‘Still Separate, Still Unequal’ by Jonathan Kozol
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In the text Still Separate, Still Unequal by Jonathan Kozol, the segregation in education is discussed and examples are given to prove that the segregation is regressing all around our country. Jonathan Kozolargues that segregation is still a major issue in our education system, and limits for achievement are being set by school districts, which is only making the achievement gap between black and white students wider. When reading Still Separate, Still Unequal, Kozol’s argument indicates that students of the minority basically are limited in what they can achieve from a very young age. He discusses the issue of “money” and how wealthy white individuals are able to educate their toddlers in very extensive programs before they even enter kindergarten at the age of five.
By the time the students are expected to take standardized tests in 3rdgrade, these white students have had far more education than minority students who are expected to take the same standard exams. He goes on to say that money IS an important object within education because it makes the difference of whether or not a parent can afford to send their child to a private school that costs $30,000 a year, or an inner city urban school down the street. I believe that examples like these regarding money that Kozol gave in his article are what primarily begins the “segregated education” years in a child’s life. From there, he argues that inner city school districts are limiting minority students’ achievements rather than encouraging them to succeed.
Throughout the article, Kozol visits several inner-city minority schools that focus primarily on rubrics, standards, and creating classrooms that based on a drill-based program using a Skinnerian curriculum. At one point in the article, Kozol speaks to a teacher that states, “I can do this with my dog”. This part of the article was a shock to me because I honestly had no idea that curriculums like this existed in this country. How can these inner city minority schools be running on drill-based programs, when other suburban wealthier schools are focusing on hands-on, engaging curriculums? It is no wonder why segregation is still a major issue in our country today. Students at the high school level are being limited in what they can achieve as well.
For example, Kozol supports this argument by talking to students who want to take certain classes, but are instead forced to take other classes that will benefit the economic need of society. In his article, he talks to a high school student who wants to take AP classes and go to college, but instead is forced to take classes that are “required” for graduation, such as sewing and hairdressing. This is telling high school students that society expects them to only have certain careers, and limits choices regarding their own future.
When looking at the argument that Kozol makes stating that the achievement gap between predominantly white and minority schools is widening, it is undoubtedly agreeable after reading the statistics and information that he presents in this article. His points above that I have stated prove that great limits are set for the success of minority students. On the last page of his article, Kozol states that “students in this painful situation, not surprisingly, tend to be most likely to drop out of school”. This shows that the primary reason for segregation in education and the achievement gaps between white and minority students are almost predetermined by the limits set for those minority students.
In Kozol’s article “Still Separate, Still Unequal-America’s educational apartheid,” Kozol speaks of how the American educational system has been trying to diversify the student body in public schools for decades. They have even built several new schools in mostly white neighborhoods, hoping that the close proximity of the school would encourage white parents to send their children to those schools. Instead, when parents see that mostly African Americans and Hispanics attend these schools, they pull their children out of them and send them to private, white institutions. Shouldn’t we be sending our children to diverse schools to teach them how to the real world actually is? The world is diverse with multiple races and backgrounds.
What is most disturbing about this article is that this idea of diversifying schools is used too often. “Schools in which as few as 3 or 4 percent of students may be white or Southeast Asian or of Middle Eastern origin are referred to as ‘diverse’” (43). In The Wire it is evident that there is little to NO diverse student body. Most to all of the students are African American, it is only the teachers that are diverse such as Mr. Prezbo, Assistant Principal Marcia Donnelly, and UM Professor David Parenti. Like The Wire though, schools in the South Bronx area have very little funding and the schools are constantly a mess. “In another elementary school which had been built to hold 1,000 children but was packed to bursting with some 1,500″ (44). No one wants to send their children to schools that are not functioning properly-especially parents who have money to send their children to a better school.
“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.” (Mark Twain). The educational essay written by Jonathan Kozol titled “Still Separated, Still Unequal”, is much like the quote by Mark Twain. This essay shows how today’s’ school system is still separated and unequal according to a person’s skin color or race even though the court case of ‘Brown vs. Board of Education’ supposedly resolved this. Kozol’s essay is written particularly for educated students and adults in order to inform the reader that school systems of today are still separated and unequal. Kozol uses inductive reasoning along with logical development, other persuasive appeals, and rhetorical devices to develop his argument.
Jonathan Kozol uses reasoning or logic to prove that the school systems of today are separated and unequal for students based on the color of their skin or their race. An example of this is when the writer informs the reader of the exact percentages of students by race in schools across the country, “In Chicago 87% of public-school enrolment was black or Hispanic; less than 10% was white. In Washington D.C., 94% black or Hispanic; to less than 5% white. In New York City, nearly three quarters of the students were black or Hispanic.” (239-240).
The use of pure facts instead of personal opinions makes this issue seem like a real problem instead of just one man’s opinion. Another way logic is used within this essay is when the writer shares a personal experience, “In a school I visited in the fall of 2004 in Kansas City, Missouri, for example, a document distributed to visitors reports that the school’s curriculum “addresses the needs of children from diverse backgrounds.”…I learned that 99.6 percent of students there were African American.” (242). In this use of logic, the writer uses facts to help the reader understand that there are areas of unequal and separated treatment within the school system of today.
Within this essay there are also uses of other persuasive appeals, including pathos and ethos. Pathos is used in this essay in order to link it with a reader’s emotions while ethos is used to show the writer’s moral character. Pathos is used when the writer speaks to a student of the Bronx, “Think of it this way,” said a sixteen-year-old girl. “If people in New York woke up one day and learned that we were gone…how would they feel?…I think they’d be relieved.” (424). This part of the essay is used to make the reader feel guilty that this girl lived in a society where she grew up feeling everyone did not care about her or others of her race. Both pathos and ethos are used when the writer speaks to a principal of a South Bronx school while they looking at a collapsed section of the ceiling, which was covered by a garbage bag, “This…would not happen to white children.” (244). The use of ethos affects the reader’s emotions and makes them want to help this school system.
The last rhetorical devices the writer uses are repetition, tone, and imagery. Repetition is used in this essay with sayings such as, “You’re ghetto…so we send you to the factory” and “You’re ghetto so you sew!” (253), in order to show how the school curriculum teaches students to underachieve. Tone is used within this essay to convey sorrow of these students’ situations. For example, when the writer speaks of a letter written by a girl named Elizabeth, “It is not fair that other kids have a garden and new things. But we don’t have that.” (243). The sadness used in this statement makes a reader feel bad for the child and want to rectify the problem of inequality. Imagery is used to describe how poorly school buildings are kept when the author describes a South Bronx school, “…a stream of water flowed down one of the main stairwells…green fungus molds were growing in the office.” (244).
“All men are created equal; it is only men themselves who place themselves above equality.” (David Allan Coe). In the same way, Jonathan Kozol’s essay shows how school systems of today still treat people differently according to the color of their skin or their race even though all men are the same regardless of these two differences.