Savage Inequalities: Jonathan Kozol Essay

Jonathan Kozol writes about the indifferences of how students are treated in today’s society. Through misfortunes set upon them by society, students are seeing themselves in a completely negative light. Kozol quotes CSS in his chapter, The Savage Inequalites of Public Education in New York “Children hear and understand this theme- they are poor investments- and behave accordingly. If society’s resources would be wasted on their destines, perhaps their own determination would be wasted too.” The students in the poorest districts are receiving the worst education. This seems to be an overlying theme to his book. This proves to be true, the teachers are leaving at a rapid pace, the student’s books are not available and their buildings are falling down.

Kozol makes an assumption when asking the point of how our society holds our students accountable for their lack of focus or motivation if there is no help from the surrounding world. He provides examples in the New York chapter that emphasize and substantialize this point. For example, when he visits Mt. Morris High School, the school is in shambles. The students are disillusioned about their future, one student remarks “Most of the students in the this school won’t go to college. Many of them will join the military….” The student goes on to ask how could he support a nation that does not support him due to his skin color. This comment brings us to the central theme of Kozol’s book.

The indifferences that students are experiencing can be contributed to skin color is the basis of Kozol’s argument. He makes the astounding comment that “Like kindness, cleanliness, and promptness of provision, it is not secured by gravity of need, but by the cash, skin color, and class status of the applicant.” Through his book, he proves his points on this issue completely but to the outside reader, it almost becomes overwhelming.

For instance, in the chapter, The Equality of Innocence: Washington, D.C. when he remarks ” They see a slipshod deviant nature- violence, lassitude, a reckless sexuality, a feverish need to over-reproduce – as if it were a character imprinted on black people. The degree to which this racial explanation is accepted would surprise you.” While Kozol does support this statement with facts and figures, his comments towards other races besides African Americans seem somewhat bias. There are white people or Hispanic people along the poverty line as well.

Another point that seems to drive Kozol’s argument, is the lack of funding in the schools. Also, in the chapter discussing Washington, D.C. Kozol shows the injustice of how poorer schools will only continue to lose whatever money they might have and wealthier schools will always fight to keep their tax revenue.

He creates a sick, twisted cycle that only shows the richer getting richer and the poorer getting poorer. It becomes believable though when the reader removes him or herself from the text and sees the truth. Kozol is right when referring to the schools from Washington, it seems as if the districts have already given up on these poverty stricken students so why put more money into their education. Students should not be in jeopardy of losing a good education because of the years prior performances, may all it takes is one class to turn a district’s head around. The people portrayed in Kozol’s argument seem to not want to even see any light in helping these students succeed.

The last point that ties into students being mistreated by society is in chapter, Life on the Mississippi: East St. Louis, Illinois. Kozol writes about sewage back up and the school conditions in great depth in this chapter to convey the point of how students are being treated as third class citizens in some districts. Students are being pushed through a system that is showing them blatant disrespect. “Critics also willfully ignore the health conditions and the psychological disarray of children growing up in burnt- out houses, playing on contaminated land, and walking past acres of smoldering garbage on their way to school.” Students are no longer valued members of our society and by letting them live this way, we are doing them more harm then good.

Jonathan Kozol’s book, Savage Inequalities, speaks about the misfortune of students and the problems they face not only currently but in the future. The dilemma that our society has now is to step up to the plate and make sure our students are getting better care; not only in schools but at home. Students need to learn to value themselves and their education, as a society we need to answer this call.