The Shame of the Nation

The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol addresses the shortcomings in inner city schools where the student body is comprised of a majority of Black and Hispanic students. Kozol presents the harsh reality and the struggle of these students that comes from a working class family. From the evidence he provides reveals that segregation is still a bigger issue that the authorities seem to neglect. Schools in US are more segregated today than they were forty years ago. It’s true that today African American students are far more secluded than they have been in more than four decades, while most education policymakers have abandoned integration as a cause. Most schools contained either a majority of white students or a greater part of minority. For example, schools in Bronx are deeply segregated that contains about ninety percent of Hispanic or African American students. Inner City schools are not integrated at all.

In fact, it’s impossible to find schools that have students from multi ethnicities. Almost three fourths of black and Latino students attend schools that are predominantly minority (Kozol 19). What’s surprising is that some of these schools in New York City are named after legendary African American icons such as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King. And these are the schools that have the highest percentage of minority students from 96-99%. Kozol claims, “It stands today as one of the most visible and problematic symbols in the nation of an expectation rapidly receding and a legacy substantially betrayed (25). The high number of minority depicts a shame for those famous African-American activists who once fought against inequality and segregation. And to have their name on schools that are awfully segregated today is more disgraceful than anything else. Besides that, these students are often hospitalized twenty times more than the children in wealthy communities. Teachers claimed that they had students who came to class with chronic wheezing and was more likely to have asthma attack in any time of the day.

However, there wasn’t any school nurse or doctor to provide them with help. This reveals the fact that our education system is corrupted due to the authorities’ lack of enthusiasm about funding money to schools that needs the most. Besides that, these schools in Bronx or Harlem had become injurious to health for the students as well as teachers. The dirty, broken school furniture explains the failure of the government to treat these children equally. “They feel that these children aren’t capable of doing anything so these are the kids they don’t value,” as stated by Kozol (43). What is more unfair is that third graders are required to take a high stakes test to clarify whether they’re ready to be promoted to next grade. This is utterly an injustice to the children who haven’t been to preschool or even missed kindergarten. They aren’t given the opportunity as the other kids to spend their time in beautifully painted schools and learn to read or write. No one took the initiative to teach these kids. Their parents aren’t there to support them because of full time jobs in order to feed their children. Therefore, it’s highly unjust that these kids are being held responsible for their performance on the tests which they aren’t prepared for. Even the teachers in these schools are treated unfairly and receive a much lower wage than the teachers in White suburbs.

In addition, children like Pineapple and Aliyah knows what’s going on around them. They realize that the society does not expect any better of them and that’s why they’re left to rot in these schools in such bad conditions. And it’s certain that these students don’t have access to appropriate school supplies due to the high poverty rate. Kozol tries to explain that these children are led by the society to feel inferior to other children their age. As a result, they have low self esteem and they lack the confidence they need in order to achieve their goals. Ironically, these students are encouraged to repeat every morning “Yes, I can! I know I can!” about thirty times. This is executed by the school officials so it can increase their confidence level. It is irrational how they try to instill these ideas into the children’ minds by constantly repeating one thing yet it doesn’t work since the society itself doesn’t believe that they could achieve anything. It’s not only hard but impossible to learn anything if children are frequently being rejected by the society.

Officials try to create a false belief within the kids’ mind that, “if it is to be, it’s up to me.” Sadly, it is not up to any of these children since the major problem is caused by the lack of financial support from the officials and affluent communities. Private schools get ten times more funding than public schools. Apart from that, educated parents that have high incomes put in their best efforts to admit their children to a better school where there are more white or privileged students. They make every effort to isolate their children from the minorities. In contrast, working class parents that are less educated don’t have the ability to send their kids to a better school, but this doesn’t end here. Due to the fear of being forced to share funds with other schools, many wealthy families keep their money hidden so it would not be counted toward other funds. Therefore, these underprivileged children are deserted by wealthy parents, communities, their peers and government officials. Though, it’s disheartening that these children do realize, white kids their age would never have to face this kind of situation. They would never have to attend what others call “ghetto schools” or live in “slums.” These impoverished children are being discounted, neglected and abandoned and they’re aware of it.

If twenty years from now, any of these kids turns out to have criminal possession of a weapon or connection with criminal activity, I wouldn’t accuse them I’d rather  hold the authorities accountable for not making the effort to guide them when they were kids. Of course, we can assume that people with high privileges would work in places such as Wall Street and Grand Central because they were given the opportunity and the confidence to work their way up to that position. The title of this book goes perfectly with the situation portrayed here and it is a shame for this nation to have segregation still alive. The society looks down on minority children because of their parents’ educational background, income and current status. Though, I disagree with how they categorize these kids based on their family standing. It’s important to understand that the new generation can enhance their lifestyle if they were given the chance. It’s not necessarily true that they would end up in the same position as their parents.

As a teacher, if I were to be placed in one of the low income public schools, I would support these children and certainly encourage them to learn and live up to their expectations. Migrating from a third world country, I do realize how difficult it is for the minority children to accept themselves as less significant than others. Bangladesh has many schools that are segregated today based on social classes. Class-based discrimination is a common place in most Asian countries but we shouldn’t expect segregation in a country like United States where everyone is expected to be equal under the law.



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