Johnathan Kozol In Seattle


What a proud and gleeful moment to be in the presence of Jonathan Kozol a pioneer critic against school inequality and segregation before a packed audience in a library auditorium. “What strange architecture they have in Seattle,” he says, with a frail, slender figure wearing a suit and Converse low tops. Kozol was at the top of his game as a writer and educator with about 4o years experience under his educator belt. His latest (#14) book, Letters To A Young Teacher, contains chronicles of letters back and forth with a fist-grade teacher in Boston, who he calls Francesca.

His letters offer a revealing, heartfelt look at the state of education and his own joy and agony in reporting on it. The letters provoke recollections of his early days as a teacher and, as a reporter, the humbling experience of visiting classes and maintaining relationships with the people on the frontlines of teaching, while he observes and writes. Kozol offers encouragement, advice, reflection, and admiration for all the teachers like Francesca, who pour their souls into their jobs. The letters explore the challenges of teaching in the inner cities: bureaucracies and standardized tests that take the creativity out of teaching; distrustful, defiant children who take away time and attention from those who want to learn; the heartbreaking irony of teaching diversity in schools that are clearly racially segregated. A beautiful book that offers an intimate look at the challenges and joys of teaching and one that will inspire and inform teachers and all those interested in public education. Bush, Vanessa –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Most of the anxiety and stress that Francesco endures is deeply rooted in the high stakes of standardized testing and the numbers of students crammed inside a urban classroom. Kozol, with his right hand propped on his note and his left hand that sways with each syllable, projects from the podium that “50% (of teachers) quit the school system within 3 years in urban schools…nationally.” According to Kozol, kids as young as kindergarten grade are being instructed to fill in ovals, before they even begin to manipulate a #2 pencil. In Letters To A Young Teacher, Francesco is quoted as saying; “I don’t care what the experts say…I won’t treat them (kids) like another species.” Kozol further pronounces to the crowd, “it is a dreadful testing mania that’s being shoved down their (kids) throats by the No Child Left Behind.”

(Please stay tuned for addition reading, podcasts, and video on Kozol’s visit to Seattle.)

More about Kozol’s visit to Seattle can be read here: 

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  1. #1 by Peripheral Vision on October 7, 2007 - 5:41 am

    I have read most of Kozol’s books and I heard him speak in 2002 at Columbia University in NYC. There seemed to be many a critic of Kozol and “The Great White Way” in my small graduate program from Sarah Lawrence but when I walked out of that hall of perpetual education, I came away with tender stories of real people fighting for the right to an equal education and he was the one to help their voices be heard. And then one of my cohorts said, “I don’t care what people say, after I read his books, I wanted to be a teacher – he made all the difference to me.” I wish I would have known he was here. He’s made a difference for so many people.

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