|The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid
Schooling in America (2005) by Jonathan Kozol
First Reading Assignment (pp. 1-63)
Note how Kozol establishes his bonafides to criticize our
current educational policy:
- How and when did he get into teaching?
- How much experience does he have teaching in an urban
public school setting?
- When did he turn to writing books about the situation in
our urban public school?
Note the method that Kozol will use to make his point. (12) This is
not an academic study which relies upon statistical analysis of
empirical data (i.e. test scores) in order to persuade the reader.
Instead, he will rely upon the conversations he has had with
students attending urban schools over the last fifteen years.
- What is the danger of relying upon anecdotal
evidence (the stories of these kids)?
- How does he defend himself from these criticisms?
Kozol quotes Thomas Merton to describe his central purpose in
|“We owe a definite homage to the reality around us
and we are obliged, at certain times, to say what things
are and give them their right names.” (10)
- What reality about the situation of students in our
urban schools today does society seem so determined to
- What does Kozol believe should be done to rectify the
Note how Kozol summarizes the philosophy which guides conservative
approaches to the problem. (11)
- What did Justice Clarence Thomas argue in his
Missouri v. Jenkins (1995) (1995)?
- Is Kozol’s characterization of the conservative position
Chapter One: “Dishonoring the Dead” (13-37)
- What effect has the resegregation of PS 65 in the South Bronx had on
students like Pineapple, the kindergarten student Kozol befriended
in 1993? (13-16)
- What, according to Kozol, is the most destructive effect of the
- Why, despite the milestone
Brown v. Board of Education decision of
1954, have America’s public schools remained segregated? (18-19)
Missouri v. Jenkins (1995)) (See
- What are the benefits of integration for black students? (19)
- List some examples of the surreal extent to which policy makers will
go to avoid discussing the issue of segregation. (20-21)
- Why does Kozol argue that Thurgood Marshall must be turning in his
- How could it have been that Martin Luther King High School, which
resided in an integrated neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper West
Side, remained over 95% black until its closing? (25-27)
- Why is it politically incorrect in today’s climate to assert that
segregation has negative effects? (28)
- How do the kids whom Kozol has interviewed understand the reasons
for segregation? (28-29)
- Note the language of
Warren's opinion in the Brown decision. Why was de-segregation
originally mandated by the Court? (29)
- Why might Kozol have found the celebration of Rosa Parks’ life
earlier this year profoundly ironic?
- Explain the ‘attendance zone’ movement currently afoot among white
NYC parents whose children attend public schools on Manhattan.
(30-31) (Is such a policy already in place in the Patterson Park
neighborhood in which Paca resides?)
- How is it possible that schools in NYC’s suburbs also remain
- What is the goal of black educators today, now that the fulfillment
of King’s Dream has receded into impracticality? Explain what the
term ‘adequate funding’ means in the context of the “No Child Left
Behind” law. (34)
- Why does Kozol find the current school philosophy which exhorts
children of poverty to achieve self-reliance so unsettling? Why does
he believe it will not work? (34-37)
- What questions for Paca students, teachers and administrators would
you ask based on your reading of this chapter?
Chapter Two: “Hitting Them the Hardest When They Are Smallest”
Use this chapter to help the class generate more questions for
Paca’s students, teachers and administrators:
- Are you satisfied with the current condition of your
school’s physical plant? (If not, what are the highest
priority challenges you face with upgrading your
- Have you had problems with plumbing? Is there evidence
of water damage? Ceilings? Bathrooms? Mold?
- Does your school have air conditioning? Are your windows
in good working condition?
- Do your students get opportunities to play during
recess? Where do they go for recess? (Is that facility
in satisfactory condition?)
- In your opinion, are your classrooms too crowded? What
is the current student/teacher ratio?
- Does your school have a library? Can kids take books
home with them to read?
- What percentage of your students are eligible for
the free lunch program?
- Do many of your students come to school hungry? Is there
an opportunity for them to eat breakfast at school?
- How would you describe the physical health of your
students? In one of our reading assignments an inner
city physician observed the high occurrence of asthma,
lead poisoning, iron deficiency (anemia), and otitis
(hearing loss). Have you noticed a prevalence of these
maladies among your students?
- Does your school have a nurse? (How do you handle health
emergencies? How do you assist kids who arrive at school
with signs of physical abuse?)
- Does your school have a counselor? (How do you assist
students who show signs of depression?)
- Are you satisfied with your school’s curriculum? (If
not, what would be your highest priority for improving
- Does your school have study skill specialists to assist
students with reading, writing, or speaking problems?
- Does your school have an after-school program?
- Does your school offer art, music or drama programs?
- Does your school offer organized athletics?
- What is the per pupil funding level for students who
attend Paca? Is this funding level ‘adequate’ in your
- How does this funding level compare to the county school
- What is the median teacher salary at Paca?
- How experienced are your teachers?
- Does Paca receive private funding to supplement the
subsidy it receives from the city, state and federal
government? (If so, how are these funds spent?)
- Does the PTA function at Paca? (If so, does it engage in
fund raising activities like bake sales, candy sales,
Xmas wrapping sales?)
- How many Paca students come to the first grade from
- Were these one year or two year programs? How long did
the sessions last? (half-day? full-day?)
- Do your students get to take advantage of Head Start
programs in their neighborhoods?
- What adjustment challenges do students who have not been
in pre-school programs face when they enter the first
- We have noted the marked improvement of Paca third
graders on the MSA standardized tests. To what do you
attribute these higher scores?
- How are students chosen to attend your 4th and 5th grade
Kozol’s Attack on Conservative Hypocrisy: (55-62)
- How does Kozol demonstrate the hypocrisy of
conservatives who argue that money alone will not solve
the problems of city schools? (56-59)
- What would conservatives say about the waste of
taxpayers’ money in response to Kozol’s point?
- How would Kozol criticize our own project to help inner
city kids through volunteering to participate in
mentoring, tutoring and service organizations? (58)
- How does Kozol rebut conservative arguments that some
impoverished children have been able to stay in school,
get through college, and find success in the
professional world without government aid? (60-62)