"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, October 9, 2006

A Must Read - Jonathan Kozol

If you're like me you skipped my last posting (yes, I wrote it, but never read it...too long) since it was too long and dry. It didn't have anything in it but the oft-repeated "what's wrong with NCLB." Most people I talk to are tired of me ranting about it all the time.

One nice thing, though is the list of References I put at the end. In it you'll find enough proof that the National Reading Panel was a political entity more interested in pleasing the anti-public education forces than in improving schools, and that NCLB is slowly but surely killing our system of public education.

I realize that not everyone will be interested in reading those books, but there is one book that you should read if:

1. you ever had, currently have or will have children or grandchildren in the public schools of the US
2. you have ever worked or will work in the public schools of the US
3. you pay taxes that support the public schools of the US
4. you are anyone else

The book is
The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol (2005). Crown Publishers. New York.

The first thing you should look at when you get the book are the appendices.

The first appendix shows the per pupil spending in public schools in six metro areas. As you would expect, the spending for rich, white kids is 30-100% more than for poor black kids. This is important information if for no other reason than to answer the people who say "You can't fix schools by throwing money at them." Hey...it works for the rich, white kids.

On a deeper level, though, it shows what is really wrong with the public schools in the US: They are trying to function in a society that allows extreme poverty and racism. The problem with public schools is not the schools...but the world in which they are situated.

Poor kids are often born into literacy-free environments where there are no books, no respect for learning and not too much conversation either. By the time they're five and ready to start kindergarten they are already way behind their wealthier peers. Minimal help has been provided by pre-schools like Head Start, but that program has been slashed by the current administration. What used to be a good program which reached only a small number of children who needed it is now a good program which reaches only a
TINY number of children who need it.

When you read Kozol's book he'll show you how the Civil Rights movement of the 60's led to integrated schools in various places around the country. He'll also show you how those schools were successful in closing the black/white achievement gap. Finally, he'll show you how we have lost nearly all of that to re-segregated school systems...worse than before in many places.

Two years ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education (which outlawed "separate, but equal" education). The irony is that since that time we have tried integrated schools, found that they worked to educate
all children, and then, because it was socially difficult, gave it up. We now live in a country which segregates its children racially, ethnically and economically more than ever.

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