Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol
Reading The Shame of the Nation was an eye-opening experience for me. I have been terribly sheltered into thinking that my own educational experience full of well-funded programs and educational opportunities is the situation that most students in America find themselves in. Jonathan Kozol has presented a horrifying set of circumstances in which schools are divided and segregated and the schools themselves are poorly equipped to handle the students who attend.
The appalling physical condition of the schools that Kozol visits is something that stood out to me in my reading of this book. In one situation a school spanning two city blocks has only fifteen working bathrooms for women in the school. The students are not given enough time to visit a working facility and make it to class on time. This is only one situation of many Kozol describes in the book, where schools are filthy and understaffed. In each example he gives it is pointed out that the students in these school see a rotating cast of teachers and rarely have any sort of consistent instruction. It’s a horrifying situation that my eyes were closed to.
Equally riveting is Kozol’s explanation of the pitfalls of No Child Left Behind which seems so good on paper, yet fails to account for the squalid conditions and segregation that so many of America’s schools deal with on an everyday basis. They say “all children can learn,” but the fact of the matter is that low-income children simply do not have the educational facilities and instructors that more privileged children have.
After reading this book I am shamed by my shortsightedness and feel like I now have a better understanding of the difficulties that schools are facing. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have had the excellent educational opportunities that I grew up with and changes need to be made in order to level the playing field. In order to produce well-educated and well-rounded adults, we need to offer the proper amount of educational opportunity to each child, regardless of their race or social status.
This book is obviously well-researched and comes from a man who has lived in the world of education and has seen first-hand how the current system treats its students. The case studies presented are fascinating and I am left with the hope that books like this one can help incite change at the levels necessary to overhaul this broken system.