Jonathan Kozol's book, Savage Inequalities, addresses inequity in the American education system, with a specific focus on variations in funding in different school districts across the United States. Kozol noted that funding derived from local real estate taxes were the primary cause of the disparities. According to the book, schools situated in affluent neighborhoods posted better outcomes compared to those in low-income communities due to the higher taxes paid for schools. Consequently, schools in low-income neighborhoods consistently exhibited a need for additional funding. Properties in such neighborhoods were of less value, which reflected how much funding the schools received. Despite the reality of the disparity, Kozol noted that the government did not often play its role of bridging the existing gap and helping schools in low-income neighborhoods to scale up.
Kozol used the story of a student in a typically underfunded school district that lies in a low-income neighborhood. As the student prepared to sit final examinations, there was no access to proper resources, such as textbooks. Kozol's objective in providing a real-life example of the impact of school funding demonstrated the attendant implications of the disparity. Based on Kozol's perspective, a student that was disadvantaged by way of lacking enough learning resources was less likely to be admitted to college. Such students had to take a longer route to college, such as having to join the military first. Savage Inequalities also highlighted the lack of facilities poorer school districts. Most of the schools lacked laboratory equipment, while some had unmaintained playgrounds. Also, some schools in these districts were situated next to factories. Such environments, Kozol noted, were dangerous for the health of the learners. Further, schools in the disadvantaged communities acted as softer landing grounds for teachers punished for misconduct in schools located in more affluent neighborhoods.
Despite the success of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, systemic prejudice continued to gain a footing (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2018). In my opinion, Kozol's decision to investigate and write on the differences in the management of schools was to take stock of the gains made thus far. Segregation, in the years before the 1960s, was more open, with the "separate but equal" philosophy acting to create an unequal environment that disfavored minority communities. Also, two-and-half decades after the Coleman Report, Kozol must have felt that a review of the inequality levels in the U.S. education system was necessary (Downey & Condron, 2016). The motivations are evident from Kozol's principal argument. Savage Inequalities posited that a tremendous educational disparity existed between the rich and the poor. In most cases, the poor were composed of minority communities. Kozol noted that the inequalities in the education system intensified due to racial and ethnic prejudice.
Kozol's arguments are aware of the fact that efforts to improve the American education system remained impressive on paper while the reality was different. The conflict between reality and the efforts made perhaps reflects in his argument that, whereas the letter of the law prevented the explicit application of segregation, a mix of social and economic factors continued to replicate and even intensify the separation of American communities. He found that in reality, America had a tiered system of education, which prepared affluent students for economic prosperity, while keeping students from low-income families in a cycle of despair and poverty. Kozol traces the educational paths of students from disadvantaged communities, noting the challenges they face at each stage, from lack of study materials to schools acting as dumping grounds for errant teachers. His study focusses on the relationship between the socioeconomic status of neighborhoods and investment in schools, and the correlation between race and educational outcomes.
The method of research used helps to project the nuances and details of a setting. Focusing on the actual environment rather than conducting a statistical search helps to assign an emotional aspect to a study. Kozol conducted journalistic research. He provided a detailed account of the horrifying inequalities exhibited in the American education system. He did more than tell the readers what is believed to be evident already, that public schools located in poor districts did not have a fair chance towards excellence. Kozol draws the reader into the middle of the bleakness and squalor of real urban schools. Then, he reminds the reader that the law required children to attend such dreary school settings. Kozol also offers the reader a preview of the beautiful campuses situated in affluent suburbs and contrasts them with those in low-income neighborhoods. In essence, he paints a picture of contrasting settings and allows the reader to absorb the emotions. It is noteworthy that the stark differences act to raise a conversation on the role of all stakeholders.
Kozol's approach was to stimulate the emotions of the reader. As a way to anger his readers, Kozol exposed the challenges faced by schools and students, including insufficient textbooks, lack of classrooms, and inadequate teachers and other teaching materials. Besides describing the setting as he finds and experiences them, Kozol also uses statistics to put his arguments into perspective. For instance, he noted that three-quarters of children who did not make it through education were blacks (Kozol, 2012). The descriptors used in the book help to understand the disparities between schools in rural and urban areas. He noted that sometimes low-income communities had to pay higher taxes to improve their schools. Despite the extra effort, the needs of the schools arose from the socioeconomic needs of the cities, and the problems need to be addressed first at the community level.
There is a long tradition of systemic disparities in the education system, which builds on the socioeconomic backgrounds of learners. Kozol made several findings that confirmed his hypothesis that there existed an inequality in the American education system. In East St. Louis, Illinois, where he begins his study, Kozol finds a bleak portrait. Kozol does not focus solely on the school environment. Instead, he begins by providing a background of the city's socioeconomic status over the years. He found that at least one-third of the families inhabiting the city subsisted on less than $7,500 annually, while close to three-quarters of the city's buildings located on the main street were unoccupied. At the time of the study, 1,170 of the city's 1,400 employees had been laid off, while its garbage collection had been stopped for more than a year (Kozol, 2012). There was thus a direct correlation between the overall socioeconomic performance of neighborhoods and the conditions of schools.
The socioeconomic environment within which a public educational facility lay determines the level of support it gets even from the government. According to Kozol, the city of East St. Louis was not merely a backdrop but a character in the systemic breakdown of the educational system. East St. Louis was an industrial town, with Monsanto and Pfizer's chemical plants dotting its length and breadth. The city was in debt, a situation that threatened the closure of critical public amenities and services. Public health was in a deplorable state, and the town recorded high rates of fetal death, infant mortality, and premature births. The city's crumbling infrastructure, characterized by broken sewerage systems, led to the risk of disease and ultra-high lead content in the soil. Another key finding for Kozol was that East St. Louis was 98% black (Kozol, 2012). This initial setting must have created a perfect springboard for Kozol to dig deeper into the issue. From the outset, he found that inadequate school systems coexisted with poor neighborhoods.
Minority communities have been the victims of neglect as far as funding and support for schools is concerned. In his next stop, Kozol found a direct demonstration of inequality in the education system. There were stark differences between the school conditions in affluent neighborhoods as compared to the impoverished ones. Wealthier neighborhoods like Winnetka had good infrastructure and adequate resources. Inadequacies in the schools characterized North Lawndale. Here, inadequacies reflected the impoverished state of the communities. Hence, he noted that impoverished neighborhoods had high rates of crime. There were also higher chances of children dropping out of school, while the transition rate to college was extremely minimal. At Mary Mcleod Bethune School, Kozol found was faced with the reality of the correlation between race and educational performance (Kozol, 2012). In school, all of the students categorized as having learning disabilities were black. Such statistics helped to build on the hypothesis that there is a direct correlation between the dominant race and the level of government funding to schools in communities.
The disparities in the educational settings were not by chance but instead designed as such. Kozol found that the idea of magnet schools prompted parents to take their children the better-performing schools. Whereas this approach would benefit the specific individual and help them to escape poverty, it was not accessible to all. Most of the high-performing schools were the better-resourced ones based in the affluent neighborhoods. Consequently, the underfunded schools became even more drained because they had nothing to motivate the stakeholders. Besides, Kozol found that affluent areas invested more money per child, which set the students on a path to success. The system that required funding of schools through real estate taxes disfavored schools located in poor neighborhoods as the poor homeowners received less subsidy back than wealthier communities. The systemic process towards disparity in the education system was equally subtle as it was open. For instance, the idea of having different curricula for suburban versus urban schools in the guise of job skills orientation perpetuated a stereotypical narrative that painted students from poor backgrounds as incapable.
Inequalities in the education system did not restrict to some parts of the country. In New York City, the strain on infrastructure as evidence of unfair competition. Education inequality in the urban areas, Kozol found, reflected in three areas (Kozol, 2012). Foremost, there were differences in educational resource distributions. Schools in the inner-cities had limited access to learning resources compared to schools in the suburbs. Secondly, there were stack differences in the quality of teaching. Errant teachers in suburban schools were often taken to inner-city schools, demonstrating how lowly-regards such schools were. Lastly, schools in the more impoverished neighborhoods had less capacity compared to their populations, an indicator of neglect from the government. Inner-city neighborhoods such as the Bronx had a high student to teacher ratios, lacked enough books, and had no space to hold extracurricular activities. Unsurprisingly, such districts hosted minority communities such as Hispanics and blacks.
The most credible findings of Kozol's study were the correlations between socioeconomic settings of an area and the level of investment in schools and educational programs. The performance of schools and students from schools located in poor neighborhoods would automatically be below that of schools in more affluent areas. Part of this relationship may stem from the decision to design magnate schools, where parents had an option to take learners to bett...
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