The Shame of the Nation

The Shame of the Nation

infobox Book |
name = The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Jonathan Kozol
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Nonfiction
publisher = Random House
pub_date = September 13, 2005
english_pub_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 416 pp
isbn = ISBN 1-4000-5244-0
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Shame of the Nation" is a book by educator and author Jonathan Kozol. It describes how, in the United States, black and Hispanic students tend to be concentrated in schools where they make up almost the entire student body. [ "The Shame of the Nation": Separate and Unequal] by Nathan Glazer. The New York Times. September 25, 2005]

Kozol visited nearly 60 public schools in preparation for writing the book. He found that conditions had grown worse for inner-city children in the 50 years since the Supreme Court in the landmark ruling of "Brown v. Board of Education" dismantled the previous policy of "de jure" segregated schools and their conceit of "separate but equal". In many cities, wealthier white families continued to leave the city to settle in suburbs, with minorities comprising most of the families left in the public school system. [ Oprah's Books: "The Shame of the Nation"] ] In the book Kozol quotes Gary Orfield of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who says, "American public schools are now 12 years into the process of continuous resegregation. . . . During the 1990s, the proportion of black students in majority white schools has decreased . . . to a level lower than in any year since 1968." [ 'The Shame of the Nation': Separate and Unequal] by Nathan Glazer. The New York Times. September 25, 2005]

In his earlier books, like "Amazing Grace", Kozol wrote that the schools of the South Bronx were stunningly segregated. But in the last five years, Kozol said that he "... realized how sweeping this change has been throughout the nation, and how reluctant the media is to speak of it." Newspapers he says "... refuse to see what is in their own front yard ... in a description of a 98 percent black and Latino school, the newspaper won't say what would seem to be the most obvious starting point: This is a deeply segregated school. They won't use the word 'segregated.'"" [ Apartheid America: Jonathan Kozol rails against a public school system that, 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, is still deeply -- and shamefully -- segregated.] " book review by Sarah Karnasiewicz for]

In the book, Kozol attacks the disparity in expenditures on education between central cities and well-to-do suburbs, and the system of property taxes which most school systems and states rely on for funding." [ Apartheid America: Jonathan Kozol rails against a public school system that, 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, is still deeply -- and shamefully -- segregated.] " book review by Sarah Karnasiewicz for] He expresses outrage at inequities in expenditure, pointing out that New York City in 2002-3 spent $11,627 on the education of each child, while in Nassau County, the town of Manhasset spent $22,311, and Great Neck $19,705. He found that there are comparable disparities in other metropolitan areas, since most funding is locally based. [ 'The Shame of the Nation': Separate and Unequal] by Nathan Glazer. The New York Times. September 25, 2005] Kozol describes schools that are separated by a 15-minute drive but that offer vastly different educational opportunities. In one example, a primarily white school offers drama club and AP classes, and the nearby primarily black school requires classes like hairdressing. [ [ The Shame of the Nation] Book review for by Elana Berkowitz, September 22, 2005]

Chapter Summaries

"(all quotes come from the book)"

Chapter 1: Dishonoring the Dead

"“One of the most disheartening experiences for those who grew up in the years when Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall were alive is to visit public schools today that bear their names…and to find how many of these schools are bastions of contemporary segregation,” (Kozol, 2005, p. 22)" In the first chapter of this text, Kozol examines the current state of segregation within the urban school system. He begins with a discussion on the irony stated in the above quote, schools named after leaders of the integration struggle are some of the most segregated schools. (Examples; Seattle, WA Thurgood Marshall Elementary School is 95% minority or San Diego, Ca a school named after Rosa Parks is 86% minority). Kozol also pointed out that most of the students within these schools are unfamiliar with the actions of the leaders who bear the school name. Kozol also pointed out the lack of segregation within the urban communities that surround these schools. He specifically mentions New York City’s residential segregation today matches that of the 1960’s.

Chapter 2: Hitting Them Hardest When They’re Small

"“…in the fall of 2002 that only between a quarter and a third of children in the district [New York City] had received even a single year of preschool and that less than five percent had been provided with the two years of pre-K instruction that are common in most affluent communities,” (Kozol, 2005, p. 51)."

In this chapter, Kozol demonstrated that the educational deficit between white suburban and minority urban populations starts before formal education begins. A vast majority of the underserved minority population are not able to gain access to preschool educational opportunities. Even federally funded programs, such as Head Start, are unable to meet the demand. In New York City, 40% of those qualified for Head Start were denied in 2001. In addition, the amount spent per child during the school year is significantly different. In New York City the average is $8,000, while suburban schools spent upwards of $18,000. This can have a negative impact on state testing, which can start as early as the third grade.

Chapter 3: The Ordering Regime

"“…many [urban schools] have been dedicating vast amounts of time and effort to create an architecture of adaptive strategies that promise incremental gains with the limits inequality allows,” (Kozol, 2005, p. 63)."

Kozol examines the strategy of “one size fits all” within urban public schools. Scripted programs such as ‘Success for All’ are driving curriculum changes and models adapted from industrial efficiency and Taylorism. In addition, Kozol discussed the naming ritual that permeates the formality of each event in school. Such examples include, ‘Authentic Writing’, ‘Active Listening’, ‘Accountable Talk’, and ‘Zero Noise’. Teachers in urban school are strongly encouraged to follow these scripted lessons to bring formality and structure to the learning environment.

This order is driven by the state testing, which in turn causes anxiety among the children when their reading level is announced. Labeling the children from Level One (lowest) to Level Five (highest) places them into categories for further instruction. However, this placement is used as a descriptive term used by the children, ‘He’s a level one’, ‘She’s gone down to a level two’.

"“Teachers also tell me that these numbering and naming rituals are forcing them to sacrifice a huge proportion of their time to what are basically promotional, not educational activities,” (Kozol, 2005, p. 77)."

Chapter 4: Preparing Minds for Market

"“‘Do you want a manager’s job?’ the first line of a kindergarten poster asked,” (Kozol, 2005, p. 89)."

Within this chapter, Kozol continued to look at curriculum shifts found in urban schools, which are no where to be seen in more affluent suburban schools. Increasingly, teachers are encouraged to weave ‘work-related’ themes into the lessons throughout the day. This trend starts at the elementary school level with ‘Help Wanted’ signs, classroom jobs labeled as ‘managers’, and students keep ‘earnings-tracking’ charts on their desk. Learning, itself, is further taught as a ‘possession’ and not something one ‘engages’ with.

In addition, the infusion of managerial thinking continues into urban high schools, where students are strongly encouraged to select a ‘career path’ during their freshman year, so as to tailor their course work. Among the choices not marketed is a college education. Influence for these curriculum additions often come from local corporations and business leaders. Kozol pointed out that many of these corporations place great importance on ‘team players’, with corporate brands and managerial themes plastered on the walls of the classrooms of urban schools.

Chapter 5: The Road to Rome

"“ ‘If the road does not lead to Rome,’ said a woman, ‘we don’t want it followed.’ Rome, she said, is the examination children would be given at the end of a specific sequence of instruction.” (Kozol, 2005, p. 111)."

In this chapter, Kozol looks into the damaging effects of high stakes tests, specifically on inner-city children who are almost destined to fail as a result of limited resources. In these schools, drastic and specific measures are taken to raise scores, usually at the expense of any freedom or flexibility in the curriculum. The schools adopt blanket teaching materials that have been compared to military manuals.

Kozol also calls attention to the negative physiological effects these tests have on the children who take them. In L.A., standardized tests are given to children as young as 5 or 6, who without strong reading skills become frustrated to the point of crying and wetting their pants. Furthermore, the children who do not perform to standard are being forced to repeat multiple grades, which increase the likelihood that the student will drop out by 90%.

The subjects that are not included in these high stakes tests, such as geography, history, and science are no longer being taught, consequently lowering the quality of education for students in low performing schools. Music, art, and recess, and even portions of the summer break are also being excluded in order to maximize test preparation time.

Chapter 6: A Hardening of Lines

"“These people ‘fail to see,’ he wrote, ‘that the two systems are inextricably linked; each exists, in part, because of the other.’” (Kozol, 2005, p. 141)."

In this chapter, Kozol examines the increasing separation between the children of the privileged and the children of minorities. For years, the better school districts in New York have been more accessible to knowledgeable, “savvy” parents who know that applications to these schools must be filed a year early. These applications usually call for an understanding of a contract, and a written “educational philosophy,” two things that would be near impossible for an illiterate or non-English speaking parent to complete. The competition for the best, most acclaimed schools is cut throat and minority parents are usually unprepared or unaware of such competition.

In conclusion to the chapter, Kozol describes a microcosmic example in the Roosevelt School District of New York. A proposal was made to dissolve the impoverished, mostly minority district and absorb the small number of students into the surrounding school district, East Meadow, with a mostly white student population. This proposal went through initially but was met with outrage by the East Meadow community and was eventually overturned. Kozol views this as a missed “opportunity to end the education apartheid of a small community of children” (Kozol, 2005, p. 159).

Chapter 7: Excluding Beauty

"“…computer classes where, according to one student, ‘We sit there and talk about what we would be doing if we had computers,’” (Kozol, 2005, p. 171)."

In this chapter, Kozol reveals the poor conditions and state of disrepair many of the segregated schools are now in. The physical appearance of these schools negatively impacts the students desire to be in school and the way that they feel while they are present. In Oklahoma City for example, the schools are overcrowded, lined with insufficient trailers that were not heated or cooled and often leak. In California, the overcrowding was so severe that students had to attend schools in monthly shifts year round. Some schools lack even the basic supplies such as text books, chairs, and desks for their students. Many students do not even attempt to eat lunch because the cafeteria is so over crowded and the lines are so long.

This lack of space and resources takes a toll on the variety and quality of courses that are offered. One student describes her desire to go to college and take AP classes, but without the teachers or space, she must instead take the courses already offered such as sewing and hair braiding.

Chapter 8: False Promises

"“…justified suspicion that the promises we hear today of new and even better ways to guarantee successful outcomes in our nation’s segregated and unequal public schools will one day be reviewed with the same sense of disappointment, if not irony.” (Kozol, 2005, p. 192)."

In this chapter, Kozol describes his experience working as teacher in New York during the implementation of High Horizons in the 1960’s. This program was designed to increase spending per child in segregated schools while also training teachers to increase their expectations. The program claimed to improve reading and math skills, lower suspension rates, and improve relations with parents. As the program began to work, money was reduced, and this quick reduction resulted in the abandonment of Higher Horizons after 7 years. While briefly successful, the promises of the program fell through.

The high expectations placed on new superintendents and personnel also bring false hope. The pressures of the cities they are placed in and the low achievement of the students make the turn over rate in these positions so high that it becomes impossible to achieve long term goals.

Chapter 9: Invitations to Resistance

"“What do we need to do to alter these realities?” (Kozol, 2005, p.215)"

Chapter 9 begins offerring some answers to that question. Using the words of Jack White, a writer at Time magazine, Kozol begins by examining the need for a broad political movement. “Herewith…a radical proposal…Revive the civil rights movement, which went into limbo long before some of its most important goals were accomplished…” (Kozol, 2005, p216). This argument is more fully explored in the epilogue. Next, Kozol reports on the efforts of teachers and principals to resist the strengthening of segregation in public schools.

In the second half of the chapter several examples of successful desegregation (ex. Prince Edward County, Virginia) are discussed. Kozol emphasized that while there are successes, they are fragile at best with many integration programs across the nation being threatened.

Chapter 10: A National Horror Hidden in Plain View

"“…Shaw noted that most Americans are unaware that children have no constitutional protection where equality of education is at stake. The notion that education is not a protected right under the U.S. constitution comes as a surprise to the majority of citizens…” (Kozol, 2005, p.254) "

In this chapter Kozol explores the United States legal system as an option for combating apartheid schooling. Local, state, and federal courts cases have attempted to bring desegregation and equality to public schools in many different parts of the country. Kozol explores both successful (ex. Brown vs. Board of Education) and unsuccessful ones (ex. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez). Overall Kozol’s analysis presents evidence (through several key cases) that the courts have been either unwilling or unable to correct the issue.

The remainder of the chapter addresses the legislative branch’s attempts to correct the problem. Kozol discusses both Congressman Fattah’s bill and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s proposal for a constitutional amendment. Neither effort has been met with much success.

Chapter 11: Deadly Lies

"“I went to Washington to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations,” the president said again in his reelection in September 2004. “It’s working. Its making a difference.” It is one of those deadly lies which by sheer repetition, is at length accepted by large numbers of Americans…” (Kozol, 2005, p.284)"

From the legislative branch Kozol moves to the executive. By reviewing the impact of No Child Left Behind and high stakes achievement tests this chapter further demonstrates the increasing imbalance in quality of public schools. The basic argument presented in the book is that no matter how hard students are told they can succeed and how much educators teach to the test, schools that have inadequate funding will inevitably suffer. According to Kozol the largely Republican controlled presidency of the last 28 years has further segregated American schools through a failed education policy.

The rest of the chapter focuses on “standard-based reform” and the small school initiative (see Deborah Meier, The power of their ideas: Lessons for America from a small school in Harlem) in relation to school segregation. Kozol argues that the “standards-based reform” is an effort to address the scoring gap between high and low socio-economic schools through the use of positive thinking and shear willpower. This strategy is shown to be occasionally successful in the extreme short term, but ultimately unsuccessful in the long run. In other words scores would often improve for the particular test being studied for, but the competency of the students did not improve. As for the small school initiative, Kozol is generally supportive of the idea but is critical when it amounts to many smaller just as segregated learning institutions.

Chapter 12: Treasured Places

"“These are the schools I call “the treasured places.” They remind us always of the possible” (Kozol, 2005, p.300)"

"“Teachers and principals should not permit the beautiful profession they have chosen to be redefined by those who know far less than they about the hearts of children.” (Kozol, 2005, p.299)"

Kozol’s last chapter is devoted to showcase examples of excellence that he witnessed in his visits to schools in America’s most segregated schools. Examples such as Mr. Bedrock (an elementary teacher in one of New York’s most segregated schools) and Miss Rosa (the principal of the same school, PS. 30) demonstrate that even in the worst of situations there is still hope.


"“A segregated education in America is unacceptable…” (Kozol, 2005, p.316)"

"“What is happening right now in the poorest communities of America-which are largely black communities…is the worst situation black America has faced since slavery.” (Kozol, 2005, p. 313)"

"“You cannot give it up. We cannot give it up. As a nation, as a people, I don’t think that we have any choice but to reject this acquiescence, to reject defeat.” (Kozol, 2005, p.317)"


[ YouTube: Kozol speaks to CSU Sonoma about "The Shame of the Nation"]

[ Google Video: Kozol speaks on apartheid schooling in America]

External links

* [ Excerpt from Introduction & Chapter One]
* [ Harper Magazine article written by Kozol, adapted from the book.]
* [ Education Review: A Journal of Book Reviews, "The Shame of the Nation" Reviewed by Ramin Farahmandpur.]
* [ Education Review: A Journal of Book Reviews, "The Shame of the Nation" Reviewed by Nathalis G. Wamba]


Kozol, J. (2005). "The shame of the nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America." New York, NY; Three Rivers Press.

ee also

* Savage Inequalities

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