are ancient textbooks, there are few toys to play with, and there is a teacher who is almost too tired to care.  The teacher knows that whatever happens, many of these students will drop out of high school, and many of those will land in jail.  The teacher does not believe that she can make a difference, even though at this age, with the students eager and primarily well-behaved, she could.

The purpose was well accomplished because of Kozol’s many examples.  The way he used the case studies was especially interesting.  In the case of New Trier, the parents were unwilling to tax themselves at a high rate, but their income and property values were so high that they will have plenty of money.  Therefore, the school had excellent class offerings, facilities, teachers, and students.

In poorer districts, like Lawndale, parents taxed themselves as much as they could, and they still couldn’t afford to have good school buildings, new materials, and good teachers.  This difference in personality and attitude of the people in the district further illustrates Kozol’s point.

In addition, Kozol highlights the sheer environmental differences in schools.  In the suburban districts, teachers come in every day, on time – or they are subject to discipline or being fired.  He quotes one principal in an inner-city school as saying “I take everything that comes through the door,” which means that teachers who are absent more often than not, or who show up a couple of hours late every day still have jobs.  These environments portray a complete lack of caring on the part of the teachers.

This is at least in part because the teachers truly believe they cannot make a difference.  Many know that most of the students will drop out of school and end up in prison, illiterate, and with no job or a poor job.  Some teachers even see this effect as positive, stating that the kids who really care remain in school until graduation.  However, this is a terrible way to think about students, and only perpetuates the situation.

Also, the suburban schools tend to be newer, brightly lit, with plenty of classrooms and bathrooms and decorations.  The urban schools are lucky to have one working bathroom that isn’t clean, dark windows, and a building that is falling apart around them.  In some cases, urban schools have extremely overcrowded classrooms, no working bathrooms, no libraries, no computers, no decorations, and are extremely depressing.  Students begin skipping school at a young age merely to avoid these circumstances.

Kozol also discusses the attitudes of the lawmakers.  Many refuse to spend more money on these failing schools because it would, in their estimation, be like “pouring money into a black hole.” In other words, useless.  This goes to show that government officials are not doing anything to solve the problem; in fact, they often are the problem, by refusing to believe that anything could change.  Their lackadaisical attitude needs to turn around; rather than rewarding the students who are already succeeding, they should attempt to help the students who struggle, who will only turn around if the lawmakers choose to do their job and advocate for all students.

The section on Corla Hawkins’s class was particularly interesting.  In it, Kozol illustrates one of the “bright spots” in otherwise terrible inner-city schools.  Ms. Hawkins is a unique teacher who cares about her students, makes sure they come to school, who forces them to respect her and each other.  She spends a lot of her own money on supplies for the classroom, including a set of encyclopedias.  She assigns homework every day in order to promote responsibility.

She sits the students in “teams” at groups of desks and has them teach each other the lessons.  Her emphasis means that students in her class succeed much more than the average student in the school.  Ms. Hawkins also teaches the students important social skills.  She doesn’t give grades at all in the first quarter; she gives team grades in the second; she gives pair grades in the third; she gives individual grades in the fourth.  In this way, she teaches the kids to learn before being competitive about grades, and then to help one another and cooperate more than compete.  Later, she teaches the students to look out for themselves.

One of the unfortunate problems with this is that these students will have one year of excellent teaching, and then will go back to the “typical” way that things are in inner-city schools, meaning that their chances of success are still fairly low overall.  It also gives the students a taste of what could have been, which means that overall, one good teacher doesn’t change anything.

The best solution is to correct the problem by changing the way the schools are financed.  Instead of refusing to put money into the schools, politicians should be eager to put more money into them, enough to build new buildings (or improve the current ones) and to hire truly qualified teachers.  If that occurs, the change will begin at the bottom levels, as students come in and find teachers with higher expectations, and materials to support learning.  People need to stop being completely hopeless about these schools and these students and start giving them what they need.  Without the proper materials and quality teachers, there is no way that students will care, or learn.

In some states, school funding is done in an unconstitutional way.  In fact, in most states, schools are funded at least in part by property taxes.  This offers an immediate inequity, since poorer areas, like inner-city areas, will automatically have lower property values, and therefore, less money for schools.  A new funding plan that distributes money more equally, or based on need, is in order.  A suburban school with already current materials, computers, and new buildings does not need as much money as an inner-city school with old materials, no technology, and a crumbling building.

Currently, the thinking in education is to give money to the students and districts who are already winners.  Money is allotted as a prize for success.  This value needs to change, so that money is given based on need, because the value is success and opportunity for everyone, not just for the privileged few.

Reading this book changes one’s view on the way schools are handled in this country.  It seems perfectly fair to grow up in a privileged district and to go into education as someone who wants to continue that tradition of excellence.  However, confronting the problems that face many schools today shows that education is not perfect, and not every school or student is nearly as lucky as some.

This new realization will change the way a person looks at being an administrator.  Perhaps, instead of fighting for every dollar for a particular school’s excellent AP program, one would choose to distribute that money to districts that do not have the things they need.  Or, instead of purchasing new textbooks frequently and getting rid of the old ones, one might choose to buy new textbooks for another school or to donate older (but still fairly recent) ones to a school in need.

Also, when it comes to making policies, one might choose to consider what is best for all students, rather than only a small group.  Many of the students in a poorer district do not have anyone to advocate for them.  Their teachers and politicians mostly will not, and their parents may not know how to.  Some people in their district, and some of the students themselves, may not even speak English.  An administrator from any district may be able to stand up and fight for them.  If enough administrators begin to value equality in education (and separate is not equal, whether it is separated by race or social class), changes will begin to occur.

This book is a very eye-opening look at the reality of schools today.  It is an important thing to realize – not all schools are equal.  Many students are suffering because of the lack of opportunity their schools provide, ultimately setting them up for near-certain failure.  The only way this will change is if educators stand up and fight for change, and an educator who has not learned about these inequalities will not be able to stand up and fight.  Every educator should know what is really going on.

This book comes highly recommended.  Kozol goes into the schools and paints vivid pictures of what the schools are actually like.  He’s not writing from a high horse or a strictly academic perspective.  He is showing what the day to day realities are for so many students.  He is highlighting the problems in a completely real-world way.  Kozol’s book is an important one in the field and one that everyone should read.


Example 7

The following paper presents a book review. The book which has to be reviewed is “Savage Inequalities” by “Jonathan Kozol”. The book covers the research of the author on the school or disabled and privileged children. He also shows a comparison between the schools in urban and suburban areas. Furthermore, in the book, he tells how education is affected due to unavailability of books to the children in the schools of the poor neighbouring areas. By reading this book, people can easily conclude the conditions of city schools with uptown ones.

The comparison presented in the book is based on the difference of quality of education being given, the races that are involved are analyzed, the facilities being provided to the children there and the situations under which these children are getting an education. Adding further to this, he also suggests that suburban schools value the money better, as they provide the children with a better and secure future. Children can flourish more in the suburban school setting as it is providing them with better and good opportunities ahead.

He thinks that all the children in the schools should be treated equally and should be provided with an equal amount of money so that one is not superior to the other. If a child studying in the school belongs to a poor background, he should have been given equal money so that he can coup up with the other students who are better than him. The theme of the book: In Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol tells about his analysis, which he did by investigating the environment of a number of schools in America.

His main focus was on public schools. The book explains his visits to approximately 30 schools, between the year 1988 and 1990. These schools were basically ranged from the poorest inner-city schools to the ones in the wealthier suburban communities. He found a huge gap between the conditions of the communities and the schools. His main focus throughout the book was on the question that “How is there such an enormous difference inside a country with all these public schools who claim to provide everyone with equal opportunities?

In this survey, Jonathan observed the fact that how the underprivileged schools are not given equal attention, where the education standard is low and poorer as compared to the one that is being followed in the wealthier localities. The poorer schools are not given money to upgrade their current status and can come up to the mark. Even though it is necessary for all the children to go to a school until the age of 16, they are still kept back sue to all the differences in the school in which they draw lines and separate them on the basis of race as well as the social class.

He studies the financial support given to the schools as to how unequal that is when it comes to relating the public class divisions. He also examines institutional and biological racial discrimination, segregation, the unfriendliness of students, employees that are in underprivileged schools, substantial decomposing away of constructions and even the physical condition of the apprentices (Jonathan Kozol, 1992). Overview of “Savage Inequalities”:

Jonathan Kozol’s main focus in the entire book is to explore the urban school districts, which are separated by the racial difference and category of the students which includes their class. The black or nonwhites are considered to be very poor, which discriminates them harshly with those who are rich and belong to a wealthier class of suburban schools. He observes that even if a school is not creating diversions, the divisions occur within the school that has a vast population of students. This division is mainly caused by the type of education being given and the career track which the students follow.

This division is also created by the people by just thinking about their status and considering them superior in class. One of the reasons for these differences could be the “it’s all in the head” motto. The most important tribulations that have an effect on these institutions are an entrepreneurial structure that involves the imitation of the partition of work. Schools afford the education to congregate this obligation all the way through the trails of apprentices into the characters that they will accomplish in their financial configuration.

The author further explains and points out that the upper class of white people want their children to be properly educated, and get into better jobs and places. They want to see a bright future for themselves and work in a comfortable environment in less polluted areas. These people have an upper hand and will benefit from the dissection of labour and will even use their resources to create an influence with the government, in order to maintain their proper places in the positions they are working. In his book, he also discusses a few casual conversations with the students of the schools.

For example, he talked about financial support unfairness amongst institutional regions with a group of wealthy students in Rye, New York, in that group, one student posed her beliefs by saying that she doesn’t exactly have any interest in these funding supports for the poorer schools, since she was unable to see that how would it benefit her (Jonathan Kozol, 1992). She really didn’t care about the situation of the schools that are underprivileged. She knew the fact that how all those class and status divisions would favour her in different aspects. Then why would she bother looking the other way?

Using a various variety of details and scenarios to describe the conditions of the most prosperous school such as “New Trier High School and on the other hand the most underprivileged school such as “Du Sable High School”. In this comparison, he portrays the most terrible environments in which the students attend their daily school and also tells that in the well-off schools, the students are given such wonderful and good options and opportunities to make their career. He distinguishes the underprivileged and affluent institutes to demonstrate to the readers the worst conditions that are available.

Kozol also talks about a very crucial and one of the major issues and that is racism. He brings the fact to the knowledge that mostly the poor or black children usually the Hipic are bad savings. No matter how good they are or how good they could be. Meagre educative surroundings affect substandard learning and serious educational shortage in learners. It turns out to be very noticeable the system the management, the civilization, and the instructive system do not pass unfortunate offspring in the United States (Jonathan Kozol, 1992). Kozol vividly illustrates the deplorable conditions of the poorest schools.

In distinction, he gives some colourful images of the richest suburban schools that surround them. He effectively demonstrates the racist conditions and social class discrimination that lead to the variations within the public school system as well as discusses the funding formula for America’s public schools. Kozol provides descriptions of the worst of the worst, but his research only extends to a limited number of urban schools (Jonathan Kozol, 1992). Perhaps Kozol could also include more on his views as to what the “minimal” requirements for a good school should be. What are the basic needs of a public school?

He says that there should be more poor schools that resemble the better schools. Talking of the wealthy schools and the schooling they are providing, is that the minimum standard that they should provide? Or should the wealthy schools give a bit less so that the poorer schools can come up to their standard? Are all the public schools on the same level, as in providing equal opportunities to all the students? As a result, if the parents ask for more than the amount of quality education being provided in the public schools, they either demand for more, or mostly go for tuitions or private education for their offspring.

The possible solution for the lack of quality in urban schools according to Kozok is equalized funding. The schools will not be solved by funding alone. For real improvement to occur changes in the greater society will have to take place. After all, equals schools are not determined by equal funding.

Would equal funding really be desired by policymakers? If public education was really valued by the politician and if they really believed in providing equal funding for all, a lot of money would “become available. ” Jonathan Kozol in his book Savage Inequalities takes into consideration the condition of several American Public Schools.

He visited schools in the neighbourhood and discovered a wide disparity in the conditions between the schools in the poorest inner-city communities and schools in the wealthier suburban communities. How can such a huge difference be possible in the public school systems of the country that claims to provide equal opportunity for everyone? Kozol finds it obvious that many of the children from poor communities get an education that is far inferior to that of children who are growing up in the wealthier communities.

Strong evidence is provided by the book of the national oppression, endemic in the American system. Kozol focuses on the discrepancy in resources amongst predominantly Black or Latino (usually inner city) schools and those that are predominantly white (usually suburban), Case studies and statistics are used to compare the opportunities given to some kids to succeed while others (oppressed nations) are set up to fail (Jonathan Kozol, 1992). The topic of the conditions that are faced by children should pose an easy win for communists looking to explain to people the need for equality for all.

It’s hard to believe someone thinking that a kid, born into circumstances out of his or her control, deserves to suffer poor housing, inadequate healthcare, and substandard education. While people argue that adults “bring it on them”, the children clearly have no control over where they are born. But Kozol highlights, with astonishment, that he found racist arguments being made by white adults about the potential of Black and Latino kids to justify the better funding of the schools in the white neighbourhoods.

Kozol brings to mind how during the social movement people would have been vilified by such arguments, but in the early 1990s when he wrote the book, these attitudes were commonplace. Not just the adults but the kids in these wealthier schools had excuses explaining why they deserved better schools than kids who sometimes lived miles away. The statistics presented in Kozol’s book are startling; bring to attention to how classes in one school are segregated racially. In one classroom there are all white students with the exception of maybe one or two Asian or Black children.

In another class, which is the “special” class, all black children are present, with maybe one white child. According to the author, the children are separated more from each other in magnet schools. The poorer Pilcher 3 children do not get the opportunity to apply for these selective schools. Even if the parents are informed, on many occasions they do not have the proper education to be able to fulfill the necessary requirement to admit their children to the special schools. He strongly disagrees with the business approach to education, stating that limits cannot be put on a child for the child will never strive to go beyond that limit.

He maintains that this approach will not introduce Excellency but will in fact just repeat unevenness (Jonathan Kozol, 1992). Recommendations: After reading this book my perception has completely changed, I had never known that a large number of schools were situated in the ghettos and are overcrowded or only had two toilets working share by 1000 students, and also no toilet paper is available. The thing that has really upset me is the fact that schools in the same city limit but in the suburbs have an average of 20 children per classroom and also have enough supplies and computers enough so that no child needs to share.

It is clear that the majority of these suburban schools are dominantly white and the minorities are in the urban schools. The dropout rates in the book are very high. Most children drop out of secondary school and do not get proper education due to lack of supplies and very little or interest in the teacher. The greater part in the poor schools is that of the Hispanic or black while the elite white class children and the rare Asian children are in the gifted classes of the suburban schools.

The small population of blacks and Hispanics that attend the same schools go to the “special” classrooms and their “mental retardations” are shown as a reason for their placement. A majority of these students belong with the whites and Asians, they are not mental. It seems like the teachers were so unmotivated to teach in the urban schools that it reflected off of the children, the children become unmotivated towards learning which has become the reason for such high dropout rates in secondary schools.

These children never get real education; instead, they receive partial discrimination due to the colour of their skin. Access to private schools is denied to them, they do not get toilet paper or working toilets, and they are subdued, so they are not able to expand their horizons and are made to learn without the use of materials or supplies. They are never given a chance to attain the proper education and so they suffer the consequences by living in poverty and having their children attend schools similar to their parents.

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This is all very upsetting to me as even though the school systems have improved a great deal there is nothing that can be done for the poor parents who were not able to get real education due to their colour and class. I hope these parents realize that what they suffered from should not affect their children. Today this issue has been subdued only because the number of schools situated in ghettos also educates the whites along with the minorities. I myself attended a high school situated in the ghetto in Bradenton, Florida. I did not actually live in a ghetto nor did any of my friends.

My opinion about Savage Inequalities would be that the book presents a good overview of the conditions of the schools in the urban and suburban areas. The way it compares the situation in the schools is very innovative. But at a point, I find the book very disturbing and heart touching, on the other hand, this book became an eye-opener and now I can look back and think what were the situations before and how they are now. It is very good to see things change with the passage of time. The schools have realized the fact that race and class don’t matter, it’s the talent that a student carries.

Although the schools may be dominating with the majority of whites and the minority of others, the students are still receiving a quality education, without comparing one race to another, they are able to realize the fact that it’s not the race that helps a person to succeed from one another. The single inconsistency that I observe in the book was that Kozol failed to notice a few matters. He didn’t address to the fact that no matter if the poor are in minority, they still have the right to proper education and learn the things that the rich are learning.

He also did not defend the fact that it’s not the poor who are responsible for the lack of quality education for the poor children, whether they be in the minority or the majority. Overall it was a good book, worth reading and spending time on it. It had covered some really interesting facts that I enjoyed reading. On a finishing note, what I consider is that the importance of these savage discrimination, productively arrange offspring into victors and defeats; those institutions persuaded the children that they ought to have in some sagacity to be unsuccessful in their schooling.


Example 8

The author of the book “Savage Inequalities” is Jonathan Kozol. The book explores the education system for children in the United States and exposes the extremes of wealth and poverty in America’s public school system and the tragic impact it has on underprivileged children. Kozol worked as a teacher in the Boston Public School during the early 1960s and witnessed the unfairness of the system towards the poor students of the community. He worked in the basement of an underfinanced, entirely black “freedom” school that had been set up in a Roxbury Church. It was here that Kozol directly experienced the dismal conditions in which children studied, due to lack of state funds.

The children were cramped in dirty corners and there were no study materials. Their reading levels were not standard and moreover, there was extreme racial segregation. In the early nineties, he worked at Mott Haven in South Bronx, New York City – another impoverished neighbourhood.

He also saw that the children also suffered from inadequate medical care, lack of proper housing, unemployment and violence. Coming from this teaching background Jonathan Kozol does have a bias towards the poor and downtrodden and has through this book, he successfully exposes with examples and arguments the neglect of poor and black children in America. Author’s major hypothesis: Kozol unfolds the dark conditions in which poor black children study by narrating his experiences at East St. Louis, Illinois, which as a 98 percent black population and dubbed by the press as “an inner-city without an outer city”.

The question Jonathan Kozol puts before his readers in ‘Savage Inequalities is whether America is providing equal opportunities in education and if yes, how can one explain the conditions of the children left behind in places such as East St. Louis, Ill., Chicago’s South Side, Camden and Jersey City, N.J., the slums of San Antonio, the South Bronx. His major finding is that children who attend schools in these places are cramped with 40 or 50 kids to a classroom, a new teacher every few weeks, little or no art, music, foreign language, or advanced science courses, and too few books to go around.

These schools have just one counsellor for every 700 students, holes in the roof, raw sewage in the basement and a record of 80% dropouts before graduation.  ”These are innocent children, after all,” Kozol writes in Savage Inequalities:  ”They have done nothing wrong. They have committed no crime. They are too young to have offended us in any way at all. One searches for some way to understand why a society as rich and, frequently, as generous as ours would leave these children in their penury and squalor for so long and with so little public indignation”.

Kozol shows that the normal response to lawsuits or legislative action in various places in America just forces states to spend equally on all school districts. This does not result in any solution because the richest school districts have four or five times more money to spend per student than the poorest. Moreover, there are politicians who claim that money has nothing to do with quality education.

Frustrated with the ground situation, Kozol raises emotion-laden questions as ‘Is fairness less important to Americans today than in some earlier times? What do Americans believe about equality?’Quality of Evidence and Solutions: The problem is put forth before the readers in a very convincing manner and with lots of evidence including eye-witness accounts, statistics and interviews. The book is the result of two years of research as Jonathan Kozol visited America’s public schools, especially those in its large cities.

He spoke with teachers, students, principals and superintendents, as well as with city officials, newspaper reporters and community leaders. His arguments are built mostly on direct experiences in East Saint Louis, poverty-stricken sectors of New York and Chicago, in the ghettos of Washington D.C., and economically disenfranchised Camden, New Jersey. The author is meticulous in his accounts as he describes buildings, faculties, curricula, and school boards that are all but falling apart. He highlights the plight of the public school systems in poorer sections of America with Chicago’s New Trier High or Rye, New York’s Morris High, where students are allowed luxurious campuses with new auditoriums, student lounges, wood-panelled libraries brimming with books, extensive computer laboratories, and excellent teachers whose average salaries will soon reach $70,000.

Kozol even points out that in these schools, students typically study foreign languages for five years, and approximately 40% of the student body enrolls in Advanced Placement coursework. Kozol also supports his arguments with statistics. He says, in one of the wealthiest districts on New York’s Long Island, the per-pupil spending amounts to $11,265 annually. Meanwhile, impoverished sectors of New York City see only $5,590 per student. The inclusion of such statistics and detailed accounts make the book very authentic and Kozol’s arguments evidence-based.

Kozol also treats the issue from a legal viewpoint. He refers to the case when the Supreme Court held blacks and whites as “separate but equal” in Pleasy vs. Ferguson case, almost 100 years ago and to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision in which the court found that segregated education was unconstitutional because it was inherently unequal.

Kozol in fact takes the readers on a personal journey of exploration through public schools across the nation. Through the words and actions of children, adolescents, teachers and administrators, he helps us perceive the dreams and desires of children for complete adulthood. While many of these dreams are similar across economic, racial, or gendered lines, we learn that the paths for reaching those futures are unevenly paved.

Kozol also approaches the issue from various viewpoints. There is a psychiatrist who tells Kozol that white Americans are literally bored hearing about racial injustice. The psychiatrist explains: ”They see a slipshod, deviant nature-violence, lassitude, reckless sexuality as if it were a character imprinted on black people”.  A school principal in the Bronx eloquently puts it: “if they do not give these children a sufficient education to lead healthy and productive lives, we will be their victims later on. We’ll pay the price someday–in violence, in economic costs”. “Gifted children,” says Dr. Lillian Parks, the superintendent of the city’s schools, “are everywhere in East St. Louis, but their gifts are lost to poverty and turmoil…They have no feeling of belonging to America . . . “Impact of the book: Personally, on reading this book, I was shocked to realize that such conditions exist in such a country like the United States, which the whole world looks up to. A civilized population is not one that would be practicing racial discrimination, especially against children.

The book also shows that there are in reality neglected school systems and much-modernized school systems existing side by side in the United States. It is clear from Kozol’s arguments that funding is a major reason for the differences; Kozol is not convincing in his argument that money can solve the problem of education. There are many children from poor immigrants who have come up in life through sheer hard work.

The United States offers them opportunities at all levels to come up as long as they are willing to work hard and think constructively. There are many celebrities who have come from poor black communities. Moreover, the issue of education should be seen more holistically and include other problems such as children’s exposure to social evils such as gang problems, drug addictions and domestic violence.

Thus, the problem of education for poor children should be viewed from a socio-psychological angle rather than from an economic one. Apart from that I also find that the book is highly powerful and invokes the noblest of emotions with ease. I was most deeply touched by Kozol’s experience during Black History Month when dutiful references were sometimes made to “The Dream.” Martin Luther King’s vision was that of a nation in which black and white children went to school together. “We have a school…named for Dr. King,” said one 14-year-old girl, “The school is full of sewer water and the doors are locked with chains. Every student in that school is black. It’s like a terrible joke on history.”

Moreover, Kozol helps the reader to make his own deductions by emotionally appealing to his judgment. Savage Inequalities is not full of statistics and officially documented pages. Rather it is rife with images that enable the reader to directly sense the “manner of being” of poor students in under-funded city schools. For example, in a passage Kozol (1992) describes the oppressive life conditions of an eight-year-old Chicago orphan: “He talks to himself and mumbles during class, but he is never offered psychiatric care or counselling.

When he annoys his teacher, he is taken to the basement to be whipped. He isn’t the only child in the class who seems to understand that he is being ruined, but he is the child who has first captured my attention. His life is so hard and he is so small, and he is shy and still quite gentle. He has one gift: He draws delightful childish pictures, but the art instructor says he “muddles his paints.” She shreds his work in front of the class.

Watching this, he stabs a pencil point into his hand”.He then talks about the same child several years later: “Seven years later he is in the streets. He doesn’t use drugs. He is an adolescent alcoholic. …To affluent white shoppers, he is the embodiment of evil. …Three years later I visit him in jail…He was jailed for murdering a white man in a wheelchair” (pp. 194—195). Kozol captures the spirit of the child, frustrated by the way society treats him, being transformed into a criminal one.

The book is a must-read for all citizens of the United States. It can help us understand the reasons of increasing violence and drug problems among the youth. As far as I have thought about Kozol’s arguments, I believe, changes in public education can be wrought by the adoption of a flexible way of understanding and defining community for purposes of schooling, the securing of the independence of all schools and teachers from government regulation of content, and the establishing of an equality of school choice for all families regardless of wealth.


Savage Inequalities is about the lack of resources to make the American dream come true for every child. The book is primarily an appeal for fairness in American public education. It is a work that appeals to the educated public and government to do something to ensure that the life of every young person in the United States is afforded dignity, respect, and the hope for a worthwhile future. Kozol shows clearly in his book “Savage Inequalities” that this can be achieved only if we are first of all ready as a nation to provide an equitable education for all American youth.

While the book does not offer any concrete solutions for solving the problems in education faced by poor black children in America, the book does have the power to make people think. As Somerset Maugham says in his novel “Razor’s Edge”: “the effect may be no greater than the ripple caused by a stone thrown in a pond, but one ripple causes another” and Kozol’s work is presently just that; a self-expanding ripple.


Example 9 – Book Analysis Savage Inequalities

In chapter one of Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol, he speaks of the disastrous state of East St Louis. He describes in horrific detail, the condition that many school children from grades K-12 are forced to learn in, Fast St. Louis is one of the worst ghettos in Illinois, and Kozol goes into great detail about the multitude of problems facing the city and more importantly, the school children living there.

The economy is too weak to pay for any type of necessity for the schools. Therefore, the school system is compromised. There is absolutely no money tor proper supplies, teachers, programs, or even a proper building to teach in, Fuen worse is the home lite of many of these children, Most do nor have supportive parents that can take care of them. let alone push them to be academic. Kozol goes on to imply that these children are not born into a situation of equal opportunity.

They are set up to fail from birth to fail There are many contributing factors that make for an unfair conditiom It seems to Kozol that racial segregation is rhe worse injustice committed by the local school board Of Fast St. Louis, Without the immersion of lower-class blacks with upper-class whites in one school district there is no opportunity to stimulate the economy of East St. Louis. The children in East St. Louis are not just in a bad situation. They are in one that they cannot escape.

They are born into a losing battle for well-being. agree with Kozol that this is a severe injustice the children ot St. Classism is the biggest hindrance in their lite and it has been brought about hy a government and by private industry that consider the people of East St. Louis expendable. A once integrated city of middleclass industry orkers is now a segregated slump for chemical waste and poverty. Children have little to no opportunities to succeed even if they are gifted. Race should not be an indicator of success.

The city neglects and ignores these children like the plague The industrial corporations that surround the city dump poisonous chemical waste into the ground and rivers, and there is not enough money for the city to collect garbage. East St. Louis has turned into a toxic third world.

This is no place for a child 10 grow up in. can America call itself a land of opportunity when it allows places like East St. Louis to exist? In chapter two. Kozol elaborates on the contrasts between private schools of North Lawndale and Southern Chicago compared to public schools.

Much detail is given about the unequal privilege that students in suburban school districts have over students in public school districts. He speaks about the underlying racial prejudice that members of the white community and government have against the black students in many Of Chicago\’s public schools.

There is a taboo associated with giving money to black students. Even the Governor of Chicago was quoted on page 53 saying. We can\’t keep throwing money into a black hole. \” While this may not have been intended as a slur, race is never far from the surface, explains the Chicago Tribune.

The yearly spending on public schCH)ls from state, local, and federal funds is approximately 90,000 less than the spending on private suburban schools. Much Of the funding for public schools comes from tax on local property. Therefore, poorer inner-city communities have remarkably lower funding than suburban communities.

Students are assigned to public schools by district if they cannot afford private schools. Because private and well-off public schools are located in more well-off neighborhoods, inner- ciry black kids in Chicago have no chance of receiving an equal education to suburban white kids.

The parentage also plays into the opportunities available to the student. Kozol argues that it is unfair to disregard poor black students because they only turn out to be unsuccessful because of their upbringing. While agree that the wealth is obviously not distributed to public schools from the various sources ot funding, disagree that parents lack the skills necessary to find an alternative to a public school.

He argues that because most parents are uneducated themselves. they cannot even find out information on an alternative. elieve that really depends on the parent, educated or uneducated. There is however, an effort from the parents and community of these nicer schools to keep out the lower-class students from nearby neighborhoods. Parents, CEO’s, and voters ot these communities haue voted against building new public schools, and against demanded segregation Of students of different race, or from different neighborhoods. This is a clear example of the Injustice Kozol speaks about. In the Chicago school system there is obvious evidence of racial prejudice and inequality.

In chapter three, Kozol speaks of the injustice that poor children do not have the opportunity for the means of competition in the public schools of New York It is the biggest inequity that they face, not being able to compete for jobs in the same ballpark as privileged white students, No one willingly Will send they re children to a public school in South Riverdale or Central Harlem if they have money.

Kozol goes on to describe the innate racism or \”out and out racism\” of high-class whites. Why should they feel inclined to help out unprivileged blacks by having their tax dollars go towards improving the public school system?

The segregated system in which students are able to succeed and go on to higher education and higher jobs, while black students barely have the classes available to prepare them for low-end jobs, in which they would someday work for the White students- is a flawed one. The system has predetermined their parents to be unlikely to make it to a high paying job, therefore dooming the new generation of students to the same fate. Solutions to his inequity are scrutinized by politicians and by wealthy parents because their inability to see the worth in these lower-class students.

The general belief is that the investment from society will not be worth the return from the student. The fact remains that if people never contribute more to better the public school system, then they will never truly know if They can change. agree with Kozol\’s argument that the system sets students in poverty up to fail. The spending on each individual student in a private school compared to a public school is sometimes double. If overnight, money were more equally distributed to schools in need, conditions would dramatically change.

Also present, is the argument for segregation on the notion that it is morally right Brown The Board of Education case has been greatly disregarded in many districts throughout New York. Many people believe that busing black and white students to different districts has no benefit for the more well-off student. I agree with this statement simply because, unless poor students started off with better education at a young age, they would not be able to keep up uuith the level of school work at a etter school, therefore bringing down the other students.

In chapter four, Kozol describes the vastly under funded public schools in New Jersey. He speaks in detail about the limited space and resources of many schools. His point in this chapter is to describe the argument that money is not the solution to these poor schools problems.

Conservative minded people fight to stop over-funding the \”lost cause\” that many of the public schools in NJ are considered to be. He speaks about the different theories officials have thought of as to why spending more oney on these schools hasn’t worked and what will work. arental involvement is argued to be of great importance, yet.

Why do better schools not have to cut back on spending while they still have the advantage of parental involvement? In a class-action suit filed from parents of students in these underprivileged schools, the courts looked deeper into why these schools couldn\’t haue at least a decent education and how higher privileged schools had so much more.

I agree With Kozors point in questioning that why, when economics control and influence so much Of everyday life. es money become such an issue When dealing with the education of the youth? It is such a controversial issue to so many people, yet up until the lawsuit filed by the parents of the underprivileged students, it has never even been close to being solved.

Selfishness, on the part of politicians, corporate officials, and wealthy parents is the main reason why this has been made into such a taboo subject, Until people realize that we are hurting ourselves by not properly educating such a large part of the future working class, it will continue to plague American productivity as a whole.

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