The Shame of the Nation

This exploration of segregation in America's schools today is informative, interesting, and incredibly saddening. | A book review by Newbery and Beyond

Guys, I just loved this book so much. I found it totally fascinating, heartbreaking, and angering all at the same time. In The Shame of the Nation, Kozol discusses the segregation that has taken over many of our public schools in the U.S. Inner city kids are being isolated from richer, typically white kids–creating de facto segregation along economic lines. As an example, Kozol states that the Bronx district of New York consists of 11,000 kids, only 26 of whom are white!

I love that Kozol touches on popular myths about diversity, segregation, and quality education. He talks about the fact that schools in which over 90% of students are black or Hispanic are mistakenly referred to as “diverse.” He also discusses how many well-meaning parents ask whether you can “really buy your way to better education,” yet they spend thousands of dollars a year sending their own kids to private schools, etc. In math and reading in 2003, the Education Trust observed a five-year gap between minority and white students.  Incredible.

This was my kind of book. I took down copious quotes and annoyed my husband by getting into deep discussions about education and racism in America based on the shocking statistics and stories in this book. We all know the facts about inner city schools–worse paid teachers, fewer resources–but to see stats and stories laid out side by side paints a stark, painful picture. My one disappointment in this book is that it is fairly old (published about ten years ago). All the stories still ring true from what I know of the public education system, but I’d love to see an anniversary edition with updated statistics and details.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll let you read the book and be outraged for yourself. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes and a recommendation that any teacher–or any parent of school-aged children, or anyone interested in race relations in American–read this book as soon as possible.



“There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child only eight years old ‘accountable’ for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before.”

“Forcing an absurdity on teachers does teach something.  It teaches acquiescence.  It breaks down the will to thumb your nose at pointless protocols–to call absurdity ‘absurd.'”

“We are giving kids less and calling it more, limiting what we teach to what we can easily measure.”

“[Some students attended] Computer classes where, according to one student, ‘we sit there and talk about what we would be doing if we had computers.'”

“The 1954 decision [of Brown v. Board of Education], he reminds us, ‘was not about raising scores’ for children of minorities ‘but about giving black children access to majority culture, so they could negotiate it more confidently.'”

“This nation needs to be a family, and a family sits down for its dinner at a table, and we all deserve a place together at that table.  And our children deserve to have a place together in their schools and classrooms, and they need to have that opportunity while they’re still children, while they’re in those years of innocence.”

Rating: Re-read Worthy

About Monica

I am obsessed with all things books. I'm a music teacher by day and a freelance editor by night.

Scroll To Top
%d bloggers like this: