For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan Kozol

The trouble with intensive three week summer modules is that it is difficult processing all that we read in the span of a few days. Take this week, for example. We read the whole of Kozol's 'The Shame of the Nation', and watched three documentaries on American public education. I had to research on Plato and make a presentation. Plus, we visited the Martha O'Bryan Center for the first time. (I'll write about that next week) Wow. There has just been so much to take in and consider, especially for this wide-eyed Singaporean. 

Rosa Parks stood up by sitting where Blacks were not allowed to sit - in the front of the bus - source

Four students from North Carolina A&T made their voices heard by sitting down at a 'White only' lunch counter in a Woolworths store in Greensboro - source

I am all ready to take on next week's reading tasks! First of all, though, I thought I should harness the aid of technology to keep a visual record of some bits of the book that most arrested my attention. So here goes, with little attempt at organizing the quotes.
On the effects of segregation:
"What saddens me the most during these times is simply that these children have no knowledge of the other world in which I've lived in most of my life and that the children in that other world have not the slightest notion as to who these children are and will not likely ever know them later on, not at least on anything like equal terms, unless a couple of these kids get into college." (p. 11) 
"Only 15% of the intensely segregated white schools in the nation have student populations in which more than half are poor enough to be receiving free meals or reduced price meals. By contrast, a staggering 86% of intensely segregated black and Latino schools have student enrollments in which more than half are poor by the same standards." (p. 20) 
The original spirit of Brown vs. Board of Education:
"Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other 'tangible' factors may be equal," asked the court in 1954, "deprive the children of the minority race of equal educational opportunities? We believe it does." To separate black children from white children of their age and qualifications on the basis of their race, the court went on, "generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone... in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place... separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." (p. 29)  
On unequal spending: "I'll believe money doesn't count the day the rich stop spending so much on their own children." Deborah Meier (p. 59) 
"Nationwide... the differential in per-pupil spending between districts with the highest number of minority children and those with the fewest children of minorities amounts to more than $25,000 for a typical class in elementary school. In Illinois, the differential grows to $47,000, in New York to more than $50,000. From any point of elemental fairness, inequalities like these are unacceptable." (p. 60) 
On the ills of accountability leading to over-testing:
"... much of the rhetoric of 'rigor' and 'high standards' that we hear so frequently, no matter how egalitarian in spirit it may sound to some, is fatally belied by practices that vulgarize the intellects of children and take from their education far too many of the opportunities for cultural and critical reflectiveness without which citizens become receptacles for other people's ideologies and ways of looking at the world but lack the independent spirits to create their own." (p. 98) 
On the opportunity gap and the lie it can purport:
"Merit, no matter how it may have been attained, is somehow self-confirming. The early advantages one may have had become irrelevant to most of us once a plateau of high achievement has been reached... Preferential opportunities that may have introduced us to the channels in which academic competence has been attained - all this falls out of view once we arrive in a position in which we can demonstrate to others, and ourselves, that our proficiencies are indisputably superior to those of other students of our age who may not have had these opportunities." (p. 141) 
On what we measure, and don't:
"There is no misery index for the children of apartheid education. There ought to be; we measure almost every other aspect of the lives they lead in school. Do kids who go to schools like these enjoy the days they spend in them? ... You do not find the answers to these questions in reports about achievement levels, scientific methods of accountability, or structural revisions in the modes of governance. Documents like these don't speak of happiness. You have to go back to the schools themselves to find an answer to these questions." (p. 163) 
On graduates of teacher preparation programs inspired to stand for social justice, upon their (re)entry into schools:
"These are not teachers who believe that Brown is something to commemorate at arm's length with a glimpse of antique videos of men and women of their age in demonstrations.... They do not accept the notion that apartheid is a faded vestige of a distant past. They can't, because they see it daily in their classrooms, and they know that too much sentimental celebration of the heroism of the past can be exploited as a exemption of the heroism that is needed now." (p. 218) 
On the need for working within the realities of the present:
"We really came to the decision that if we could get... an adequate education in every school ... maybe in 20 years, somebody else can say that they want to go for equity. But that's not our battle." (p. 248) 
“… but they are places of resistance. Teachers in these schools must work, and know that they must work, within “the box” of segregated demographics and extreme inequities ... ; but in their temperaments and in their moral disposition many also stand outside that box, because they are aware of its existence, and this sense of double-vision, being part of something and aware of what it is at the same time, regenerates the energy they bring with them each morning to the very little place (one room, one set of chairs) in which they use what gifts they have to make the schoolday good and whole and sometimes beautiful for children.” (p. 287)

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