Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools
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Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  11,026 ratings  ·  521 reviews
Jonathan Kozol traveled from the most blighted neighborhoods of Chicago to the urban wreckage of Camden, New Jersey; from the ghetto suburbs of Detroit to inner-city San Antonio; East St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. Everywhere, he discovered separate systems of public schools, with the children of America's poor condemned to schools that are underfunded, understaffed, phys...more
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Published March 19th 2010 by Brilliance Audio (first published 1991)
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May 09, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Americans
Two cases of mothers lying about where they reside in order to get their young children into better school districts have made news recently. In Ohio in January, Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in county jail and three years probation for enrolling her children in the Copley-Fairlawn School District rather than Akron, where she lived. "School officials said she was cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it," said an ABC article. "T...more

Is this just going to be Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Education Chapter?


Answer to the question above: yes.

Look, Mr. Kozol, I'm not anti-expose, but I hate being confronted with a tragic and intractable problem to which the author presents no viable solution. Sure, it's important - and crucial - to acknowledge the inequities, to publicize them. But Kozol's hortatory exclamations of "yes, let's equalize the money" do little, if anything at all, toward buil...more
A heart-wrenching jeremiad about the sorry state of minority schools in this country. Kozol has stated in interviews that we are worse off (both in conditions and segregation) than we were before Brown vs. Board of Education. That seems hyperbolic, but after reading his observations here, it's hard to argue. A blistering attack on the use of local property taxes to fund schools, it's also a sobering testament to the intractability of problems of class and race in America. Should be required read...more
Every American should be required to read this book.
Jun 01, 2007 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: persons interested in social justice and education issues in america
A college professor of mine who i greatly admire once labeled Jonathan Kozol as a modern day prophet. The idea is that he is a person willing to say things that most of us don't want to hear. And that he is willing to say it starkly. Its true. Kozol does an excellent job in this book talking about a number of failing school systems in the country, and then comparing them to thriving (and well-funded) school systems very close by. I read the book a long time ago, but it still resonates, and i st...more
Everyone knows that this is a masterpiece. If you ever found yourself trying to argue with someone who believes that money does not matter in schools and that urban schools need tough leaders to getthemselves together, then read this book. It tears this argument into scraps. Also it helps to debunk the myth that Hollywood sells of dedicated teachers who work magic in the classroom. Schools need resources like buildings and classroom materials. Teachers just need to be not evil before anything el...more
""But [no one] can tell us what it means to a child to leave his often hellish home and go to a school -his hope for a transcendent future-that is literally falling apart."- Jonathan Kozol

If I could choose one book to give to people who seem to be oblivious to the ways in which racial inequalities are often put into place from a very, very early age, it would be this one. I'm often dumbfounded when I encounter someone who honestly believes that every has the same opportunities in life in America...more
May 29, 2008 Meen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: It should be required reading for every lawmaker at every level of government.
Recommended to Meen by: James Lee
As it did for some other folks who have posted reviews, this book cemented my desire to go into sociology. It is a devastating critique of our educational system and how it perpetuates inequality, keeping poor children from achieving their potential and locking them into poverty. This book was written almost 20 years ago, and rather than improving the quality of education for ALL children in impoverished school districts, we now give vouchers to allow the "good" children to leave them, creating...more
Nick Klagge
This is one of the most compelling books I've ever read. Written in 1991, it is Kozol's account of the state of inner-city public schools at the time, and sadly, I believe the analysis to be practically unchanged in the intervening twenty years. It was especially meaningful for me as I try to move to a job in charter school management, both reinforcing the importance of the work and complicating my view of the problem and its solution.

Kozol does not pull any punches, and at times this book was q...more
I first read Kozol's Savage Inequalities in a college education course, and I remember that what I read left me confused, sickened, and hoping for change. That was about 10 years ago--and Kozol's book was written 10 years before that. The first thing to remember and consider when picking up this book--however challenging it may be--is that it is 20 years old. I think things have changed for urban schools in a lot of ways. Not completely, not entirely, not "equally"--but changes have been made.

Ismael Galvan

Before reading “Savage Inequalities,” if someone came up to me and said, “Systemic racial segregation continues to exist in our public schools today,” I would have considered this an exaggeration. We’ve come a long way from the days of “colored” bathrooms and drinking fountains. Reading “Savage Inequalities” has challenged this notion of mine.

Kozol takes an in-depth look at how the public school system in America, despite common belief, has remained largely separate and unequal. But his book isn...more
May 13, 2008 Norma rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in education/social justice
Kozol presents a strong argument for why inequalities exist in the public schooling system in this country, basically focusing on issues with money (or lack thereof for inner-city schools) and race (i.e. discrimination and lack of true integration across the board). His evidence rings true and the book is filled with scenario after scenario of inner-city vs. suburban school and the extent to which resources differ. Want to know what I find truly scary? In Dallas, the Catholic system functions as...more
Bonnie E.
Savage Inequalities is not a book that you read for pleasure. It is a book that needs to be read, though, for an understanding of the disparity that exists in the quality of education provided to children in America. Kozol's thesis is powerfully presented via a journalistic, fact-based approach which provides gut wrenching views of the conditions that so many of our children face as they try to attain an education. The book was written 20 years ago, but from everything that I see and know to be...more
I was assigned this book in college for a course called Prophecy. It changed my life, but I didn't know it at the time. The next semester, I took Women's Studies, then I became a sexual assault advocate, and then the world began to come into focus. Everyone in America should be required to read this book before they graduate high school. Injustice is all around us, but I began to live my life more meaningfully when I could recognize it. I started to finally unravel myself when I followed my comp...more
Sep 23, 2007 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: future educators, parents who have kids in public schools, and anyone who pays taxes
What did I learn? I learned that without realizing it my tax money is going to creating a segregated system of schooling with unrealistic standards applied to all people's, and held especially high for those who have the least help.

I was especially struck by the statement that Kozol made in regard to testing scores. There is no way for there to be an ever expanding pie of "above average". In order for there to be more above average students there must be students who are performing poorly enough...more
I read about a fourth of this book but just couldn't finish it. The author painted such a hopeless picture of America's urban schools. Maybe, since I'm an educator, this picture did not surprise me and so I felt like education can still occur in hopeless conditions (because I've witnessed it!) However, I think that everyone who thinks that teachers are to blame for our students inability to achieve greatness as seen in other countries should read this book for a dose of reality.
This was an amazing book that opened my eyes up to startling inequalities in the public education system. It may be 20 years old, but it feels incredibly relevant. I'm now more aware of existing educational segregation in my own community and in places I travel, and am seriously considering a career in education policy because of this book. Terrific muckraking journalism, wholeheartedly recommend it.
This book makes me simultaneously want to scream and sit down to write a revised education budget.

A quarter century later and you *know* none of this has changed for the better.

We should make this required reading in high school... Or at least in the high schools where students can read.
Everyone in the US really ought to read this book.
i really really want to read this.
The reason I became a teacher
"The perceived objective was a more "efficient "ghetto school or one with greater "input "from the ghetto parents or more "choices" for the ghetto children. The fact of ghetto education as a permanent American reality appeared to be accepted." [pg. 4]

"The states is in the business here selling hopes to people who have none." [pg. 16]

"The nightmare to me is that they never... know what life is like for children here The nightmare isn't in their heads. It's a real place. There are children living...more
I loved this book. However, it made me cry within the first few pages. I REALLY hope that the racial and income inequalities found by the author in 1990 with in public school systems, is not currently found. It worries me that it may still be out there.

Things Kozol found that I find shocking --
he studied schools with minority populations over 90%, many schools had counter-parts within miles that did not have such a high minority population.
* Raw sewage seeping into schools
* River of water runni...more
Andrew Gounardes
I can't believe I didn't know about this book until recently. It opened my eyes to an education system that I already knew existed but didn't know how bad it was. Kozol looks at several different school districts across the country, poor and rich alike, and explores how there are gross inequities in our public education system. Poor cities and schools have decrepit facilities, outdated books, and less than stellar teachers while rich cities and schools have educational resources fit for the King...more
This was probably the most depressing book I have ever read, but also the most necessary. It's 20 years old, so I'd be interested to see if there has been any improvement at the schools he discusses, but the fact that this was happening at any time after Brown vs. Board of Education is so discouraging to put it mildly. There is absolutely no excuse for kids having to learn in buildings that are literally falling down around them - I don't care what color skin they have. If we really want to be k...more
This is an important book. It does a great job of giving a detailed descripitio of the spectrum of school quality in our country. Of course it is disheartening to see the inequality and the lack of leadership in poor urban schools, but what is even more disturbing is the limited change that has occurred since the book was published in 1991. The one problem with the book (and it's a big one) is that Kozol spends the whole time showing the funding disparaties between poor and rich school districts...more
I was talking to my roommate about the fact the book is over 20 years old by now. It makes me wonder what has changed...then I remember the year I spent in a classroom in one of the most under served schools in one of the largest school districts in the country, and I was righteously indignant all over. I think we fail to see that if we don't all invest in the future of children-(be they "ours" or not, because the reality is that ALL children are our children)-we all lose.

We will lose in the ec...more
Based on research from 1989 to 1991, Kozol paints a vivid picture of public schools in America. He focuses primarily on poor inner city schools and their wealthy suburban counterparts. Kozol contends that poor children are cheated out of a future due to the appalling standards (lack of funds, not enough teachers, overcrowding), and believes racial segregation is alive and well in America contributing to these conditions.

Kozol does a good job exposing the poverty and decrepit condition with first...more
Mary Anne
Nov 26, 2012 Mary Anne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary Anne by: Deanna
This was a chilling book to read. There is so much to be upset about with this book. It may be over two decades old, but I think the content is still sadly applicable to today's schools and schooling, and I think that's especially compelling when you consider that, again, the book is two decades old. How do we make schools better? Have we really desegregated public schools? Does money improve education and schooling? Who says that money doesn't improve schooling, and what does wealth have to do...more
Julie Suzanne
Although very well written, I had a hard time getting through this book in the beginning because a narrative of the author seemed so contrived and fake that I didn't have any faith in the author's credibility. He begins by recounting a time when he read poems by Robert Frost and Langston Hughes to 4th graders who read at a second grade level. My first reaction was incredulity, as this seemed like the least likely way to get kids interested in poetry (his initial intent). Shel Silverstein and his...more
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Kozol 3 44 Sep 26, 2011 02:36PM  
  • Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom
  • "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity
  • The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom
  • Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life
  • Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
  • There are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America
  • The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think And How Schools Should Teach
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America
  • We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools
  • American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare
  • Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom
  • The Working Poor: Invisible in America
  • When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor
  • Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students By Their Brains
  • Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students
  • The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future
Jonathan Kozol is a non-fiction writer, educator, and activist best known for his work towards reforming American public schools. Upon graduating from Harvard, he received a Rhodes scholarship. After returning to the United States, Kozol became a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, until he was fired for teaching a Langston Hughes poem. Kozol has held two Guggenheim Fellowships, has twice been a...more
More about Jonathan Kozol...
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America Letters to a Young Teacher Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America Ordinary Resurrections

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“Research experts want to know what can be done about the values of poor segregated children; and this is a question that needs asking. But they do not ask what can be done about the values of the people who have segregated these communities. There is no academic study of the pathological detachment of the very rich...” 8 likes
“There is a belief advanced today, and in some cases by conservative black authors, that poor children and particularly black children should not be allowed to hear too much about these matters. If they learn how much less they are getting than rich children, we are told, this knowledge may induce them to regard themselves as "victims," and such "victim-thinking," it is argued, may then undermine their capacity to profit from whatever opportunities may actually exist. But this is a matter of psychology-or strategy-and not reality. The matter, in any case, is academic since most adolescents in the poorest neighborhoods learn very soon that they are getting less than children in the wealthier school districts. They see suburban schools on television and they see them when they travel for athletic competitions. It is a waste of time to worry whether we should tell them something they could tell to us. About injustice, most poor children in American cannot be fooled.” 6 likes
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