Author, activist opens up at Stark

Rebekah Mosora

Jonathan Kozol, author of The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, spoke last night at the Stark Campus.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Jonathan Kozol compares himself to Winnie the Pooh and likes to read children’s books at bedtime.

The teacher, activist and award-winning author shared his personal side and discussed his opinions of the American public school system in a presentation at Kent State’s Stark Campus last night.

Kozol talked about the resurgence of discrimination in America’s public schools, which is the topic of his latest book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

“This is one of the most troubling and reactionary moments in our national history,” Kozol said. “Segregation of blacks and Hispanics in our schools has returned with a vengeance.”

Kozol talked about experiences and observations. He also listed statistics to show the segregation. In one South Bronx school system, of 11,000 students in the elementary and middle schools, only 26 of them are white.

“I’m not too good at arithmetic … but that is a segregation rate of 99.8 percent,” Kozol said.

In the poorest districts, about $11,000 is spent per year on a child, Kozol said. In the richest suburbs, the number doubles to $22,000.

Kozol described the difference between two types of schools, one poor and one wealthy. Wealthy schools have beautiful lunchrooms with salad bars, hexagonal tables and terraces; other schools have basement cafeterias where children are herded in.

Kozol called these conditions “state-authorized degradation of these children.”

In addition to pointing out the differences in the schools’ conditions, he discussed the new laws emphasizing test performance.

Poor schools receive cuts in state funding if they do not meet testing standards. To guarantee test success, teachers are often given scripted lesson plans geared to the state standards of education.

Many educators and future educators came to hear Kozol speak. Heidi Deibel, junior middle childhood education major, agrees with Kozol’s opinions.

“I was curious about what he had to say because I read a few of his books,” Deibel said.

Kozol’s advice to future educators and students in general is conviction in personal beliefs.

“Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and stand up for your beliefs,” Kozol said. “Anyone I know who has lost a job by standing up for morality has quickly ended up with a better one.”

Contact regional campus reporter Rebekah Mosora at [email protected].