Reviews

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, by Jonathan Kozol

jackieeh's review against another edition

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4.0

Read it for work. Got really angry. Got really sad. Got really frustrated about reality. Got excited to start changing my miniscule corner of the world.

the_naptime_reader's review against another edition

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3.0

A worthy read if you are interested in learning more about school financing and inequality in education. The book however could benefit from the creation of a revised and expanded edition. It is now 20 years old and while it is interesting to see how little has changed in terms of closing the achievement gap between rich and poor and African-American or Hispanic and White in the US. The interesting thing is that he discusses how schools are beginning to move away from local control. 20 years later this is a much more apparent movement through the creation of No Child Left Behind.

I enjoyed the first two chapters the most and felt he got his point across clearly. The he spends four more chapters beating it into your brain. I didn't need the beating. I have experienced these disparities first hand. My high school was mentioned repeatedly in the book for having money and funds that create an outstanding education. My two years in Philadelphia with Teach for America let me see and experience the other side first hand.

People might read this and think oh this book is 20 years old, it couldn't be this bad anymore.
At my school in Philadelphia (just like this book):
-the track team practiced in the hallways of the building due to lack of athletic space
-students shared textbooks, not every kid had a set to use for the year
-the bathrooms stunk badly
-the heating system had only one swithc on or off creating 90 and 100 degree days in my 4th floor classroom in the middle of the winter, where evry window was open
-no a/c meant the same unbearable conditions in summer
-teachers financed supplies largely out of pocket
-There was one computer lab but spent most of its time locked and off limits to students
-there were no lockerooms for students to change for gym
-the class size could be quite large at times (33 the legal allowance) but I started my first year with 39 on my roster, not enough desks for all in the room. Once the 8th graders began dropping out, gettnig kicked out, etc. I dropped into the mid to upper 20s.

the list goes on and on.

This book just made me said. Another 20 years have gone by and there has not been great systemic change. More generations of children have grown up in inadequate schools.

If you would rather skip the book at least read his most concise explanation of school funding on pages 207-210. It very clearly explains the problems with the current method of funding.

A quote from Kozol (pg 177)-"...the rigging of the game and the acceptance, which is nearly universal, of uneven playing fields reflect a dark unspoken sense that other people's children are of less inherent value than our own. Now and then, in private, affluent suburbanites concede that certain aspects of the game may be a trifle rigged to their advantage. 'Sure, it's a bit unjust,' they may concede, 'but that's reality and that's the way the game is played. In any case,' they sometimes add in a refrain that we have heard now many tmes, 'there's no real evidence that spending money makes much difference in the outcome of a child's education. We have it. So we spend it. But it's probably a secondary matter. Other factors--family and background--seem to be a great deal more important.' In these ways they fend off the dangers of disturbing introspection; and this, in turn, enables them to give their children something far more precious that the simple gift of pedagogic privilege. They give them uncontaminated satisfaction in their victories. Their children learn to shut from mind the possibility that they are winners in an unfair race, and they seldom let themselves lose sleep about the losers."

jgnolfo's review against another edition

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3.0

3.5/5

Known as a classic in the Education Inequality genre, I finally tackled Savage Inequalities. It definitely deserves its classic status as it lays the foundation for arguments saying that education inequality is worse off than before Brown v. Board. BY A LOT

Synopsis: SA answers the forever-asked question: “Why are some schools poor and crappy while some schools are rich and successful?” Kozol makes it look easy with an extremely concise account of the racism, Social Darwinism, and misinformation that keeps urban (and sometimes heavily rural) schools at rock bottom.

Review: SA is a ground-breaking text for education inequality. It explains the concepts perfectly for those who know virtually nothing about property taxes and state formulas. Its six case studies are written with precision and grace as he chronicles the lives of innocent children trapped in schools because they happened to be born in a poor area of town. My heart broke several times hearing what actual kids said about their educations. How they deserved it. How they had it coming. How they don’t need more if they are going to work at McDonalds the rest of their life. It was devastating.

The only reason that this lost some stars is because of its age. It may be a classic but it is old and the research is outdated. If anyone knows of more modern (from 2010-present) nonfiction tackling an introduction to education inequality, let me know. I want to recommend this to everyone for its concepts, however, I fear the new data and new policy may be misinforming some readers. Don’t get me wrong, inequality still exists (it’s most likely worse), but up-to-date data is needed in this subject. Who knows, maybe I will add to this area of research in the future!

mtk_reads's review against another edition

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5.0

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 part in particular stuck with me - Kozol is quoting O.Z. White, talking about educational funding in San Antonio and Rodriguez vs. San Antonio ISD:

"To a real degree, what is considered 'adequate' or 'necessary' or 'sufficient' for the poor in Texas is determined by the rich or relatively rich; it is decided in accord with their opinion of what children of the poor are fitted to become, and what their social role should be."

And the rich get richer, and the poor get screwed.

acinthedc's review against another edition

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4.0

An interesting look at struggling public schools.

asehulster414's review against another edition

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5.0

This was recommended to me in grad school a few years ago. Despite being outdated in some terminology and adjustments for inflation, it's heartbreaking how true this remains and how little has been done to remedy education inequality. I plan on following this up with books on the topic by people of marginalized backgrounds for additional perspectives.

courtneyg's review against another edition

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3.0

I did not complete this book - I maybe got through 75% of it before I just found it completely redundant. I absolutely love the information provided, and I learned so much about the dire and disgusting conditions of urban education settings, especially how we subject students of color to these conditions for learning when just down the street, white students are flourishing with their new Macs, gym equipment, textbooks, etc. Definitely a book I will reference many times in the future when researching and writing about the sociology of education, but the book got very repetitive after a while and could have been condensed (each chapter is about a different city that experiences basically the same horrors of systematic racism in education, which is unfortunate and horrible but the redundancy was unbearable at times).

turnip11's review against another edition

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challenging informative sad tense medium-paced

4.25


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avafrankovsky's review

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no rating cuz i read this for class

jschumann3's review against another edition

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4.0

An eye-opening book that will make you alternately sad, angry, incredulous and hopeful about the American public school system. Kozol graphically details the plight of our urban school districts, and the intricate and seemingly inextricable web of poverty and ignorance into which these children have been thrown.

Kozol presents a convincing argument for overhauling the current public school financing system, and promoting desegregation, all while remaining realistic about the possible obstacles, pitfalls, and public reaction.

This book isn't for the faint of heart; the state of many of these schools will shock and appall you. Too bad - read it anyway.