Monday, December 26, 2011

Essay on the Book Savage Inequalities

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Xavier Whitacre

Professor, Dr. Piliawsky

EHP 600

0 June, 00

Buy cheap Essay on the Book Savage Inequalities term paper

Throughout my life, I have tended to view myself as conservative and believed strongly in state?s rights as well as strong local control with respect to governmental policies, particularly in education expenditures. Jonathan Kozol?s book, Savage Inequalities addresses this topic of governmental control over education with a compassion and enthusiasm that has my personal political views in a quandary. The major theme of this book appears to be the role of government with respect to educational funding and performance. Kozol disapproves of the current funding of public education through local personal property taxes and advocates a national tax strategy that would level the playing field for all children of America. Kozol focuses on the inequality of school funding, performance, and segregation. Throughout his book, he cites many powerful examples of these inequalities, but does not offer solutions to them. This should not detract from the powerful message of his book, but should heighten our own personal exploration for solutions to these inequalities. He cites a plethora of statistics, observations, and telling examples that have the ability to excite and rekindle my personal and perhaps society?s view of educational reform in America with a focus on national control.

One of the building blocks of Kozol?s argument on the inequalities of education in America is segregation and is also the first major topic of this book. He begins by drawing a parallel comparison between the famous court case in 186 of Plessy V. Fergusion, in which the court accepted segregation for blacks, stipulating that they must be equal to those of white schools and the present degree of desegregation in public schools today (4). He went on to say that most of the urban schools that he visited were 5% to % nonwhite and came to the conclusion that these schools were separate but unequal which was in clear opposition to Plessy V. Fergusion and Brown V Board of Education. Perhaps the most telling observations made by Kozol with respect to segregation were that most people did not want to address the issue or they did not view it as a legitimate problem. They felt that segregation was an issue of ?a past injustice? that had been sufficiently addressed, or an issue that was no longer worth contesting (Kozol, ). Other inherent inequalities of segregation are environmental and institutional discrimination. He made a point to discuss the city of East St. Louis which is 8% black and is home to one of the largest hazardous-waste-incineration companies in the United States. He noted that ?The entire city lies downwind of this. When the plant gives off emissions that are viewed as toxic, an alarm goes off. People who have breathed the smoke are given a cash payment of $400 in exchange for a release from liability?. (15). He makes the inference that it is inherently unequal and unfair for young blacks kids to be exposed to this while white kids are not. He does not claim that white kids should be exposed to this, but he goes on to make the claim that parents of white children would not tolerate such a company to be located in their neighborhood. The most appalling side-note to Kozol?s observation is that the government whether local or national allowed for this to occur. This idea of the role of government or the inaction of government is Kozol?s next major theme.

Kozol speculates that East St. Louis will remain an all-black community for years to come. He notes that no one in the local government has proposed to bus nearly 16,000 children from the city to the nearby schools of Bellevue, Fairview Heights, or Collinsville. Additionally, no one intends to force these towns to introduce low-income housing in order to stimulate desegregation. Kozol concludes that ?East St. Louis will likely be left just as it is for a good many years to come a scar of sorts, an ugly metaphor of filth and overspill and chemical effusions, a place for blacks to live and die within, a place for other people to avoid when they are heading for St. Louis? (). The shortfalls of the current educational system are sometimes transparent to those who do not wish to take action on them and are painfully obvious to those who choose to challenge the current system with a more equal one. One of the strengths of Kozol?s book are the arguments that he makes concerning the inaction of governments that continue to allow the educational inequalities to occur in our modern society. He infers on numerous occasions that white male dominated government really does not want to reform public education. He cites the example of a school board who hires a single investigator to retrieve 400 missing children from the streets of the North Bronx. He wrote, ?We may reasonably conclude that it does not particularly desire to find them? (115). Governments? have also chosen not to truly affect the way that public education is paid for. Cities such as Rye in New York receive over $1,000 per pupil while the South Bronx will receive just under $,000 per pupil. This type of spending inequality is unacceptable and must be reformed. Reform is only going to be made possible by changing the local personal property tax as the sole contributor to the finance of public education. Local and state governments? must also change their polices of allowing corporations to build in segregated cities on a tax free basis with a preface that the corporation will breed economic expansion in its immediate community. This is often an illusion and the communities that these corporations are attracted to, become dumping grounds. ?Assemble all the worst things in America?Gambeling, liquor, cigarettes and toxic fumes, sewage, waste disposal, prostitution?put it all together. Then you dump it on black people? (17). The best examples of this practice are the chemical plants of East St. Louis. ?The chemical plants do not pay taxes here. They have created incorporated towns which are self-governed and exempt therefore from supervision by health agencies in East St. Louis? (16). ?Because the property tax is counted as a tax deduction by the federal government, home-owners in a wealthy suburb get back a substantial portion of the money that they spend to fund their children?s schools?effectively, a federal subsidy for an unequal education? (55). Mortgage payments are also treated as a federal deduction, creating a second federal subsidy. In 184, property tax deductions granted by the federal government were $ billion dollars with an additional $ billion dollars in mortgage-interest deductions; this totals $ billion in federal deductions, which act as subsidies for wealthy families while federal grants to schools only totaled $7 billion. Until this type of tax policy is radically changed, schools will forever be unequal. One would tend to believe that is an example of a socially engineered inequality.

While Savage Inequalities has served to change my personal views on education, specifically the financing of public education, the construction of this book contains some omissions or flaws that must be addressed. The first and most noticeable to me was the repetitive nature of the book. After the first few examples of the inequalities of poor primarily black inner city schools compared to the wealthy primarily white suburban schools I felt that I got the point. In my analysis of the major themes of the book I only used quotes from the first half of the book mainly because quoting from the second half would have been repetitive. Perhaps he could have condensed the plethora of examples of the numerous inequalities to the first 115 pages and utilized the nest 115 pages to offer solutions to the inequalities. Even though I find myself energized to explore ways to reform public education, he left me little to work with in the way of solutions.

Kozol makes the point in the first part of the book to admit that he did not select any specific type of methodology to explore the inequalities of schools in America. ?There was no special logic in the choice of cities that I visited. I went where I was welcomed or knew teachers or school principles or ministers of churches? (). This type of selection leads me to believe that Kozol had some pre-existing knowledge of poor primarily black communities that he would visit as well as other financially secure all-white communities with good schools. I do not recall reading about any school that was securely in the middle between the poor and wealthy school districts. There is no doubt in my mind based upon my past experiences that these mediocre schools exist; in fact, I went to one of them. In order to make this book even more valid than it is, I believe that Kozol should have used some type of scientific measurement to select the schools that he visited. Perhaps he could have selected schools based on average income or average property tax that school performance and degree of desegregation could be objectively measured against.

The largest personal challenge that I faced when reading the book was the idea that the poor communities that Kozol visited were not to blame for the desperate situation that they lived and worked in. He makes several observations that the parents of white children would not tolerate the things that black children in the inner city had to endure such as unequal funding and undesirable businesses located next to schools such as chemical plants or funeral homes. I believe that this point was exaggerated. The idea that people do not have choices at first seems absurd to me. On page 7, Kozol uses the example of a 16-year-old girl who has dropped out of school in order to discuss her economic prospects. He notes that she only expects to make about $000 per year in her lifetime. It is obvious to me that this young girl is disillusioned and as a very poor worldview. He goes on to say that she already has a baby and is again pregnant. He quotes a black sociologist that suggests, ?We are creating an entire generation of incompetents? (7). This girl is presented as typically of a poor black community plagued with government driven inequalities. I believe, although in a significantly reduced manner that this type of situation is avoidable if this unfortunate girl made the correct choices. Perhaps there are other young girls in the same district that made positive choices, what about them? I suggest that there is another girl in the same school that chose not to get pregnant and perhaps made choices that would elevate her economic position in society. Perhaps she did not drop out of school, but decided to graduate. Even with a substandard education, she could have made the choice to join the military, increase her education through military training/schooling, take advantage of the many educational opportunities of the military such as the G.I. Bill, and someday attend a college/university, which would be paid for by the government through the G.I. Bill. This young girl could develop into a professional who could then move back to her original poor community and create real changes by working in the community as an activist to incite the population to make real changes in schools. I know that this girl exist and I believe that not including her in Savage Inequalities is an oversight by Kozol.

I do believe that Kozol?s solution of equal funding should be a mandate of the federal government and every day that passes with unequal funding is unacceptable. I would support a national property tax governed by the federal government as long as it guaranteed equal funding based on student population. I also believe that teacher salaries should be based on a national standard. The idea that a teacher in one community can make $70,000 per year while a teacher in an opposing community only makes half of that is unfair to the students. In this case, I believe that communities truly get what they pay for. This also ties in with teacher certification. It is common knowledge that some schools allow uncertified teachers to teach which I personally find appalling because it is only done to hold teaching salaries to a minimum.

The writing style presented is very effective. I found the book enjoyable and easy to read. I often found myself not wanting to stop reading because the book was so engaging. I felt myself dialoging with the book, which is perhaps the best compliment that I could give to the author.

I went to Bayshore high school in Bradenton Florida, which is about 50 miles South of Tampa. I would not consider the school to be suburban or inner-city because of its geographical distance from any major city. Bayshore was one the schools that Kozol did not mention. It was about 70% white, 15% black and 15% Hispanic. Everyone to my knowledge had textbooks, which they could take home to study. I do recall that the school did not have any athletic fields when it first opened due to lack of funding through the local personal property tax. Bayshore did eventually erect an athletic complex that was financed through local municipal bonds that were voted on by the taxpayers of the community. The main point is that the parents of the community chose to make the necessary commitment in order to provide a positive holistic educational experience for the students of Bayshore high school.

The following are the proposals that I would support with respect to education reform and the Savage Inequalities in the nations public schools. First and foremost, I would move to abolish the local personal property tax and replace it with a national personal property tax. I would keep the property tax and mortgage payments tax deductible in order to keep property investment healthy. The main point is that with national control, the amount spent per student regardless of all of the externalities would be the same for everyone. This national control would also eliminate the practice of awarding companies tax-free stays in local communities that often only result in eating away at the communities human and natural resources. I would support the elimination school districts in order to allow parents the choice of which school to send their children to. Because all schools would receive that same amount of funding per student, the voucher proposal would be eliminated. Schools with the best performance as measured by parents would receive the most funding based on enrollment. I would support a national teacher certification program to guarantee that all students would have the qualified teachers in the classroom. Lastly, I would promote a holistic life-skills education program for adults who did not receive a quality education or require additional education is a specific area in order to promote positive decision-making. The federal government would finance this program with some type of commitment by the recipient for the education such as in the form of repayment in a specific public service.

Works Cited

Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities. Crown Publishers New York. 11.

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