A Baltimore Sun education reporter writes about a talk she had with noted education reformer Jonathan Kozol, author of “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” and many other books on the unequal state of education for America’s inner-city children. Mr. Kozol’s indictment is sobering:
Kozol quoted a recent speech by President Obama who said high school dropout rates have tripled since the early 1980s — when, Kozol says, the schools began to “massively resegregate” and Brown vs. Board of Ed was effectively dismantled. He says black and Latino children are more segregated now than they have been since 1968, the year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
“I’m utterly out of fashion these days in that I actually believe Dr. King was right,” said Kozol, 72, who doesn’t use a computer and had hand-written notes for the address he was about to deliver to more than 100 people in a university auditorium. He says segregated schools convey the message to the children there that “you have been sequestered in this institution so you will not contaminate the education of white people.” Children get this message from the condition of the buildings (often “squalid surroundings”) and from dispirited teachers who have to “give up joy and creativity to become drill sergeants for the state.” (Kozol went on a hunger strike in 2007 to protest No Child Left Behind.) He says the most successful African-Americans he’s seen — including Obama and Kurt Schmoke (a student of Kozol’s once upon a time at Yale) — did not have to attend segregated inner-city schools.