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WAMC Speakers Corner
Wed October 8, 2008
Dowmel Lecture: Jonathan Kozol 10/7/08
Great Barrington, MA – Jonathan Kozol says his life has two separate strands: one is his involvement with all kinds of literature and the other is his involvement in teaching young children.
Jonathan Kozol, born September 5, 1936 in Boston, Massa chusetts is a non-fiction writer, educator, and activist, best known for his books on public education in the United States. He became a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, was fired for teaching a Langston Hughes poem, as described in Death at an Early Age, and then became deeply involved in the civil rights movement.
He was offered ajob to teach for Newton Public Schools, the school district that he had attended as a child, and taught there for several years before becoming more deeply involved in social justice work and dedicating more time to writing.
Kozol has since held two Guggenheim Fellowships, has twice been a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, and has also received fellowships from the Field and Ford Foundations.
Among the other books by Kozol are Rachel and Her Chil dren: Homeless Families in America, which received the RobertF. Kennedy Book award for 1989 and the Conscience-in-Media Award of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and Savage Inequalities: Children in America 's Schools, which won the New England BookAward and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.
His 1995 book, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, described his visits to the South Bronx of New York, the poorest congressional district in the United States. It received the Anisfield- Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor previously granted to the works of Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King, Jr.
He published Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope in 2000 and The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America which was released September 13, 2005. Kozol documents the continuing and often worsening segregation in public schools in the United States, and the increasing influence of neoconservative ideology on the way children, particularly children of color and poor children of urban areas, are educated.
His most recent book Letters to a Young Teacher published in 2007 reminds us " that teaching remains a wonder ful and essential calling. Committed, gifted teachers who recognize the 'inherent value' of every child are needed now more than ever. I hope this inspiring book will spark a new generation of teacher-leaders heeding Kozol' s passionate call and example." -Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund
Kozol is still active in advocating for integrated public education in the United States and is an outspoken critic of the voucher movement. He continues to condemn the inequalities of education and speaks unrelentingly of the appar ently worsening segregation of black and Hispanic children from white children in the segregated public schools of almost every major city of the nation.
Kozol's ethical argument relies heavily on comparisons between rich and poor school districts. In particular, he analyzes the amount of money spent per child and finds that in school districts whose taxpayers and property-ownersare relatively wealthy, the per-childannual spending is much higher than in school districts where poor people live. He asks rhetorically whether it is right that the place of one's birth should determine the quality of one's education.
About the Dowmel Lecture Series.