Jonathan Kozol | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jonathan Kozol 

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Jonathan Kozol is one of this country's few true prophets, delivering unpleasant truths about race and class that are often ignored until, say, a natural disaster hits. For 40 years he has doggedly shed light on our disparities in housing, wealth, and, most of all, public education. In Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools (1991) he laid out what everyone knew already--that well-off, suburban, white districts spent up to twice as much per student as those that were minority-heavy, poor, and urban: Niles Township High Schools, for example, spent $9,371 per student; the Chicago Public Schools' average was $5,265. In his new book, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (Crown), Kozol revisits the subject and finds, not surprisingly, that the situation is even worse. School facilities are inadequate, unsafe, and dirty, public funding is plummeting, segregation is the norm, and teachers are teaching more and more to standardized tests. The latest indignity is the creeping ubiquity of Skinnerian, quasi-military models under which teachers conduct their classes according to a rigid script. Even when he's describing the happy exceptions, Kozol keeps his eye on one inescapable fact: go to any school named after Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., or Rosa Parks, and you'll find it poor, black and Latino, overcrowded, and flailing. Sun 11/6, 2 PM, First United Methodist Church, 77 W. Washington, 312-494-9509, $6, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival (see schedule in this section). Tue 11/8, 7 PM, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, 5850 S. Woodlawn, 773-752-4381.

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