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Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,086 Ratings  ·  586 Reviews
For two years, beginning in 1988, Jonathan Kozol visited schools in neighborhoods across the country, from Illinois to Washington D.C., and from New York to San Antonio. He spoke with teachers, principals, superintendents, and, most important, children. What he found was devastating. Not only were schools for rich and poor blatantly unequal, the gulf between the two extrem ...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 it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 30, 2007 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jun 25, 2008 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2008

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
Mar 18, 2008 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every American should be required to read this book.
Karan Bajaj
Jan 17, 2016 Karan Bajaj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up while researching for my book, since my protagonist grew up in the Bronx housing projects. But Savage Inequalities ended up meaning so much more, and led to a big Jonathan Kozol reading spree. Racial inequality, our apathy for the poor, all such concepts that seemed distant, became urgent and real for me. Having grown up in India, I have to admit, I didn't know this side of America, and I was struck deep in the gut by the stark description of the realities in the housing pr ...more
May 10, 2008 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The reason I became a teacher
Jun 01, 2007 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 15, 2007 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2014 Ariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: higher-education
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.
Jun 03, 2011 Cortney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
""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
May 29, 2008 Meen rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 01, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poc, own
This book is filled with research, court cases, and quotes from parents, students, and school administrators as well as perceptions from Kozol himself. I'm curious to know what (if anything) has changed in the past 25 years.

The U.S. espouses equality and yet so much evidence points to lack of equality in the public education system. People seem to be inheriting their opportunities rather than beginning on an equal playing field. Kozol examines both race and class and how suburban dwelling folk
Apr 09, 2015 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick Klagge
Jan 15, 2010 Nick Klagge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 23, 2012 Ismael Galvan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
May 13, 2008 Norma rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 29, 2015 Jillymack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great insight - horrible truth

Everyone with a child in school NEEDS to be aware of the differences in education that exist in the US. Only when we look with open eyes into the tragic abyss, may we become ready to sacrifice in order to change. Two teachers I know were influenced to teach in integrated schools because of this book. It is depressing, real, and also inspiring.
I read this book just after I finished high school. It was pretty shocking information for a naive young woman who had been mostly sheltered in a middle class, suburban upbringing all her life. I still think about the lessons I learned from this and other Kozol books frequently.
Bonnie E.
Apr 15, 2012 Bonnie E. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 18, 2011 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 liked it  ·  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
Nov 16, 2015 Felix rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Savage Inequalities", a non-fictional, kind of “informational memoir” by Jonathan Kozal. The book is about racism in America’s schools. Kozal was a teacher and experienced the racism in schools first-hand. He taught for a few years, left to pursue other interests in social work, then decided to go back to being with students in school by travelling to schools across America. He did not seem to have any inclination, at first, to discuss racism in schools. The book stems from Kozal’s “journey”. ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a slow, slow read - not because it's a long book, or because it's particularly dense, but because I could only read about half a chapter at a time before I got so angry that I had to take a walk. It's dated, obviously - 1991, with most of the data coming from the late 80s or before - but so many of the things it talks about are substantially unchanged in the past 24 years that it's still worth the read.

Short version: educational funding in the US is deeply, profoundly fucked up.

This par
The inequalities are indeed savage

A review of Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities

JDN 2456901 PDT 13:35.

The inequalities Kozol reports between different school districts are appalling; the poor districts barely have basic facilities—and often have crumbling buildings and obsolete textbooks—while the rich ones have basically whatever they want—even golf courses and swimming pools. The children in poor areas are subjected to environmental pollution because the regulations aren't enforced; they are
Jan 11, 2009 Christie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Russell Romney
Savage Inequalities is pretty hollow. While it does a very good job at expressing the inequality of America's school system in poor urban areas as compared to wealthier suburbs, it fails to elaborate prescriptively except to endlessly drone on about money. Kozol basically posits that throwing money at a poor school will make it better. He also describes the school system as purposefully racist and segregated. He never mentions that schools are served by the people living around it; of course peo ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-brazil
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.
Maddie Reichbart
May 10, 2015 Maddie Reichbart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book the author, Jonathan Kozol, visits some of the richest and poorest schools in a few different states. He describes a lot of the problems in the poor schools such as overcrowding, lack of books and supplies, and lack of teachers. Also, many of the poor school buildings are falling apart and have holes in the ceilings, or rooms that are unusable. Its very sad to hear the way he describes the schools dilapidated qualities and the rooms filled with 60 people that are only meant to hold ...more
Bobby Jenkins
Feb 11, 2016 Bobby Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Kozol paints a vivid picture of the income gap in urban vs suburban schools. His position that opportunity in our education system is not just influenced by the instruction received in the class, but also by the systematic and institutional inequalities that exist sets the scene for the modern day ed reform movement. Many of the questions he asks himself in the book are still relevant today. Does this really happen in America? How did things get so bad? What can we do to fix this? What about equ ...more
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Kozol 3 49 Sep 26, 2011 02:36PM  
  • Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom
  • Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life
  • "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity
  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
  • Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
  • We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools
  • The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons from America from a Small School in Harlem
  • Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade
  • The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children
  • There are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America
  • Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America
  • The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think And How Schools Should Teach
  • Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students
  • Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America
  • Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America
  • Among Schoolchildren
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...

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“Placing the burden on the individual to break down doors in finding better education for a child is attractive to conservatives because it reaffirms their faith in individual ambition and autonomy. But to ask an individual to break down doors that we have chained and bolted in advance of his arrival is unfair.” 12 likes
“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...” 11 likes
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