Skip to Content

Everyday Citizen

News, Opinions, & Things That Matter

The Shame of the Nation, by Jonathan Kozol

by June 1, 2007 blog

Over the last 15 years, the state of inner-city public schools has been in a steep and continuing decline. Since the federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, segregation of black children has reverted to its highest level since 1968. In many inner-city schools, a stick-and-carrot method of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons is now used with students. Meanwhile, as high-stakes testing takes on pathological and punitive dimensions, liberal education has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.

Filled with the passionate voices of children, principals, and teachers, and some of the most revered leaders in the black community, The Shame of the Nation pays tribute to those undefeated educators who persist against the odds, but directly challenges the chilling practices now being forced upon our urban systems.

Kozol offers a humane, dramatic challenge to our nation to fulfill at last the promise made some 50 years ago to all our youngest citizens.

The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
by Jonathan KozolBook Picture

Softcover: 432 pages
ISBN: 9781400052455, 1400052459
Three Rivers Press
August 2006

Buy from
“A call for activism, The Shame of the Nation firmly grounds school-reform issues in the thorny context of race and concludes that the nation has failed to deliver the promise of Brown.” – Washington Post

“Shines a spotlight on poor, minority children, sabotaged and isolated by an educational system tilted to slight them …His outrage ought to infect us.” – Los Angeles Times

“Public school resegregation is a ‘national horror hidden in plain view,’ writes former educator turned public education activist Kozol (Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace). Kozol visited 60 schools in 11 states over a five-year period and finds, despite the promise of Brown v. Board of Education, many schools serving black and Hispanic children are spiraling backward to the pre-Brown era. These schools lack the basics: clean classrooms, hallways and restrooms; up-to-date books in good condition; and appropriate laboratory supplies. Teachers and administrators eschew creative coursework for rote learning to meet testing and accountability mandates, thereby ’embracing a pedagogy of direct command and absolute control’ usually found in ‘penal institutions and drug rehabilitation programs.’
As always, Kozol presents sharp and poignant portraits of the indignities vulnerable individuals endure. “‘You have all the things and we do not have all the things,”‘ one eight-year-old Bronx boy wrote the author. In another revealing exchange, a cynical high school student tells his classmate, a young woman with college ambitions who was forced into hair braiding and sewing classes, ‘You’re ghetto-so you sew.’ Kozol discovers widespread acceptance for the notion that ‘schools in ghettoized communities must settle for a different set of academic and career goals’ than schools serving middle-and upper-class children. Kozol tempers this gloom with hopeful interactions between energetic teachers and receptive children in schools where all is not lost. But these ‘treasured places’ don’t hide the fact, Kozol argues, that school segregation is still the rule for poor minorities, or that Kozol, and the like-minded politicians, educators and advocates he seeks out, believe a new civil rights movement will be necessary to eradicate it.” -Publishers Weekly

“A vividly written account from the frontlines of ‘apartheid education.’ It is impossible not to share Kozol’s outrage.” – Chicago Tribune

“Kozol has been one of the most relentless critics of educational and social inequalities in the United States. After 40 years, neither his energy nor his outrage appears to be exhausted. In turning his gaze to school segregation, he discovers what should be obvious to anyone who has spent time in public schools – they are more segregated than ever. Kozol’s research and reporting is so extensive that no one can challenge his conclusions: Separate is indeed unequal, and as a society we are robbing successive generations of poor, minority children of their only lifeline out of poverty.” – Bookmarks Magazine
“Segregation is back, and only a writer of Jonathan Kozol’s wisdom and passion can assess its terrible price, one child at a time. It isn’t easy, but before we can craft a solution, we have to feel the shame.” – Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Jonathan Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Death at an Early Age, Rachel and Her Children, Savage Inequalities, and Amazing Grace. He has been working with children in inner-city schools for more than 40 years.

“Lamenting that the nation has given up on integration without ever having tried it, Kozol advocates another civil rights movement to reenergize the struggle for desegregation. Readers interested in public education will appreciate – and be challenged by – this compelling book.” – Vanessa Bush, American Library Association