In his essay “Still Separate, Still Unequal,” Jonathan Kozol gives us a very detailed presentation of the emergent trend of racial segregation within America’s urban and inner-city schools. Kozol provides substantiation to his claim based on his research and observations of different school environments, its teachers and students, and personal interviews with them. It is very clear that color of education in America is not green like the dollar bill; it is white if you’re rich and brown if you’re poor. What’s more atrocious is how the government of the people gives more educational benefits to the rich and less to the poor. I cringed when I look at the statistics Kozol provided; this claim of segregation becomes an eye-opener to tax payers and the people who elected our government officials. Based on the data he provided, the vast “majority of enrollment in most of the public schools in our major cities is black or Hispanic: 79% in Chicago, 94% in Washington, D.C., 82% in Saint Louis, 96% in Detroit, 84% in Los Angeles, up to 95% in New York”, to name a few(Colombo 220). One would think that maybe this is happening in Alabama or Mississippi but not in New York, Illinois, Michigan and Los Angeles. It is more discouraging to hear from black teachers that if you happen to be in a major city and would like to see the segregation in action, just look for a school named after Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. And on top of that according to Kozol’s research, Caucasian children living in the public school districts that enroll blacks and Hispanics as majority will often opt-out of attending that particular school and instead enroll in a predominately white school. Kozol also argued that students of the minority basically are limited in what they can achieve from a very young age because of financial status. He states that wealthy individuals are able to educate their toddlers in very extensive programs before they even enter kindergarten. By the time the students are expected to take “high-stakes tests” in 3rd grade, these wealthy students have had far more education than minority students who are expected to take the same standard exams. He is right on target when he mentioned that money makes the difference of whether or not a parent can afford to send their child to a private school that costs $30,000 a year, or an inner city urban public school down the street.
But the shortage of money does not come only to the poor families. It is also very true for poor state and local governments. Kozol augmented this claim by describing the differences in urban and inner-city school conditions and how money can buy clean bathrooms, nice well-equipped libraries and hire art teachers. Each factor that he describes seems to further indicate that racial segregation is present. The differences in teacher salaries between city schools and the suburban “white” schools plays another important role in Kozol’s claim. The more money the teacher gets paid, the greater the spending allowance per student, which unintentionally places the white student a step ahead and creates yet another barrier between the different student populations.
According to Kozol during his interview with Dennis Wholey on This Is America show which aired in 2005, he visited “60 schools covered by 30 districts spanning 11 states over the last five years” (Wholey). During his school visits, he documented detailed description of the school, the classroom, and the law-and how it trapped inner-city students into the same, poverty-stricken life they were born into. Through segregation and poverty, these poor students tackle a school system designed to deny them an education, a sense of well-being, and hope for a brighter future. A school system mandated and supported by the government who blames its own failures to its schools. . During his visits, he sees obvious patterns that strengthen his claim why predominantly minority schools always seem to let their students down. One thing that is evident in all the schools he visits is that he “simply never sees white children” (Colombo 222). Even though the presence of white children does not necessarily indicate the presence of experienced teachers and useful resources at a school, letting minority children go to schools where all their classmates are not black and brown would reduce the damage done to them. He also visited many minority schools that were forced by the government to take in so many students that, in order to school them all, they have to improvise their class hours and venues. He also mentioned classrooms that based on a drill-based program using a Skinnerian curriculum where one teacher quoted “I can do this with my dog” (Colombo 230). This is so unfair. How can these inner city minority schools implement drill-based programs, when other suburban wealthier schools are focusing on hands-on, engaging curriculums? Students at the high school level are being limited in what they can achieve as well. For example, Kozol supports this argument by talking to students who want to take certain classes, but are instead forced to take other classes that will benefit the businesses and factories who are looking for cheap labor in their community who already employs their parents. This is sending the wrong message to high school students that society expects them to only have certain careers, and limited choices regarding their own future.
What did our government leaders do in response to these inequalities? Rather than using the power of the federal government to fix the funding or infrastructure between wealthier and more impoverished districts, the government has implemented the “No Child Left Behind Law, which requires students to take many standardized tests than before, and reduces resources to schools whose students perform poorly” (Wholey). I agree with him that constant testing would not make a student smart. Especially if that is the measurement in order to be advanced to the next grade. Preparation at an earlier age is what makes them successful in school. Overall, his hard work provides more than enough evidence to that fact that minority children have been treated unfairly. Teachers have failed to properly educate them. Schools and our government education department have failed to provide adequate resources and create an environment in which they can succeed. As Kozol goes on and on to prove his point by working closely with the schools, students, and teachers, he did not offer any solutions to this problem. However, his work is key part of a national conversation that has driven politicians to take notice of the current education system. Arguments such as this one surely were a driving force in President Obama's signing of the White House’s initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans on July 26, 2012. My question is, why just African Americans? What about the Latinos and Asians? Is this just another reelection propaganda or do we really need more than a decade to fix the color of education in America?
Colombo, Gary. Rereading America: Cultural Context for Critical Thinking and Writing. Eighth Ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. Print Wholey, Dennis. This is America with Dennis Wholey. Thisisamerica.net, 2005 Web. 05 Sep 2012.