Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Shame of the Nation

I've been doing a lot of different reading lately, for a lot of different projects. One is to be a newsletter article on inner city public education, so I've been reading Jonathan Kozol's book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. It's a terrible, fascinating read, adding to things I'd learned from Derrick Jensen's Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution, and Susan Ohanian's What Happened to Recess, and Why Are Our Kids Struggling in Kindergarten?

What's been most striking about Kozol's analysis is how frequently phrases like "patient endurance" and "tortured dignity" come up in his descriptions of the children and teachers locked in these horrible school settings year in and year out, decade after decade. Like the Katrina victims, everyone can see their suffering, but few are willing to step up and help.

I hope also to have time to read Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, as a counterpoint to the other (above) calls for generous and respectful public policy that would strengthen the educationally and economically weak. Friedman, as far as I know, merely accepts the growing divides between rich-poor, employed-unemployed, technologically-linked and digitally-ghettoized, as the inevitable results of social Darwinism. But somehow he twists the data into an argument for the idea that all the competition and outsourcing will somehow lead to more education investment and greater equality across the globe, as developing nations leap to grab their chance to enter the world economy. I want to see how he does that in his book.

From way up high where Friedman sits, I suppose, a world of steep mountains and dark, flooded valleys would look flat. But from the bottom of those valleys, where the inhabitants can't even see over the nearest billionaire's mountain to the wretched masses in the valley next door, it's not flat at all.


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