Thursday, August 25, 2005

Take the bat off your shoulder

Jonathon Kozel wrote the cover story in September's Harpers, entitled, "Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's educational apartheid." Somewhat uneven in focus, it chronicles the massive ethnic segregation in public schools, especially as it exists as a function of urban vs. suburban geography; inequities in funding and variations in teaching methodology. Kozel, a brilliant author and insightful thinker filled many a column inch with expose-style prose on a topic that really should not be shocking or eye-opening to anyone, or at least, he could have shocked and opened eyes with fewer words, leaving space for actual suggestions for reform. This article is well-written and filled with the standard annecdotes of distressed urban youth and the mechanized, rote learning they are burdened with, by nowhere is there a roadmap for reform. Kozel concludes with this: " 'We do not have the things you have,' Alliyah told me when she wrote to ask if I would come and visit her school in the South Bronx. 'Can you help us?' America owes that little girl and millions like her a more honorable answer than they have recieved.

He's right, of course, but man, you just got 8,000 words in a nationally published magazine to start giving some of that answer and wrote a defintion of the problem instead.

[A big highlight: "At some of the well-known private prep schools in the New York City area, tuition is and associate costs are typically more than $20,000 a year. During their children's teenage years, they sometimes send them off to very fine New England schools like Andover or Exeter or Groton, where tuition, boarding, and additional expenses rise to more than $30,000. Often a family has two teenage children in these schools at the same time, so they may be spending more than $60,000 on their children's education every year. Yet here I am one night... and this entirely likeable, and generally sensible, and beautifully refined and thoughtful person looks me in the eyes and aske me whether you can really buy your way to better education for the children of the poor."]

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