"The nation needs to be confronted with the crime that we're committing and the promises we are betraying. This is a book about betrayal of the young, who have no power to defend themselves. It is not intended to make readers comfortable."Over the past several years, Jonathan Kozol has visited nearly 60 public schools. Virtually everywhere, he finds that conditions have grown worse for inner-city children in the 15 years since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. First, a state of nearly absolute apartheid now prevails in thousands of our schools. The segregation of black children has reverted to a level that the nation has not seen since 1968. Few of the students in these schools know white children any longer. Second, a protomilitary form of discipline has now emerged, modeled on stick-and-carrot methods of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons but targeted exclusively at black and Hispanic children. And third, as high-stakes testing takes on pathological and punitive dimensions, liberal education in our inner-city schools has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society
Kozol, author of the classic and prize-winning Death at an Early Age, about a year teaching in the Boston public schools, may be excused for thinking that, when it comes to the prospects of urban public education, the world he knows is regressing. For over 40 years, he has documented with depressing clarity the failure of both court-ordered and voluntary desegregation plans to achieve racial balance in our largest cities' schools. The devastating results of these failures are documented here in a work presenting impressions gathered during Kozol's visits to 60 schools in 11 states over the past five years. The details read like something predating the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision: schools woefully underequipped, with enrollment of African American and Hispanic students reaching 80 to 99.5 percent of total students. Kozol is not sanguine about our collective willingness to combat this resegregation. The book's epilog lays much of the blame on the Bush administration's doorstep. Federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation has forced many cash-strapped districts to divert scarce resources to do little more than prepare students for mandated annual standardized testing. Libraries may also want to consider Stephen J. Caldass and Carl L. Bankston's Forced To Fail: The Paradox of School Desegregation, where Kozol's findings though not his solutions are echoed. In her first book, Carter (sociology, Harvard Univ.), sees the issue of minority student performance as less a function of a school's racial composition than the result of each student's choices concerning his or her degree of acceptance of WASP culture. Based on interviews conducted with African American and Latino high school students from low-income families in Yonkers, NY, she concludes that students who perform best are those who can adapt to what is considered the dominant culture without assimilating (Carter calls them "multicultural navigators"), as opposed to those who actively resist what they perceive as "acting white." These titles, taken together, reveal juxtapositions of approach between top-down macro-planning and individual preference, for instance, and between national and local perspectives. In tandem, they provide a more nuanced consideration of race in public schools than either provides alone. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-Ari Sigal, Catawba Valley Comm. Coll., Hickory, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 13, 2005
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