Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities Children Book Report

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Then the healthcare provided to rich and poor children is starkly different. Kozol suggests that African-American children do not get proper medical care which makes them more likely to fail in school. Then the high dropout rates among blacks confirm the racist biases of legislators who argue that spending on black children is bad investment. When Kozol visits a wealthy suburban school and talks to children in advanced schools, he finds that the cultural biases of rich parents are passed to their children. Many of these children do not seem to be perturbed by the plight of poor nonwhite children in neighboring communities and they support the "separate but equal" treatment. There is, however, one child named David who says that the property tax system needs to be reworked so that public schools in all areas are supported equally.

After New York, Kozol visits Camden, New Jersey. He begins his chapter by citing a Wall Street Journal report which suggests that spending more on schools will not buy good performance. The Journal says that spending on public education has increased but the performance of children stays the same. The Journal also rejects the notion that increasing salaries for teachers or downsizing classes will help. Kozol, however, points out that public spending increased for rich schools only, and wonders why the Journal does not advocate cutting funds for wealthy schools or trimming the high salaries of teachers who work for these schools. The Journal does not address the fact that children of rich families study in smaller classes. The Journal seems to be bothered by the fact that some people advocate equal treatment of all public schools.

Camden is the fourth poorest city in the United States. The city once was a manufacturing center but is no longer so. Unemployment is high, as is the rate of children's diseases. He visits the Camden high school and finds out that the school does not even have a lunch facility. Everywhere around Kozol sees unclean buildings but he finally finds one clean and bright building: a new prison. At the Woodrow Wilson high school, the dropout rate is almost 60% and many children have to work extra hours after school to help their parents who are desperately poor. Few computers available in poor schools are often melted by the unbearable heat in the schools which are not air-conditioned, and many children use old typewriters. The poor children are overwhelmingly nonwhite: blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, and when the topic of disintegration is raised, many legislators and administrators understand it as putting different nonwhite groups together rather than mixing white and nonwhite children. When a Court in New Jersey rules that poor schools should receive the same amount of money usually allocated for rich schools, arguing that children in poor communities can benefit from better funding, many wealthy parents in suburban areas are outraged, while the Wall Street Journal finds their outrage justifiable.

Kozol then visits Washington D.C. where racism seems to be the norm but just not admitted as such. Rich white parents believe that they deserve their success and that they are better suited to decide the fate of poor nonwhite children, and this kind of attitude is widely inherited by white children. In the eyes of many white parents, children of black families do not perform well in schools because of bad parenting. Poor black children often try to prove them wrong by starting their education with optimism. But as they grow up seeing injustices in the society and lack of equal opportunities, they tend to grow pessimistic, dropping out of school or joining local gangs. Kozol says that racism is alive in Washington D.C. But white people can evade the charges of racism through various mechanisms. For example, they assign blacks to school administrations and when the schools fail to produce good students, the problem can be blamed on these nonwhite administrators.

Kozol summarizes some of the major problems associated with unequal spending for public schools in the last chapter. He tells the story of a San Antonio family which brought the case to the Court, arguing that access to education is basic right because children need to learn to become eligible to vote and voting is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. But the Courts cannot always solve the problems. Sometimes court rulings that advocate equal spending are destroyed by the voters. Twenty three years after the San Antonio court case, the rich remain rich and the poor remain poor, and this difference is reflected in the conditions in public schools. Kozol seems to suggest in this chapter that class difference is at the root of the problem and is the cause of racism in communities with residents of different races. After all, poor white children in Cincinnati suffer from the same set of problems that nonwhite children do in Washington, D.C., Camden, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.

Throughout the book, Kozol makes many important points and helps us understand the inequalities in the society. Of these points, the one directly related to the way criminal justice system works is that money corrupts it. The framers of the American Constitution might have intended to build a society based on the rule of law and many other well-meaning legislators may believe similarly, but the way system works is fundamentally different. The criminal justice system protects the rich people as they can higher professional lawyers and they can also lobby federal and state governments for the policies that benefit them at the expense of the poor. It is really hard to combat the influence of money in America but the United States is intended to be the nation of law. The only way to improve the criminal justice system or the way money is allocated to finance public education is to improve and democratize the legal system. Unless, the poor and the underprivileged have the right to vote on the same level with rich people, the system cannot be changed. But to change or even address the problem, we first of all need to understand the problem. Many well-meaning Americans are unaware of the creeping racism and savage inequalities in the society. Kozol does not provide the reader with many recipes for solving the problem, but he does an excellent job by raising awareness. For…[continue]

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