Savage Inequalities is a honest
and thought-provoking, and very horrifying, look at some of the ghettos, and the schools in
them, in the United States. The book is broken up into the following six
Life on the Mississippi:
East St. Louis, Illinois - East St. Louis has many financial
and sociological issues; no garbage collection, transportation of
hazardous waste through the city, toxic pollution, a powerless governing
body, lack of qualified teachers, and schools so decrepit it would amaze
most Americans. Jonathan Kozol travels through this mostly black city
and visits East St. Louis High School. In every classroom, he finds that
teachers are not able to teach properly because of the lack of proper
materials; science labs outdated by at least 30 years, lack of proper
text books (if there are even text books at all), no lab tables,
understaffed rooms, etc. Most of the bathrooms do not function and stink
to high heaven. A lot of the teachers do not care about teaching anymore
(having given in to the futility of the system), and a lot of them are
full time substitutes without proper qualifications. This all leads to students
not paying attention or not getting any encouragement or the push they
need to succeed, or even care about going to, school. Kozol observed in
a lot of the classrooms students sitting around talking to other
student, and, in a lot of cases, teachers unable to teach, or unwilling
to even try anymore. The school is so poor that it cannot even afford
Other People's Children:
North Lawndale and the South Side of Chicago - Unemployment
runs rampant through the city of North Lawndale, which sits beside
Chicago, Illinois. When the factories moved out, the gangs moved in. Jonathan Kozol
now travels to Mary McLeod Bethune School, an elementary school with
some of the poorest students in the city. Looking at a kindergarten
class, Kozol ponders the statictics that will follow these kids to high
school: on 38% will graduate, 4 may go to college, 1 may graduate, and
12 of the boys in this class will have already had prison time. The only
shining star in the school is a fifth-sixth teacher named Corla Hawkins.
Her room is bright and colorful and she really cares about the student.
She teaches three things: self-motivation, self-esteem, and you help
your sister and your brother. She has warmth, humor and energy to burn.
All of this makes Corla Hawkins stand out in a school that usually beats
teachers down. Kozol then goes on to compare the amount of money spent
on urban students and compares it to the amount spent on students that
attend the rich, suburban, white school that are nearby. The amount is atrocious.
To make matters worse, the suburban schools seem to not care at all
about the fate of the urban schools or the students that attend them.
The Savage Inequalities
of Public Education in New York - Kozol visits Public School
261, which is inside an old roller skating rink. Once again, he finds children
that are forced to learn in a facility that isn't fit to be inhabited,
much less a school. He then visits P.S. 79, which is extremely
overcrowded. After viewing these two decrepit schools, he visits
Riverdale, P.S. 24. Because of the property value in the houses around
Riverdale, the school gets a lot more money than either P.S. 261 or P.S.
79. This chapter than focuses on how money is divvied up to the schools.
It appears that the value of the houses in the district for a school
determine the amount of money that is put into that school. So, if the
houses around P.S. 261 are pretty much worthless, they may only receive around
$6,000 per student, or much less. But if the school, like Riverdale, is
surrounded by rather expensive houses, the school may receive around
$11,000 per student, or more. This disproportion causes a great
disparity in the condition of the buildings that the students have to go
to. But because some public schools do not receive very much money, most
of the urban. black children in New York find themselves going to school
in pitiful, run-down buildings, which in turn affects the way they are taught
Children of the City
Invincible: Camden, New Jersey - The debate about whether
higher spending brings diminished returns is debated in this chapter.
Many people in the richer areas agree with this philosophy. They say
that no matter how much money is poured into the poor, black, urban
school, it will not affect any changes in the learning of the students.
Camden is the fourth-poorest city of more than 50,000 people in the US.
Kozol visits Pyne Point Junior High. Again, he finds conditions that
make him despair. Children cannot learn in these kinds of conditions. He
then travels to Camden High where he sits down and talks with the principal
who talks about the drop-out rate and what he would do with equal
funding. Woodrow Wison High School is his final stop in Camden. The
drop-out rate is 58 percent. Of the 550 freshmen in a starting class,
they only expect 80 to 100 of them to graduated after their senior year.
Kozol sits down with some students at the high school and finds shining
stars that will have little chances to succeed.
The Equality of
Innocence: Washington, D.C. - Fiscal inequalities continues to
be a theme in this chapter. The rich are easy to blame the family and
the background of children in poor schools for their low performance.
The poor look at the difference of the school and know that it is much
more than just family, it is all about money. Kozol visits an elementary
school in Anacostia and talk with the children and the principal. The
kids still have a pretty good outlook, but this will change as they grow
older. The kids become overwhelmed, almost like they were in shell
shock. They live surrounded by death, drugs, decay and
Again, in San Antonio - In 1968, a resident of San Antonio
named Demetrio Rodrigues represents the other parents on behalf of their
children, who were students in the Edgewood district, who paid one of
the highest tax rates in the area, but only received $37 for each pupil.
Other schools were receiving over 1500 times as much. In 1971, the
courts found that Texas was in violation of the equal protection cause
of the US Constitution. It finally took 23 years for the ruling to say
that the schools must be equal. Now the rebuilding begins . . .