Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Twitter Book Club: Jonathan Kozol (1972) Free Schools - Chapter 1

Jonathan Kozol's (1972) book Free Schools is a short guidebook for those people involved in the struggle for social justice and interested in starting their own Free[dom] Schools. Kozol is piercingly direct in how he frames the issues and need for such schools but also highly critical of many of the mistakes well-meaning ideologists make when the undertake such a venture. This book was written before the modern charter school and school voucher movements and at this point I fear this book might have done as much to fuel the destructive characteristics of our current situation as his words did to shake the foundation of the old stale "murderous" system of public education. Reading this it is easy to see how even the most articulate and outspoken advocate for real true school reform can have their own words of liberation used against them. I wonder how much of the current corporate-centric school choice movement was shaped by books like this. I really adore Jonathan Kozol and it pains me to write this but every tactic of social liberation he puts forth can and has been used against the fight for social justice in public education, often by other well-intentioned but short-sighted reformers. Either way, if you are looking to start a small progressive school you owe it to yourself and your organization to read this book.

This book is not organized by traditional numbered chapters. It reads much more like a series of short essays. As such, for the purpose of organization here, I will be taking the liberty of adding my own chapter numbers.

Free School as a Term Meaning Too Many Different Things: What Other People Mean What I Mean: What I Do Not Mean

"Even in the idealistic ritual of formal abdication of that power, as for example, by going out into the isolated h... http://tl.gd/9bap7hless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The passive, tranquil and protected lives white people lead depend on strongly armed police, well-demarcated ghettos." Kozolless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The beautiful children do not wish cold rooms or broken glass, starvation, rats or fear for anybody; nor will they... http://tl.gd/9barm3less than a minute ago via Twittelator

Lets repeat that:
"The beautiful children do not wish cold rooms or broken glass, starvation, rats or fear for anybody; nor will they stake their lives, or put their bodies on the line, or interrupt one hour of the sunlit morning, or sacrifice one moment of the golden afternoon, to take a hand in altering the unjust terms of a society in which these things are possible." Kozol
This is the problem. I think it is a human nature problem and one that I struggle with myself. I have lost jobs because of my struggle with this problem when I have placed the welfare of the students I serve before my own. I often feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. My wife often asks me if my children deserve to suffer for my need to always speak up and do what I feel is right. I know ideologically she supports me but she does make a good point and one which I find somewhat paradoxical, one which keeps me up at night, one which raises my blood pressure, one which I ultimately suffer and anguish over. I am not very good at being subversive and nearly always feel compelled and obligated to point out social injustices even at my own personal loss. Those times I have chosen to not speak up I always later regret. Those times haunt me. But, do my children who depend on my ability to provide for them deserve to suffer for decisions I make that ultimately might cost me my ability to provide for them? Likewise, are those who I serve made to suffer for the absence of my voice should I be silenced? In the battle for social justice you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

"In my belief, an isolated upper-class rural Free School for the children of the white and rich within a land like ... http://tl.gd/9basunless than a minute ago via Twittelator

Lets repeat that one too:
"In my belief, an isolated upper-class rural Free School for the children of the white and rich within a land like the United States and in a time of torment such as 1972, is a great deal too much like a sandbox for the children of the SS Guards at Auschwitz." Kozol
This could just as well be written about the times we live in today. Members of the ruling class do not send their children to inner-city public schools, they do not send them to KIPP Academies, they do not send them to racially integrated schools, they send them either to private schools or to well-funded public schools in places where not only property ownership but ownership of high-priced property is a prerequisite to admission; schools where NCLB and RTTT do not matter--schools that do not rely on Title funds but are well-funded through local property taxes or private foundations. Schools represented by the green line in this graph:

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