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The United States public school education system has come to cheat city-residing children from poor families out of their future. The classrooms of this minority group in the society are characterized by a shortage of equipment, staff and money. In addition, racism has become widespread in the public schools across inner cities and less affluent suburbs. As a result, innocent American children end up being deprived of their right of an equal opportunity to education. These are the observations of Jonathan Kozol, in his book, "Savage Inequalities", which he compiled after touring numerous public schools for two years, and speaking to students and teachers among other stake holders in the education sector. These discrepancies, according to Kozol, can be attributed to indifference in the administration of property taxes, the emotive racism issue and the unending quarrel between state and local authorities (Kozol, 1992).
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From the property tax perspective, districts, which are poor, received less funding compared to their rich counterparts. The explanation of this is that, the funding is proportional to the respective district’s tax contribution. In this regard, the only circumstance under which they can receive extra funding is through more taxation. To illustrate this, Kozol gives an example of a public classroom in Chicago whose funding was $90 000 less the amount received by a New Trier High classroom (Kozol, 1992). Foundation Program has been described by Kozol as a possible solution to this taxation problem. This approach is meant to set a threshold funding of every district to safeguard the poorer ones from getting too little. However, its impacts were far from being reflected on the ground, as evidenced by the picture of the education arena presented in this book.
The environment, under which students in this school thrive as conceived by the book, is precarious. In one of his conversation with the students when collecting material for this book, Kozol relatesthe story of a teenage boy whose sister had been raped and murdered afterwards. To emphasize how such a callous act might be an issue of little or no concern in this schooling environment, this young boy had forgotten when the incidence took place. Needless to say, many other young girls must have as well been raped and murdered since then. When rain falls, these schools have no measures to caution them from rain water, and as such, they turn into swamps and have to be closed. It even gets worse when the sewerage systems back up in the school’s cafeteria and kitchens. As a result, health problems are prevalent among the students (Kozol, 1992).
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If, through some of the revelations in this book, Kozol intended to make the reader angry, he was successful. In chapter three, the poignant racism issue is portrayed through a revelation that a funding towards education of a black or Hispanic child is perceived as a poor investment. In these public schools, classrooms have been classified along racial lines. One classroom is predominantly white with one or two blacks while at the same time, there is a ‘special’ classroom of blacks. According to him, if this is not racism, then he does not appreciate the meaning of this particular term. A shocking report by the State Commissioner of Education revealed that three in every four black students do not complete their high school education within the traditional four year time frame. This, in my own view, can be attributed to this rampant racism in public schools.
In a nutshell, Kovol has successfully demonstrated that the American society’s aspect of segregation along racial line has narrowed down to the public school system. Reading through “Savage Inequalities", one feels agitated by the widespread racism in the contemporary American public school system. The condition under which minority black and Hispanic young and innocent children are acquiring an education makes a person to feel sympathetic about them. Indeed, if this was the solle motive of writing the book, then Kovol got it. Although some of his examples in the book are quite repetitive in terms of the message they are intended to deliver, this book underlines the importance of an equal opportunity in education (Kozol, 1992).
However, in writing this book, Kovol dwells so much on rather insignificant issues. For instance, he talks of an inadequate supply of sports gear, basic furniture and computers. Although having them is good, these, in my view, are not pre-requests in the learning process. In addition, while Kozol’s argument on racism might be true, this issue can be viewed from another angle—the aspect of affluence. The phenomenon whereby poor districts are predominantly occupied by the minority blacks and Hispania is an aspect of the American society which cannot be entirely blamed on the education system. Reading through this book, one gets an insight of the operation of American magnet schools. Kozol notes, factually, that these schools have served to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. True, students from poor city families are not informed on the application criteria of joining these schools. In addition, these schools have now developed a business approach in the American public education system.
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In conclusion, “Savage Inequalities” is an impartial book which sheds much-needed light on the American public education system. True, Kovol has employed his writing passion and brilliance to bring forth a work that is greatly supporter by facts and highly effective. Through reporting numerous interviews with students and teachers among others, this book connects the reader to what is happening on the ground. Kovol is a highly persuasive writer and uses this book—not to promote hatred towards the American public education system—but to let the truth be known. Although this book was written two decades back, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get an insight into the American public education system (Kozol, 1992).
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