Questions for Kozol

I’m daydreaming that these questions are posed to Jonathan Kozol when he speaks tonight at First Parish Church in Cambridge, MA:

1. What if we could conclusively show, to your satisfaction, that inner-city black kids who attend highly functional suburban schools (through busing) fare worse (lower test scores, lower attendance, lower college graduation rates) than inner-city black kids who attend segregated “No Excuses” charter schools?

Which, to you, is the greater “evil”?

Black kids who attend “integrated” suburban schools (i.e., they are 10% of the school population), but who have very low academic achievement?


Black kids who attend the highly segregated charter schools – like New Jersey’s North Star, or DC Prep, or Roxbury Prep on Kozol’s home turf – and master academics such that they are much, much more likely to ultimately graduate from college?

In various interviews promoting this book, most recently the upcoming issue of NEA Today, he handles this question with a two-step worthy of Ari Fleischer.

Q: Some people say a Black student doesn’t have to sit next to a White student in order to learn. What’s your answer to that?

Kozol: There are two issues here. One is the recognition that money follows power. Once you cordon off a group of children in a form of physical sequestration, it is much easier to cheat them. Look at this: $12,000 a year per student in Roosevelt, Long Island, 92 percent poor. This is right next to Manhasset, 5 percent poor, which spends $22,000.

True. But he cherry picks his school district example. Boston spends more, not less, than most nearby suburban districts.

Kozol pulled this sleight-of-hand with his previous book. He compared spending in suburban Princeton, NJ to urban Camden, NJ: cherry-picking the high contrast as a way to show racism in education equity.

The problem for Kozol was that Camden’s spending caught up to Princeton’s a few years later, thanks to massive state investment. The Achievement Gap between the districts, however, did not close. The Thernstroms called him on this misdirection play. Why won’t he address this?

Kozol: The second reason I believe is even more important: Children learn at least as much from one another as they do from any curriculum.

2. Exactly. Therefore: what makes you sure that an inner-city black kid will learn more from a suburban white kid than from a well-educated inner-city black kid?

3. Which is more important to you: more black kids attending integrated suburban K-12 schools, even if it doesn’t bolster their achievement, or more black kids attending (and completing) integrated Grade 13 – 16 schools – i.e., college?

– Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild

P.S. Want more? Stuart Buck’s take on Kozol here, via

One Reply to “Questions for Kozol”

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