Public-education expert Kozol to speak Feb. 22

Jonathan Kozol, the nation’s foremost authority on the state of public education in America, will give a talk on “The Hearts of Children and Obligations of Our Nation’s Schools” for the Assembly Series at 11 a.m. Feb. 22 in Graham Chapel.

Over the past four decades, Kozol has sought to identify and correct social and educational inequality in America’s public schools. In his new book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, he exposes the high incidence of public-school resegregation in urban schools. Through exhaustive research in more than 60 schools in 11 states, Kozol exposes the glaring inequities between schools catering to minorities in dense cities, and predominantly white schools in suburbia.

“(Public school resegregation) is a national horror hidden in plain view,” he writes in Shame of the Nation.

Jonathan Kozol
Jonathan Kozol

According to his research, St. Louis has not been spared.

“In his book, he takes special note of St. Louis-area public schools as a place where inequality persists,” said Garrett A. Duncan, Ph.D., associate professor of education and of African and African American Studies, both in Arts & Sciences.

Kozol’s personal experiences illustrate the detrimental effects that these resegregation policies are having on African-American and minority students. Urban schools, with 90 percent of their student body composed of minorities, are found to be lacking fundamental basics such as good textbooks, clean classrooms and extracurricular activities.

Schools in these communities “must settle for a different set of academic and career goals,” he writes.

A former educator himself, Kozol witnessed social injustice firsthand in the mid-1960s, when he began teaching at a Boston public school that catered to poor minority students. Soon, he was spearheading efforts to create “freedom schools” for African-American students during the Civil Rights Movement.

This was the first step in what became a lifelong commitment to fight for the right to adequate funding in education for the underprivileged. Since then, he has become a nationally recognized spokesperson for social reform.

In addition to Shame of the Nation, Kozol has authored numerous books that examine the interrelationships between race, poverty and education.

These include Death at an Early Age, recipient of the 1968 National Book Award in Science, Philosophy and Religion; Illiterate American; Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America, recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1989 and the Conscience in Media Award of the American Society of Journalists and Authors; Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, a finalist for the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award; and Amazing Grace: the Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation.

Kozol has received numerous awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships.

He earned a degree in English literature from Harvard University and a Rhodes Scholarship.

Assembly Series lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call 935-4620 or go online to