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October 1, 2006
Vol. 64
No. 2

Review / The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America By Jonathan Kozol, 2005

      Fourteen years after his seminal work, Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, Jonathan Kozol has written an update on inequity in U.S. public education. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America is essential reading for everyone who believes in justice and equal opportunity, who believes in the power of a rich education full of high expectations for every child, or who cares about the survival of American democracy. The heart-breaking conditions revealed here challenge those who believe in the myth of equal education opportunity in the United States.
      Kozol visited schools throughout the United States and talked with students, teachers, administrators, and researchers. He describes schools with rote, demeaning curriculums; inexperienced teachers; few resources; and crumbling ceilings. We hear from kids who are well aware of how they are being treated and how this treatment is lowering their chances for further education and a secure economic future. As Kozol builds his evidence for the apartheid conditions that exist in U.S. schools, the reader is moved by the brilliance and perceptiveness of these young people who are being left behind.
      The book is an intense labor of love and outrage, scholarship and thoroughness. Kozol backs up his case with a thorough appendix full of research, interviews, quotes, and statistics. He refuses to let the reader continue in denial or indifference. Kozol describes huge class sizes, low expectations, racist educators, and the devastation that tracking wreaks on students. He also describes courageous, defiant teachers who refuse to change the way they teach or to lose their passion and compassion. He is no fan of No Child Left Behind, and he documents the damage done by this underfunded policy with its reliance on standardized testing.
      Kozol understands the complex and difficult role of teachers. In his final chapter, “Treasured Places,” he honors those who work hard to create schools in which—despite poverty and racism, lack of funding and few textbooks, few computers, no athletic fields, and double teaching shifts—miracles are still taking place.
      The Shame of the Nation is relevant for educators because it provides a framework that enables us to understand what we do in a larger, national context. This book arms us and inspires us to continue the fight for true equity. It is both a gift and a call to action.
      Published by Crown, 280 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017; 800-733-3000;www.randomhouse.com/crown. 416 pages. Price: $14.95 paperback; $25.00 hardcover.

      Julie Landsman has contributed to Educational Leadership.

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