In his book, “The Shame of the Nation”, Jonathan Kozol outlines core inequalities in the American educational system. According to Kozol although great steps were made in the 1960s and 1970s to integrate schools, by the end of the 1980s schools had begun to re-segregate. In inner cities such as Chicago, eightyseven percent of children enrolled in public schools were either black or Hispanic, and only ten percent were white (page#). It seems that there are many different factors contributing to the re-segregating of schools.
Kozol describes many inner city schools as being in terrible condition. These schools students are mostly made up of a minority population. He describes these schools as having deteriorating conditions such as wallpaper coming off the walls, classrooms being dirty, and even as having classrooms that are so overcrowded that some students don’t have any seats. This is typically due to a lack of funding. Funding for schools typically comes in a couple of forms. One being the taxes one pays on their property, and the other comes from either the state or federal government.
It is unfortunate that many inner city schools are surrounded by low income families, thus the school receives less income than say a different wealthy area in the suburbs. In terms of state and federal funding, these are typically determined by performances on standardized tests. Unfortunately this form of practice only benefits those schools doing well. By cutting the funding for schools that are struggling, it only continues the cycle by limiting the schools ability to give students the resources they need.
However, if we look at the disparity that Kozol mentions, students in schools that are minority dominated may be valued at as low as 7,000 dollars per student, whereas students enrolled in wealthy white schools may be valued at as much as 18,000 dollars(page#). But why is there such a huge disparity? According to Kozol, national test scores in highly segregated schools tend to be extremely low. But how could this be? Typically when inner city schools receive these failing test scores, they tend to oust the normal school curriculum and focus strictly on materials that will be on these national tests.
They may reduce summer breaks for at risk students, or get rid of recess entirely. One would think these measures would definitely cause test scores to rise, that is if you took humanity out of the equation. In order to understand why it isn’t working, one needs to shift their perspective. These students in the inner city schools typically come from low income families. If you compound the fact that the schools they go to are typically overcrowded and falling apart, it definitely does wear on the soul.
In addition, many of these schools only prepare their students to aspire to be a manager of some sort. Kozol gave an example of a school in which students apply for a managerial position of some sort at their schools. This strategy may give the students some sense of responsibility for the school, but it doesn’t allow them to dream bigger. They are stuck with the sense that becoming a manager is the endgame, there is no bigger dream. Also, Kozol notes that with the overcrowding of classrooms, teachers don’t have time to answer student questions(page#).
Taking all of these factors into consideration, it is easy to see why test scores might worsen. Besides, putting pressures on schools to do well on a standardized test tends to forsake the actual learning process. As Deborah Meier wrote, “we cannot trust such tests to determine an individual’s competence or the success of any particular school, school district, or state. We can win occasional short-term public relationships… by improving testable skills, but in the end such victories will be at the price of good education” (page#).
These tests not only place a strain on the school, but also on individual students. Students who do poorly on the tests may be held back, which studies have shown that this practice reduces the odds that a student will graduate in the future(). To exemplify this, there was a video shown in class of students from an inner city school who visited a wealthy suburban school. The inner city school had facilities that were falling apart, the walls looked extremely shabby. There was one student who aspired to do greater things academically such as learning trigonometry.
However, upon arriving at the wealthier school, the student realized her high academic accomplishments paled in comparison to what was being taught at the suburban school. So obviously, there are some issues with keeping a school entirely segregated. Knowing this, why is segregation in schools still happening? Do the majority of Americans support this type of segregation? According to a study, over two thirds of Americans believe desegregation improves education for blacks. Typically people who oppose desegregation have not had any experience with integrated schools(page#).
Orfield notes that there are court supervised phase out of state funding programs that discourages suburban districts from accepting students from inner city communities. In addition to that, there are several politicians who are extremely opposed to integration(page#). Kozol spoke with a gentleman, Wilkins, who shared his experience as to why segregation is increasing. He stated that it is the “small minded triumphalism of contemporary political leaders who grew up in ‘isolated worlds of white male privilege’, and as a result inadequate education for the responsibilities they hold” (page#).
It seems that there are people in power who carry old beliefs and fears of the past. Some of these politicians grew up in wealthy families. They still hold firm the belief that if you work hard, you can get rich. Obviously this isn’t always the case. There are many low income workers who work every day, close to sixty hours a week and barely get by. These politicians grew up going to schools in wealthy suburban areas have no idea the plight of those with low income, not to mention what it is like growing up in an inner ity school.
Wilkins recounts that he went to a school that had a majority white population. He mentioned how his presence in the school allowed both him and his fellow students learn to each other. But despite that, he mentioned he still doesn’t feel completely at ease because as he walks through the centers of white dominance, he still feels like an outsider. There have also been other stories that reinforce the idea that schools should integrate.