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In his book Savage Inequalities Jonathan Kozol aimed to describe the conditions that prevail in some of Americas public schools. The facts he mentioned in the book were based on his personal experience after visiting a great number of schools in approximately 30 neighborhoods. The emphasis he did was that there was a significant disparity in conditions between the schools from the poor communities and those from wealthier ones. Kozol found such inequality outrageous, for a poor child when starting his education is deprived of many opportunities that are given to the children who attend the wealthier suburban schools.
The differences like this should no way be present in the single state public education system. Kozol writes, Denial of 'the means of competition' is perhaps the single most consistent outcome of the education offered to poor children in the schools of our large cities... (p. 83). Furthermore, the mentioned differences seem to be driven by the differences in race and social class, regardless of the fact that all children are required to attend school before the age of 16. Kozol deeply analyzes how the unequal schools funding relates to the social class divisions, environmental and institutional racism, evident alienation and isolation of the students and staff of poor schools, physical decay of the school buildings, and sometimes appalling health condition of the students. All these factors definitely contribute to the psychological disarray of the students and makes the young people feel inferior in relation to the upper ruling class.
Severe racial and class segregation of urban school districts can be named a focus of this book. These young people definitely present a different non-white and poor layer of society which contrasts with the wealthy white suburban schools that are located right next to them. (p. 74) Kozol does not include the examples of all the poor schools. Rather, he limits his selections to the inner-city schools, because, under his opinion, they can serve as the best examples of racial segregation and social class divisions. He notes that even within one school there can be a segregation in the form of special education programs and vocational tracking. The author never mentions it directly in the book, but the main reason for the existing problems is a capitalist system that requires the reproduction of the divisions of labor. The system of education is based in the notion of tracking of students on the ground of the role they will play in the economic system in the future.
The ruling class makes an attempt to assure that there are an appropriate number of people to fit those positions. The capitalist class not just wants to have an obedient workforce, but also to possess a surplus of workers at each level in order to be able to set the wage as low as possible. They will seek and encourage the programs to train the people for such jobs. Everyone must be assigned some role. Wealthy white people want to make sure that their children will get the prestigious jobs and will live in the good neighborhoods. They are the ones who benefit from the division of labor and will make any effort to influence the state authorities in order to ensure their positions.
When Kozol discussed funding inequities among school districts with a group of affluent students in Rye, New York, one student exhibited these beliefs when she said she had no reason to care about fixing the problems of school funding because she failed to see how it could benefit her (p. 126). She was right from her own perspective, because she was really not interested in changing anything. The policies established by the ruling class are automatically imposed on the lower class, which continues the cycle of poverty, social class segregations, and environmental and institutional racism. As it was already mentioned, unequal funding is generally emphasized in the book. The funding system described in the book is based upon the property taxes and property values that are discriminated against the lower social classes, which results in the establishment of inferior schools and creates the aforementioned disparity between the wealthy and poor schools. It is the isolation of students and teachers which results from the inequities in funding.
It looks like a dead circle, people who get poor schooling are destined to get a poorly paid jobs, and there is no way for them top get enough influence to change this system. (p. 67) The class divisions are reproduced over and over because no one knows how to brake the circle and is not able to. As a solution for the problem Kozol suggests equalized funding for all the schools in order to influence the lack of quality in the urban schools. It can be surely argued. Funding alone cannot change the situation for better. The changes need to occur in the society at greater scale simultaneously for real improvements to occur. Moreover, equal funding will not make the schools equal.
To my mind Kozol did not analyze the reasons of such inequalities deep enough. He just visited the schools but he made no attempt to organize them, teachers, students, and parents. The book is a mere report of what an author saw in the schools, and no real solutions to the problems are not presented. In order to find a solution, one would need to look beyond the education system and make some conclusions that will be able to rectify the problems Kozol described.
It will be impossible to reform schools without reforming society and the societal conditions that surround the schools. When reasoning of how to solve problems of unequal funding, Jezebel, an eleventh grade student in Woodrow Wilson School in Camden, New Jersey stresses segregation and says that even if funding were the same, schools will not be equal. A very insightful young lady, she recognizes the degree to which the ruling class will prevent a fair education system and desegregation from developing as she realistically suggests that "it would take a war to bring us together" (Kozol, p. 155). Looking at the reality, it is unlikely that the existing problem can be solved by means of some reform efforts. The problem must be solved near its roots, not the outcomes. People must make a mutual effort and fight for the equal rights of all children to have an equal start in life.
The first step to be done is to make people understand how system works in order to be able how to revise the system.
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