My summer reading recommendation: Jonathan Kozol, starting with “Savage Inequalities”

The start of the fall semester is only a few weeks away, but it’s not too late to do some summer reading.  Christopher Westfall at the FSView/Florida Flambeau asked me and other FSU faculty members for summer reading recommendations.  Perhaps Westfall was expecting a good read on cosmology or stellar nucleosynthesis from me, but what he got instead was this:

Educating each of America’s children to the best of her or his potential is the most critical challenge facing our nation. While we are not doing a particularly good job of educating our middle and upper class children, our historical neglect of children from disadvantaged backgrounds is not only immoral, but also economically shortsighted. 
Kozol’s classic Savage Inequalities, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, documented the grievous educational inequalities brought on by unequal funding of schools in poor and affluent school districts. 

He followed Savage with three other books on the same subject, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (1995), Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope (2000), and The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (2005). 

While I don’t always agree with Kozol on policy, it is important for every responsible American to understand the issues that Kozol documents.

When I wrote back to Westfall, I thought about adding the fact that I’m a lifelong Republican.  But as a professor, I’m supposed to know enough to bring students to the cognitive dissonance brink but not push them over, and adding my political affiliation seemed like taking a chance that might backfire.

One other note:  Westfall’s identification of me seemed to indicate that Westcott Medal winner and Dean of Faculties Emeritus Steve Edwards coauthored the recommendation.  Steve didn’t.  I proudly carry the title “Steve Edwards Professor of Physics” and that sometimes leads to confusion.

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