By Alan Breslauer on 2/16/2007, 9:58am PT  

Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer

Author Jonathan Kozol answers a few questions for C-span about The Shame of the Nation, his 2005 follow-up to the heart-wrenching Savage Inequalities. Sadly, Kozol reports that many of our schools are now more segregated and less equal than during the Civil Rights era. An excerpt from Kozol's September 2005 cover story for Harper's evidences the problem:

In New York City, nearly three quarters of the students were black or Hispanic...Even these statistics, as stark as they are, cannot begin to convey how deeply isolated children in the poorest and most segregated sections of these cities have become...At Harry S. Truman High School, black and Hispanic students represented 96 percent of the enrollment of 2,700 students; 2 percent were white. At Adlai Stevenson High School, which enrolls 3,400 students, blacks and Hispanics made up 97 percent of the student population; a mere eight tenths of one percent were white.

Kozol reports that inner city schools were, more often than not, falling apart, without air conditioning, and lacking sufficient supplies and text books. Inner city teachers earned, on average, slightly more than half of what teachers in wealthy white schools earned. And the per student expenditures are even more startling...

The present per-pupil spending level in the New York City schools is $11,700, which may be compared with a per-pupil spending level in excess of $22,000 in the well-to-do suburban district of Manhasset, Long Island. The present New York City level is, indeed, almost exactly what Manhasset spent per pupil eighteen years ago, in 1987, when that sum of money bought a great deal more in services and salaries than it can buy today. In dollars adjusted for inflation, New York City has not yet caught up to where its wealthiest suburbs were a quarter-century ago.

As striking as the numbers above, they barely begin to tell the whole story about our segrateged schools. Kozol's Harper's article provides an excellent summary of his findings on this monumental problem.

Unfortunately, our education system suffers from many problems and forms of racism. Richard Rothstein and Rebecca Jacobsen tackle racism from a different angle in The Goals of Education, where they concentrate on George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Additionally, their study provides a fascinating review of the evolution of education in America from an expansive, liberal, multi-disciplined approach concerned with physical education, the arts, civics and justice, logic and reasoning, to name a few areas thought important to our current strict adherence to testing, math, and English.

UPDATE: As if our schools - through narrowly focused curricula and the practice of rewarding uniformity while discouraging individualism - had not already succeeded in squashing any real thinking, Arizona lawmakers have proposed a bill banning political opinions in the classroom. The law, which would apply to professors teaching at public colleges, would prohibit "advocating or opposing a political candidate or one side of a social, political or cultural issue that is part of a partisan debate."

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.