Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kozol: America's Educational Apartheid


"There are expensive children and their are cheap children...." written by Marina Warner ...
The expensive children being the children of affluent families whose formal education begins at the age of 3 and 4 and sometimes even 2. These children learn prenumeracy skills before entering Kindergarten and by the time they sit down for their first state wide assessment (ie. NECAP) in 3rd grade they have already been in school preparing for a total of, on average 6 years. Meanwhile the cheap children who unfortunately weren't able to make preschool enter Kindergarten without knowing how to properly grip a pencil. Three years later when they sit down for their first NECAP test, after only 3 years of formal schooling, how can they perform the same as privileged children? Back in 1997-1998 some children cost New York state an average of $8,000.00 a year in educational costs while some cost $12,000.00 at the same grade level, in the same year and even worse to know is that some children, again at the same grade level and school year cost the state of New York $18,000.00 (Kozol 4, 2005). How did the state of New York explain that difference, especially when education is equitable for all children? Huh...And this happens today all across the nation....

"That's a Level Four suggestion..." (Kozol 7, 2005) rather than "that's a thoughtful suggestion" or "that's interesting." These are the words spoken in the type of educational system where students are taught standards, know how to regurgitate them when necessary and if teachers want to keep their jobs they make sure students can do this. This type of system is an utilitarian system where students are very restricted on what they can and can't do, what they can and can't say and basically what they can think and not think. In a classroom where a teacher responds to a child by stating a state standard as a way of inspiring a child or better yet as a form of praise, one can't help but wonder what would happen if a situation were to arise where emotion was evoked, where the teacher may be compelled to respond with emotion, would he or she have to find a standard to quote as a way of making the situation relevant to their education?

"Did you ever stop to think that these robots will never burglarize your home?"..."will never snatch your pocketbooks...These robots are going to be producing taxes" spoken by the head of a Chicago school when questioned about rote instruction as if students were robots (Kozol 10, 2005). It's sad that before I got to this page in Kozol's article, and as I was reading I was thinking that it sounded like robots were taking the place of children and interestingly enough I later came across this quote. It is obvious that not only is this a racist comment because the speaker is assuming that the children he speaks of are all headed in the wrong direction but it also implies that children are only going to learn if someone tells them what to say, what to do and essentially what to think. As if these children are incapable of anything more. This comment is offensive on so many levels...


  1. I was also became very upset to read the commnet, "Did you ever stop to think that these robots will never burglarize your home?"..."will never snatch your pocketbooks...These robots are going to be producing taxes." This is such a derogatory statment, and I could not believe that this was the statement made by an educator.

  2. Kelly: I too am posting on the 'robots' comment. I'm glad you touched on this as it stuck with me but didn't make it in any detail to my already lengthy post.

    It was almost unbelievable to read such statemens from an educator. It really angered me. This is a person that should not be involved in educating children especially in the inner-city. He is not their ally.

    He seems to assume that his school otherwise turns out theives and burglars and is thereby promoting a dangerous stereotype that breeds fear. All the while he continues to foster the 'us' and 'them' mentality that continues to perpetuate inequality and discrimination.

    Finally, what does it mean to be a robot? Are his methods demoralizing and routinizing these kids to the point of killing off dreams, creativity and original thought? Being a robot is as far from being human as it gets. What a toad.

  3. When reading the initial part of your blog on expensive and cheap children, I recall reading the excerpt about preschool education. I realize that a head start is important-and still value it, despite the critics who say there is no lasting advantage. My children had the benefit of 2 years of preschool education before kindergarten. I didn't. My husband didn't even have kindergarten, it simply wasn't offered. There's plenty of horrors in the Kozol article, this particular point, however, did not resonate with me.
    The per pupil cost in Portsmouth, RI this year was UNDER $8000. So the cost per pupil argument is relative ...... This in no way excuses the egregious treatment of those inner city children, there were plenty of horrors..