Does Inequality in School System Funding Contribute to the Cycle of Poverty?

Topics: High school, Poverty, Social class Pages: 8 (3224 words) Published: December 5, 2010
In Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol describes the conditions of several of America's public schools. Between 1988 and 1990, Kozol visited schools in approximately 30 neighborhoods and found that there was a wide disparity in the conditions between the schools in the poorest inner-city communities and schools in the wealthier suburban communities. How can there be such huge differences within the public school system of a country which claims to provide equal opportunity for all? It becomes obvious to Kozol that many poor children begin their young lives with an education that is far inferior to that of the children who grow up in wealthier communities. They are not given an equal opportunity from the start. He writes, "Denial of 'the means of competition' is perhaps the single most consistent outcome of the education offered to poor children in the schools of our large cities . . . " (p. 83). Although all children are required to attend school until age 16, there are major differences in schools and they appear to be drawn along lines of race and social class. Kozol examines how the unequal funding of schools relates to social class divisions, institutional and environmental racism, isolation and alienation of students and staff within poor schools, the physical decay of buildings, and the health conditions of students. All of these contribute to a psychological disarray of the young people who recognize that the ruling class views them as expendable and not worth investing its money or resources.  Kozol's focus of this book is to examine urban school districts, which are severely segregated by race and class. They are overwhelmingly nonwhite and very poor, which contrasts sharply with the wealthy overwhelmingly white suburban schools right next to them (p. 74). He limits his selections to poor inner-city schools rather than include examples of all poor schools because he feels that they best exhibit racial segregation and social class divisions. He notes that even when schools have a "diverse" student population, segregation occurs within the school through special education programs or vocational tracking.   Although Kozol does not directly address it, the center of the problems that affect these schools is a capitalist system that requires the reproduction of the divisions of labor (Bowles). Schools provide the training to meet this requirement through the tracking of students into the roles that they will fulfill in our economic system. The ruling class attempts to make sure that there are an appropriate number of people to fit these jobs. Capitalists (i.e., business owners) not only want an obedient workforce, but a surplus of workers at each level so that they can pay the lowest wage possible (Spring, p. 24). They will seek out and encourage programs that train people for such jobs. Who should be assigned each role? Kozol does point out that wealthy white people want to make sure their children get the "good" jobs and live in the "good" (less polluted) areas. They benefit from the divisions of labor and will use their influence to maintain government policies that ensure their positions. When Kozol discussed funding inequities among school districts with a group of affluent students in Rye, New York, one student exhibited these beliefs when she said she had no reason to care about fixing the problems of school funding because she failed to see how it could benefit her (p. 126). She indeed recognized how the class divisions were to her advantage. Why would she want to change that?  The policies that the ruling class creates to maintain their place on the social class ladder inherently lead to the continuation of the cycle of poverty, social class divisions, and environmental and institutional racism. Kozol provides examples of this, which range from the location of nonwhite, poor people on and near toxic waste sites (p. 8-12), to blaming problems of the inner city on the people within that system (they are unable...
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