Urban Studies
Spring 2008

Study Guide for The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (2005) by Jonathan Kozol

Third Reading Assignment (pp. 109-160)

Chapter 5 “The Road to Rome” (109-134)

Summary: Kozol’s blistering attack against “No Child Left Behind” legislation continues in this chapter. He condemns the “coarse utilitarian toxicity and demeaning, anti-human view of childhood” (133) fostered by the get-tough “Success for All” curricula that have been adopted in urban schools to prepare kids for standardized tests. The primary negative consequence of this over emphasis on standards based testing is that teachers are forced to ‘teach to the test’ rather than conducting genuine diagnostic testing which allows them to pursue more effectively a traditional course of study. “Passing the test is actually the only thing that is important.” (113)

Do you agree with Kozol’s criticism? To what degree has Paca’s educational mission been compromised by “No Child Left Behind”?

How much of the school year is set aside for test preparation?

When the actual test date draws near, is the whole school day, even recess time, given over to cramming?

Are traditional subjects like history, geography, and science still emphasized in the curriculum?

To what extent is the process of education (which encourages risk taking, play, questions, and creative thinking) been sacrificed to test cramming?

Are arts and music programs being reduced in order to focus more time on test prep?

How are kindergarten and first graders introduced to the testing regimen? (Are less stressful diagnostic tests still administered?

Do teachers or administrators receive bonus pay linked to performance on standardized tests?

Chapter 6 “A Hardening of Lines” (135-160)

Summary: In Chapter 6 Kozol criticizes the practice of creating magnet schools whose admissions policies favor middle and upper class students. He argues that this trend has led to the emergence of a dual public school system in New York City, one for the rich and another for the poor. He then describes how the movement towards ‘apartheid schooling’ has spread to the New York suburbs as well. On Long Island the boundaries of school districts have been drawn in such a way that minority students still predominate in substandard schools. Progressive efforts to integrate these minority students within more affluent adjoining school districts have been resisted with blatantly racist tactics.

How are ‘savvy’ parents able to get their kids into selective public schools in New York City like Hunter College Elementary School and Stuyvesant High School?

How are these well-financed schools linked, according to ex-New York Mayor David Dinkins, to the dilapidated schools in poorer sections of the city where school days are filled with violence, chaos, and despair?

Is William Paca Elementary School turning into a magnet school with a selective admissions policy?