Lately I have been reading a lot of books on the subject of education, simply because CRjr is growing up and will eventually have to go to school. So I've been on the hunt for good books about school and education. My search was jumpstarted when I read, and found a lot to think about, in Amanda Ripley's terrific book The Smartest Kids in the World.
I didn't really know where to start looking or reading, so I decided to stick with some names I know. One of the big dogs in education writing is Jonathan Kozol, and I remembered reading and liking his book Savage Inequalities in college.* Because I'd already read that one, and I kind of wanted to see where Kozol got his start, I requested his first book, Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools, from the library. When it arrived it gave me a start. Do you know how old books that were first published in 1967 look? (Really old.)
Kozol tells you what the book is about in his first paragraph: "During the academic year 1964-1965, I found myself teaching in a segregated classroom of the Boston Public Schools. With no training in education and no experience as a teacher, I was sent into an overcrowded ghetto school on a substitute basis, given a year-long assignment, though on a day-to-day salary, to teach a Fourth Grade class within a compensatory program that had been designed for Negro children and that was intended to preserve the racial status quo in Boston by upgrading the segregated schools." (p. xi.)
I only got to about page 50 or so and I became too depressed to read further. (I find you can only read about children's spirits being crushed, and things like their hands getting whacked with rods, for so long, before wanting to give up and stop living.) It's an interesting book, and it's interesting to see where Kozol got his start. But if you're looking for a slightly less visceral but still compelling book on education, his books Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools or The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America might be a better place to start.
*I don't remember any of my college schoolwork, so the fact that I both remember reading and liking this title, considering education was not my major, is extraordinary.