The Shame of the Nation

The Shame of Nation by Jonathan Kozol reveals the problems of schooling in America. These issues are related to the inability of teachers to be socially constructed and inequality that is provoked by the differences in ethnic, racial, and economic background of the students. It means that the author demonstrates an integrated approach to the challenges of education combining them with the social problems of American society. Not without a reason, Kozol names the dilemmas in school challenging and shameful as they lead to violence and abuse. Consequently, this paper intends to respond to the problems of education in America depicted in the book The Shame of Nation by Jonathan Kozol and academic articles. 

The Problems of School in America

The Shame of Nation by Jonathan Kozol is an objective vision of the observer of the problems of education. Sometimes, his statements are very cruel, but they are truthful as they are taken from a real life. It is evident that the schooling problems are diverse. First, there is a massive turnover of teachers that are unable to be socially constructed and show an unequal attitude to the diverse students provoking the conflict situations. It means that there is the necessity in the qualified and skillful teachers who can fulfill the educational objectives. Second, the school classrooms are not well-equipped with the necessary devices especially in poor neighboring. Kozol describes the film projectors as old, and teachers who show them are angry because they cannot control the kids, therefore, they threaten them with dire punishments. One should mention that not only the educational conditions belong to the shame of nation but the problems of the inner cities. These are the difficult conditions of children’s life, their discouragement, and disappointment. It means that social problems are interrelated with schooling ones. 


Jonathan Kozol is right stating that most schools in America are characterized by the absolute control, direct command, and embracing pedagogy that restrict students’ possibilities and make them dependent and abused by the educational system. Moreover, Kozol accuses teachers of the absence of creativity and individual approach to every student treating the diverse students unequally. Consequently, it is not astonishing that The Shame of Nation by Jonathan Kozol demonstrates disappointment and indignant attitude to teaching process and teachers’ behavior at school. Many teachers use swear words to subdue children and their dignity especially when they are Hispanics or African-Americans. The author distinguishes the following pedagogical mistakes: direct remarks hurting children’s feelings, lack of experience in schooling, and inability to collaborate and cooperate with children.  Moreover, the peer pressure is another issue at school as children are also cruel to each other and notice the racial and social diversity of their classmates. 

It is obvious that Jonathan Kozol does not only analyze the emerged problems but tries to find the evidence that helps people to believe in the truthfulness of his work. For example, he has the correspondence with the students of schools who tell him about their bitter experience and unequal treatment at school. First, children complained about poorly equipped classrooms. Physical conditions of some schools are very dangerous. For example, the principle of one school was forced to forbid cleaning of windows because the glass panes were falling in the street, and the frames were rotted. 

Second, they stated about the problem of overcrowded schools that prevented from the effective learning process. Moreover, Jonathan Kozol explains the reasons for inattentive and indifferent attitude to learning. He is true because children strive for studying in the best school. Consequently, they see all weaknesses of the teaching process and educational establishments. According to Kozol, there is no leadership towards the objective of creating an integrated society based on integrated neighborhoods and schools. It means that Kozol is against segregation that provokes many schooling issues. One should mention that the largest educational innovations are the possibility of school choice and standards-based reforms. However, such problem as racial segregation remains ignored.  Thus, the concentrated poverty of children and racial isolation are typical for the public schools that have not enough financial resources. 

I believe that visiting a school is the best way to reveal its problems. Thus, Kozol visited many elementary schools as they are the basement for further learning issues in the high school. People can suppose Kozol one of the cruelest critics of educational establishments in the USA. However, the major dilemma is that even his writing about outrageous inequality at schools did not provoke any actions to solve the existing problem. Moreover, Kozol is right imposing the responsibility for the schooling challenges in parents, teachers, the administration of schools, and students. It is really a shame of nation to organize the classes of 40 students and provide them with 30 chairs. The problem of schooling overcrowding prevents teachers and students from creating an effective learning process. Moreover, this issue leads to shortening schooldays and cutting back hours of instruction. 

Erica Frankenberg determines residential segregation as the reason for maintaining racially isolated schools stating that legal and policy options affect school segregation. It is evident that the separation of students by race only reinforces schooling problems. Consequently, Erika Frankenberg’s approach to school problems coincides with Kozol’s one. In his book Shame of Nation, Kozol insists on the racial dilemma that provokes the division on ‘black’ and ‘white’ and naming students of other ethnicities ‘other people’. Thus, the tragedy of educational system is not only in the clean and well-equipped schools. There is the necessity in professional and trained educators that are socially constructed and are able to treat all students equally. One should mention that Kozol pays more attention to the importance of teacher than the conditions of schools. However, he is true insisting that the desiring result from learning can be achieved when the teacher is a tolerant participant of the educational process, educator, the follower of ethical and moral principles, and psychologist. The main dilemma is that there is an unequal distribution of quality teachers. Moreover, some locations do not offer the necessary financial incentives to teachers provoking a quick turnover and lack of professional and experienced staff. 

Erica Frankenberg states that the schools are becoming more racially diverse. However, the racial segregation still exists as there are schools for Black – White children and Hispanic – White Children. One should say that the racial segregation is only one of the driving forces of schooling problems. From Kozol’s observation, it becomes evident that the racial issues emerge from parents’ influence on children. For example, children at school can be also violent and abuse their diverse classmates. Thus, they are not conscious of the obligation to be tolerant for others. Kozol insists that schools should be diverse to change the situation with racial dilemmas. As to Erica Frankenberg, she is right stating that only legal and political factors can change the situation with the school segregation as this question cannot be solved by school administration and parents. 

John Cheslock and Trina Callie determine changing salary structure and differences in funding the establishments are the educational problems. It means that teachers are not interested in their work and do not demonstrate enthusiasm and attention to their students. Teachers prefer the private institutions to the public ones as there the salary is higher. It is evident that teachers should be motivated and encouraged financially. The problem of gross discrepancies in teacher salaries between the city and suburbs remain persistent too. It means that educational reforms are not the only conditions for bettering learning process. 

Kozol also reveals the problem of the low school performance of children who are low-income and belong to the ethnical minorities. Thus, it becomes obvious that the following factors influence their performance: social instability, levels of parent education, and undiagnosed anxiety and depression. Moreover, public schools are declining because the rich parents send their children to the private schools that are more prestigious putting under the doubt the quality of public ones. 


In conclusion, one should say that The Shame of Nation by Jonathan Kozol is an objective and realistic picture of public schools in America. The author feels concerned about the quality of education, professionalism of teachers, racial segregation of children, and physical conditions of buildings. Jonathan Kozol is a cruel critic, but it is the only way to attract the attention of the school administration, parents, and government to the schooling problems. It is positive that Kozol violates the problem of racial and social inequality that influences the educational process. It means that it is early to speak about the total equality in all meanings of this word. One should say that there are also the following problems of American education: the lack of professional and experienced teachers, inability of teachers to be socially constructed, unequal distribution of teaching staff from the state to the state, low salary, ethnical segregation, and gross discrepancies in teacher salaries between the city and suburbs. 


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