Tuesday, September 13

School Monitor: Questions for Jonathan Kozol


Q: Children who return to school this week will be returning to segregated schools, with one system for whites and an inferior one for minorities. Or so you argue in your new book, ''The Shame of the Nation.''

Our political establishment refuses to use the word ''segregated.'' They call the schools diverse, which means half black, half Hispanic and maybe two white kids and three Asians. Diverse has become a synonym for segregated.

Q:You also suggest that our current system of locally financed schools be abolished, claiming that it perpetuates inequality by allowing suburbs like Scarsdale or Manhasset to spend twice as much on each student as less affluent cities do.

Schooling should not be left to the whim or wealth of village elders. I believe that we should fund all schools in the U.S. with our national resources. All these kids are being educated to be Americans, not citizens of Minneapolis or San Francisco.

Q: Isn't that why President Bush enacted No Child Left Behind, to narrow the achievement gap between white students and minorities?

I would hesitate to try to navigate the thought processes of that sophisticated, well-educated product of Andover.

Q: Seriously, why would Republicans, who have traditionally opposed big government, encumber schools with the testing requirements attached to No Child Left Behind?

The kind of testing we are doing today is sociopathic in its repetitive and punitive nature. Its driving motive is to highlight failure in inner-city schools as dramatically as possible in order to create a ground swell of support for private vouchers or other privatizing schemes.

Q: Do you not approve of private schools?

They starve the public school system of the presence of well-educated, politically effective parents to fight for equity for all kids.