Jonathan Kozol

Savage Inequalities, A Redux

Jonathan Kozol

I‘d love for people to actually talk about the sorts of things people like Arthur Goldstein and Nancy Flanagan did on Huffington Post and the Washington Post, respectively, when it comes to education. I hate to break it to people across the nation, but poverty hasn’t gone away. At all. In the conversation throughout and about education, words like “assessment,” “quality review,” and “tenure” get thrown around with little regard to the learning conditions of students … outside class. That people think 16 out of the 24 hours a day every child spends out of school (not including holidays and weekends!) don’t merit attention is beyond me. Abject poverty inhibits the learner in ways you can’t always assess, and all this talk about kids making it out sounds myopic and reek of exceptionalism.

In other words, you think just because one or two poor kids make it out of a batch of 10, the other 8 can as well?

You think that hearing gun shots every night promotes positive images for kids? You think who have to wear the same two or three shirts every week care about being seen by anyone? You think kids who have to prioritize between breakfast and dinner care much about their health? You think knowing that police crawl your tight units of space constantly, looking for people that look just like you makes you feel safe? You think hearing your mother screaming for various reasons all night, or your father coming at midnight from work only to get up four hours later tells a kid that this country has an interest in the working class in this country? You think kids who don’t understand why their vision’s so blurry or why they have to take cold showers in the morning look forward to an icy environment where the crux of their learning has everything to do with their mastery of 49 multiple-choice and extended response questions?

Probably not.

People on this blog have tried to tell me that it’s all about hard work and persistence, doesn’t it make you wonder why no one’s bringing up these environmental issues? With the inundation of poor images and a poor mentality, isn’t it interesting how now we’re asked to ignore the issue of classism at a time when the grand majority of Americans who have been labeled “working class” are dipping further into poverty relative to the top 2% of the country? Isn’t the whole function of this ultra-capitalism to ensure that there are as many losers as possible so the winners can keep winning? I haven’t even mentioned race and sex, though if you’re looking at me, you know that’s what I’m thinking about as well.

We’re a people prime for change, but if we think someone else is going to say it for us, we’re fools.

I don’t use poverty as an excuse, but let’s be serious: since so many of you won’t mention poverty, and haven’t even mentioned the name Jonathan Kozol (who I wouldn’t read again until I brought a leather boxing head guard and a cup), I’m going to keep bringing it up just to irritate people, hoping some of you understand that the bright designs of the broadcast on television aren’t the only designs people have on the general populace. Our silence is complacence, and we can say whatever we want here, but in person we better back it up.

Because these inequalities stay savage, 18 years later …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonSavage Inequalities, A Redux