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Apartheid Schooling?


In his much talked about new book, The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan Kozol charges that U.S. schools have been resegregating, with enrollment in many inner-city schools made up almost exclusively of minority students. The trend amounts to a form of "apartheid schooling," he says, where black and Hispanic children are relegated to schools with less resources, more inexperienced teachers, and inferior curricula.


Its a sad but true reality. Low socio-economic schools are in low socio-economic areas. The challenge is atracting good teachers to those schools. I'm a graduating education major and have been offered to teach in several of these schools. I refused. Why? you know - deep down - you know the answers. Put frankly, here are my answers:

1) Why would I want to put myself in more danger working in a low socio-economic school so either I can be cursed at, threatened with physical violence, or my personal property (ie vehicle) can get vandalized?

2) Why would I want to put myself through more of the daily stress of being a teacher in a low income area so I can be completely disrepected in my classroom.

3) Why would I want to put myself through trying to call the student's home to discuss a problem with the mother or father, only to find out grandma or aunti is raising the child and there IS no mother or father?

4) Why work in an area where the main goal in life is to get approved for some form of welfare?

5) ... where I need to walk through a metal detector to get to my classroom?

6) ... where if I dont "dumb down" my curricula, 75% of my class will fail? - then I get fired for it?

The bottom line is why would I want to put myself through any or all of these things when I can teach to students who want to BE taught, want to learn, and should (correction) "when" they misbehave or act up, at least I can call home and actually speak to a responsible parent who can reprimand the student and correct the behavior.

The author in this article is 100% correct. It is what it is. Bad areas = poor minorities = bad schools = not the BEST teachers. Period.

I dont have a solution. There is nothing I can think of that will convince me to teach in a poor area. I offer no appologies. I'm being as honest as the author was when he wrote this article.

I teach in one of "those" schools and I am in 100% agreement with article and Joe.

I work in a school where the majority--90%--of the students are children of color. The majority of those students receive free or reduced lunches. Grandmothers and aunts are guardians. Fathers are often among the missing. But we have a middle school International Baccalaureate program populated by these students. And our principal is a dynamic woman who cares more about the person she is hiring to teach our children than she does about whether or not she or he is a Harvard graduate. The academic and teaching skills of a prospective teacher are critical to her, but she also wants someone who will care about the children, someone who will see past their anger and their fear and get to the core of the child and teach that child well. She actively seeks out potential teachers who reflect the ethnic, cultural, and racial backgrounds of the students so positive role models walk the halls and paths of our school.

I'm an "older" teacher--white, blue-eyed, and blonde--and I love and respect every one of the young black men who chose to be teachers in our school because I know they're making a difference. I listen to them talk with the students and teach those students from "where they're at," and I know they're reaching those students.

Not every school is like mine; I know that, but I wanted to write to say there are some great schools in poor districts.

I think the comments of Joe raise another question. Is it surprising and/or reprehensible that white parents do not want to send their children into these schools? Forced busing seems to have the effect of forcing whites further from urban areas, where busing their children into black schools becomes impossible. One result of the migration of whites is less and less political influence for the areas fled and a worsening of conditions inside urban schools.

I read recently a speech of Malcolm X wherein he advocated that oppression in schooling is NOT having separate facilities for blacks and whites -- it is having separate facilities that whites control from afar. We must recognize that we cannot force desegregation, because we tried that and failed. Instead we should let black people teach their own children in these unfortunately segregated schools. Let them decide who is qualified to teach and who is not. Let them decide how to teach, what to teach, for how long and in what atmosphere. Let them shape and influence black boys and girls in a way white people can't anyway, like Jeanne discussed. I believe they would turn things around on their own if they didn't have white lawmakers telling them what their children need to know and how they will learn it and how often they will be tested on it and who can be hired to accomplish it. It is nothing but prejudice that makes us deep down think they aren't capable of teaching their own children. They know better than we do. Whites certainly have not succeeded in teaching black youth since desegregation laws took effect and white teachers were moved into black schools. Don't all reported data show a shocking downhill slide for minorities in the last 50 years?

You see, we cannot legislate friendship. It has to develop on its own. Forcing a child on a bus for an hour and a half to be schooled in a place where the parents don't want him and he doesn't want to be accomplishes nothing. We know that because we tried it. It was a radical thing to do, if you stop to think about it. Taking someone's child through legislation and forcing them to spend their youth where they don't want to be and the parents don't want them is radical. It's time to try something else, just as radical but completely different. I believe we should relax all the regulations and rules and statutes and RSAs, etc., etc., and let people decide for themselves how to teach their own children. It would rebuild the communities that are now so far gone we can't imagine a way out of this. Let black men, without the credentials white lawmakers say are necessary, teach their own. Let black boys look up to a black man and see an example to follow. Do what we can to give everyone equal resources and then let them do with it what they will. It can't be worse!

The response below is one of the biggest reasons we have schools that are failing our most vulnerable youth. Teacher expectations make a HUGE difference in student performance. When teachers expect that students will perform poorly, misbehave, completely disrespect them, "choose" welfare, or engage in violence, they probably will. These are the unfortunate messages that we're sending our urban children and we need to stop.

When we expect our children to excel, when we give children a reason to hope, when we connect learning to real life experiences, we know children respond and rise to the challenge. I only wish more teachers shared this view, and more parents and caregivers felt empowered to expect this from their schools.

I'm sorry, but I'm surprised at what I am reading.

I have seen some of these schools. The ones you wouldn't want to teach at because "the main goal of life is to be approved by some kind of welfare," the ones where we should "let them teach their own children." Yes, there are problems, just like there are problems at all schools. But, I've seen some of these schools, schools in the heart of the Bronx, where students want to learn and will do everything they can to learn, where they want a teacher, white or black, who knows what he or she is doing. And, no, these aren't IB schools. They are schools with children who have been neglicted for too long and want what other school age children have: a safe and sound education.

You know what? I don't want to teach at an all white school of upper middle class families. Why? You know, deep down, but here are my answers:

1) Why would I want to teach at a place where many of my students' allowances if comparable to my starting teacher's salary, to be looked down upon because my clothes aren't the latest styles?

2) Why would I want to teach at a school where the main goal in life is to spend allowances on the best coke attainable?

3) Why would I want to teach at a school where the males form posses who only want to have sex with as many young females as possible?

4) ... where I have to relax my standards on what I require for homework or how I grade because the parents have called the principal to complain I'm being too tough?

5) ... where no metal detector can keep out the verbal abuse that is inflicted daily on the "lesser" students, and is allowed because "kids will be kids?"

Sound unbelievable? It's not.

I've taught in classrooms from California to New York City and many places in between. Students' skin changes color, the make up students' families change, and families' income change. But one thing I have noticed is that children are basically the same across the country. You just have to know how to reach them. I'll agree that some neighborhoods are scarier than others, but don't think the students are okay with that. That just might be all they have ever known.

And, I'll tell you something else: of all the schools I've been in, in the West Coast, Midwest, East Coast, where ever, the most polite students I have found are in the Bronx, where the teens always are respectful, calling me "Miss" even though I'm much to be old to be considered a "Miss," and holding doors open and offering up chairs.

I know there are differences in schools and it breaks my heart that a large segment of our population live in neighborhoods that are scary to walk through. But, giving up and turning your back on these people isn't the answer. If you won't teach there, what can you do to help? The answer isn't to leave them alone and let them "teach their own." Come up with a better answer to: What can you do?

It is easy to blame these schools on socio-economic factors, but in truth each individual needs to take responsibility for a school. I work in a school that is 98% latino in the inner city. Most of these students have never had any expectations put upon them. But...When pushed to excel, a silent majority oif them will attempt to function at school, it happens to be the vocal minority of misbehaving students who get the energy and attention of the system. Maybe making it easier to move kids of all color who do not want to learn into a life skill track or vocational track would motivate these students who se no value in chemistry and algebra. I think the answer to this problem is not nessesarily integrating students away from a neoghborhood, but rather to differentiate curriculum to appeal to those who are near the bottom.

I have been in education, as a teacher, administrator (who voluntarily returned to the classroom), and a staff developer for 43 years. I originally am from New England, but chose to move to a Texas/Mexican border city because I hated the long, cold winters in the North.
When we educators talk about "children of color", or "let them teach their own children", (referring to blacks), or "they are being brought up by a grandmother or an aunt, so there is no parent I can talk to"...we reflect the REAL problem in the gap between some minority scores and some "white" children's scores. (By the way, when was the last time you saw a REAL white person...now albinos REALLY ARE a minority!)
There is no border nor limit to problems! Heck, in Maine I had a student who lived with his family in an abandoned school bus, with an out house and no running water. He came to school in winter with no socks...so I slipped him a few pairs, telling him my husband didn't like the color (so as to save the boy's pride.) I have seen 3 generations of children raised by adults or older siblings because parents were dead, lost, in jail, or non-functioning. Love and caring can come from anyone, even teachers! I have taught in border schools with 95 known gangs in the city, and 2 murders a day in the Mexican city "across the river". I have worked in a school where a 13 year old boy killed a 12 year old girl because she would not be his girlfriend.
I work in a state (Texas) that requires the passing of a state exam or NO graduation, despite good grades and perfect attendance. Some kids (and teachers) just are not good test takers takers. Result: high drop out rate (disguised by "statistics") or kids with some money who finish high school in a private schol where state tests are not required. Is this what we teach for? Worse: teachers are forced (oops...required) to practice the state tests daily! How valid, I ask, are these results? I refused, telling my principal that I was not going to bore my students to death with test practice sheets (multiple choice, of course...known NOT to give valid results of one's true capacity on Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive ability). So I taught science to 8th graders, making it tough, fun, interesting....two week before the state tests, I taught the kids some test-taking techniques. They soared! 92% of my students passed (compared with 50-75% average in other schools in the same city in the same grade level/subject). My class was 100% hispanic, most were NOT native English speakers, and 95% of them were on free hot lunch. A few sudents on each of my 6 classes were mainstreamed from special education programs.
I am NOT a whiz! I did not train to be a teacher!
But I had great teachers myself, and model my style after them. Bottom line: what you expect is what you get. I expect my students to succeed. Period. Do they all? No. I can not undo years of problems these kids may have been exposed to. But of 130 students in science, 8th grade, for 6 years in a row, in this particular school, our tests scored from 92-97%, and I never had more than 3-4 students who chose to fail in my class.
Now I work as a mentor to new teachers and conduct staff development sessions.I see some students in 11th and 12th grade that I had had as students several years ago. They hug me with pleasure of fond memories. Two girls told me yesterday that they passed the state science test (required for graduation)simply by remembering all the concepts we had talked about in 8th grade general science. I am 63 and want to help spread the word of high energy, positive, well-developed classes!

Wouldn't it be nice if all children had everything they needed to be successful? All the nourishing food they needed. Warm or cool, safe houses to live in where every person had their own bed, and perhaps, their own room. Appropriate and substantial clothing to wear. Wonderful, adoring parents who lived only for them and had satisfying, well paying jobs to make sure their families had all that they needed and most of what they wanted. Wouldn't that be wonder for all children?

Well, you wannabe teachers, life isn't like that in this country. In all communitites there are problems that have no quick fix. Institutional racism creates these deplorable schools where few teachers care about the real child rather than what they see through their middle-class, white, "I am superior" lenses! As one respondent noted, "Children are children" and that is true all over this country. As the adults, we need to be able to see this and create classroom environments where the children know we care and know we are qualified to teach, not by the number of degrees and endorsements we hold, but by the way we know where their strengths and interests are so that WE motivate them to want to learn what we have to teach. Plus, we know they can learn and we will not allow them NOT to learn.

I teach teachers at the graduate level and, sometimes I am appalled! I teach white teachers who have no respect for the children of color they teach, especially the parents. They look at the communities where they work and turn up their noses as if the very sight of them is repugnant. They never look at these communities and schools as a byproduct of their own racism. Children of color are not 'things', as I have heard some teachers say. If you can't honor and respect children, their families (regardless to how they may not look like your nuclear family), and their communities, STAY OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS! In fact, you don't need to be in a school at all! Why not go into business where you can continue to make sure that poor children become poor adults who remain poor and turn to drugs, violence, and theft because they can not be employed and are not accepted or respected by too many in the mainstream culture.

To the soon-to-be teacher, education major -- find another career. You won't do well in your white schools where you seem to think the world will be full of roses. Upper middle class schools can be among the worse; with parents who have nannies to take care of their children and can't bother to pay attention to them. These parents will throw money at the children instead of love. It is your young, white males who are shooting students and teachers in all-white schools because they are totally alienated from their themselves and their worlds. It's in those schools that your Nazi and neo-Nazi youth flourish, then kill you because you didn't expect this kind of behavior from them; that only happens in the inner-city.

If you want to teach, then you have to WANT to teach. You want to turn on the light in a child's eyes when they create knowledge from what you are presenting. You want to watch as they make connections between a new piece of information and old stuff they learned before. It doesn't matter how poor or black or "can't speak good English" the child might be; they all can learn. They all really want a teacher who believes they are human just like the teacher. They want someone who will TEACH them rather than teach to the stereotypes that are perpetuated by the media, the government, and people who would rather bring out what is bad in another than look for what is good. All children deserve teachers who want to be there, who care, who know their content knowledge and can teach it, not just pass a test and expect an 'A'.

When I teach these graduate teachers and find their white arrogance and demeaning attitudes toward the poor and people of color, I really wish they would find another job. They can not be good teachers of white children or any others, either. They are the ones who continue to make sure education does not work, and, they need to leave the field. Look for another career where you can diminish another human being because you 'think' you are superior!

I work in an inner city school that has a population of 89% Hispanic and 10% Black and 1% white. We are also 100% free lunch. We were a Superior school 2 years in a row. It is a Dual Language School where children learn in Spanish one day and English the next. True we do need more resources that the average school and do not get them but our teachers are committed, and generous in terms of helping the children. We turn children of all races away due to the lack of space. NCLB is a harmful because of the cuts in the budgets that the President has made. Many of our teachers hold a multiple of Master's degrees and in my case 2 masters and 90 hours in addition that I do not get paid for but it has made me a better educator. I think it is unfair to say inner city schools are a dumping ground for the blacks and Hispanics. Depends on the staff and the principal. We write many grants, pay for uniforms and shoes, partner with dentists and opticians etc. I choose to work here and I am highly sought after as a consultant.

I believe that true heterogeneous grouping would resolve many inequities. Currently, despite the fact that Providence (RI) is a small city, we have a single "exam" school which 'bleeds' off all the talented students (mostly white) to Classical High. To remedy the perception of educators with similar views we need to dissolve Classical and spread the talent around to the remaining High Schools. We are struggling with many problems in our inner city schools and this is just one of them. Funding based on the property tax is a disaster. Follow states like Hawaii who funds the entire state thru the general fund using income and sales taxes as the basis for education funding.

I work in a rural school that is 70-75% African American and 80% free/reduced lunch. I also have high expectations for my students but after 10 years of teaching mathematics, I'm mentally exhasted and discouraged. To the best of my knowledge, I've been unable to make any of my students realize that an education is their ticket to a better life. They don't want a better life because the one they've always had is all they know. I have no support from the administration ( just give them a grade and send them on) or parents. They don't care what the child knows, they just want to see a decent grade on that report card. The peer pressure on young black males to present themselves as tough, thugish, rapper type people is unreal. I've never been able to overcome it. I've had lots of young black male students who were very intelligent slip away to the streets. I see them on the street corners or read about them in the crime section of the local paper. It breaks my heart and I've learned that most of the time there's nothing you can do.

I am appalled at the "teach their own" suggestions from so called "teachers".

A real teacher knows how to teach every child regardless of color. As Karen said in her comments "children are children" regardless of race. Every group of children has strengths and weaknesses. Some have respect and humility but lack the knowledge for the need to learn and/or the cognitive ability to learn. And, yet others have the cognitive awareness/ability but are blantantly disrespectful and arrogant spoiled brats. Sometimes, it is up to the teacher to tap into the child's undeveloped needs/insights and break this vicious cycle that can be found in any school rich/poor, black/white.

Every child can learn what they need for their future, just like every teacher can learn (if they want) how to help each individual child. With time/effort, trial/error, love/compassion, and respect/consideration for the human life of each child. I don't think that's too much to ask of a profession that works with the future of our country.

As Ken said in his comments maybe "life skills and vocational tracks" are the considerations/suggestions we as teachers should be offering to our youth. I can see that as sparking some motivation/interest. Rather than having a "teach their own" mentality about the national education problem we are experiencing, let's tap into students' future goals/interests. Lets think of why there is such a lack of motivation from so many of our students. Could it be that so many of them don't see relevence of what is being taught to their future goals/interest? Although the expectations for learning should be high for all, we certainly know that not all students will go on to college/university. So why do they all need to learn the same curriculum and pass the same tests? So many of our graduates will need some highly developed life skills and vocational skills in order to succeed in society after they leave us. Let's press for a larger concentration of time on these skills for those students who are not interested or do not have the cognitive ability to seek the college/university life after high school.

Dr. Gallagher Rodriguez also made a good point. Too much emphasis is being placed on teaching to the test. This is not why people go into education. We should be using high interest, high energy, and well developed lessons that do the job WE went into this profession for, to make learning fun and easy to process. Everything else would fall into place if we were happy doing what we do best and if students weren't bored with test taking skills at every turn of the page. The funding/support for testing purposes (materials, consultants, coaches, trainings...)is getting way out of hand.
Most teachers have already paid good money to good universities to learn how to teach.

Maybe Alain's comment on a general state funding as the basis for education's funding would take care of and/or equalize the issues related to school funding. Especially if they used/emphasised less of it on state testing.

Lastly, teachers don't go into this career for the money but as the new generation of youth develops into future working class citizens they are going to realize that this profession isn't keeping up with the cost of living. The shortage will be greater than ever each year. Teacher pay is certainly going to be a growing issue.

I am now teaching in a rural area and am sure the perception is that we are free of the challenges of urban settings, especially in a state that appears to be rather homogeneous. By typical standards this is true, but principally because we are simply working with smaller total numbers of students. Our diversity lies mainly with economics. When we have problems, either behavior or achievement, the voices rise to declare blame. This certainly is a typical reaction, even if unproductive. Parents and other community members question what is wrong with the schools that the children are not learning and behaviors seemed to be out of control. School personnel question what is wrong with the administration and/or the parents that the children are not interested in learning and are demonstrating out of control behaviors.
Oh...if only the answers/solutions were a simple as the outcries. The answers, I believe, must rest with us--all of us. For this reason and others, I am truly saddened by the comments of "Joe." We need educators who are believers. We need people who believe in the possibilities of children and the possibilities of change. To Joe, I suggest that you find opportunities to share your education where you will be exposed to challenges, then possibilities. Great things can happen in the homogeneous communities, just as great things happen in communities of extraordinary diversity. The judgmental me says, "Good, Joe. Go find the school of your dreams and I hope the best for you and your students. Please run from diversity, because until you open you eyes and your understanding, you will only drag down yourself and those around you."
The greatest success happens in environments where all--teachers, support staff, parents, community members, administrators--are working with common goals and understandings. But I will not give in to less than optimum circumstances. If I can't give everything to our children, I can certainly give them my best, which at the very least is my belief in them. I am not Pollyanna, my belief in the children and an evergrowing best on my part (with more and more education, training and action research) is imperative. If we give in to hopelessness, what will the future be, for the children, for families, for us, for our communities.
There is research that demonstrates success and progress with schools that should have presented dismal projections. They are referred to as the 90-90-90 schools. I encourage people to look at what some schools are doing and their resulting successes. There is no one answer for all, but the information from these schools can lead us to positive discussions and actions.
While I enthusiastically endorse the need for men of diverse backgrounds and cultures teaching and leading in our schools, we need not reject the blonde, blue-eyed women who may fit someone's stereotypes. Children need to be exposed to our differences also. Stereotypes exist because our lack of exposure to greater and greater numbers of people who are perceived both as the same and as different than us, culturally, economically, ethnicly, religiously, etc.
A number of complicated challenges present themselves daily--the answers are somewhere. Giving up can't possibly be on the list of options that may result in positive outcomes. I understand those who are truly worn out from the daily struggle, but who is ready to pick up the challenge of feeding our children's development?

I believe we are living in a world of universal kinship where all peoples must co-exist economically, spiritually, and physically. If a people are uneducated, the entire peoples of the world will feel the impact negatively and inevitably. We must begin to see all children equally and care for their education equally. An il-educated child in Burundi will have an some effect on the life of a well educated child in Maryland. Let's educate all children regardless of who or where they are. Only then can we as a people of the world guarantee our civil existence.

I had been part of the Dot Com implosion and decided to become an ED teacher in a public school. I started working on my masters in Special Education, passed Praxis 1 on ther first try and obtained a conditional license. I had a very successful year as an assistant.

The next year I applied and was accepted as a teacher in an Emotionally Disturbed classroom. The assistant principal made it her goal to drive me out of the classroom. The students were not the problem. It was the principal and assistant principal who made it their goal to drive me out. They drove three other teachers out before me.

The expectations for me were the same as for the teachers with twenty years experience. The idealism of making the world a better place is great, but with the lack of support from the administrators, people with self respect and a realistic viewpoint will not put up with this treatment. No wonder over half of all teachers leave within five years.

The whining about a teacher shortage will continue as long as power hungry administrators are allowed to bully teachers with no repercussions. All that it takes is a power hungry administrator with nothing better to do than berate their teachers to keep the attrition rate going. Where a teacher is willing to work has a lot more to do with administration than the students.

Career education at all grade levels has been shown to improve motivation and achievement. When students see how math, reading, writing, etc. are used in the workplace, they apply themselves more. Community members visiting classes to talk about their work; field trips to hospitals, banks, offices, and stores; job shadowing from 4th grade up; and career exploration units all make a huge difference in how students see the relevance of schoolwork. What does Covey say? Start with the end in mind! Our purpose is to educate students to become productive members of our society. Local businesses need to be involved in the classrooms. Of course, if students have no hope of finding a job in the community when they graduate because of their immigration status or the depressed neighborhood they live in, this career focus may not be enough.

I grew up in the South, and I can just picture the person who said to let Black men teach Black boys (even if they don't have teacher credentials). I also know that racism is rampant in other parts of the country, too, as Kozol's Savage Inequalities described so well.
As long as property tax is the main source of school funding, things won't get better. My parents' NC town center has a high school with no White students, and the suburbs continue to build new schools. It's true that we need responsible parents who make children a priority, or it is going to get harder and harder to fill the spots that we baby boomers are leaving. Kids sense whether the teacher cares about her job and respects them. They'll respond to that, no matter what their color.

Sue is right about the property tax issue. The problem in Loudoun County Virginia is that the Superintendent is a dictator and he has given the principals complete power, so that he won't have to get involved. A new teacher especially one who needs the paycheck never gets the chance to do the good they want to do. If you are not 100 percent by December your contract is not renewed. It is all about politics, not the children in Loudoun County Virginia.


One of the major constructs of modern American life is the neighborhood school. It has become a symbol of our local identities, our values, and our pride. Realtors nationwide, who use the adage, “Location, location, location,” when describing market values, almost always place the quality of the local schools above all else in determining the "worth" of a particular area.

And, although our collective lifestyles have changed significantly since our nation moved from the one-room country school to the local elementary-middle-high school format, the neighborhood school has remained one of the few bastions of stability in our otherwise evolving society. In may cases, this still works out just fine. In others, attending "neighborhood" schools does little to improve the future for our nation’s youth, while appearing to even cause more harm than good in many cases. While there remains a need for organized recreational facilities in high-crime neighborhoods, unlike schools, these entities are able to be staffed by non-degreed, often minimum-wage or volunteer coaches and others, frequently from the neighborhood themselves. Unfortunately, the more highly-skilled teachers can find employment without risking their lives to do so.

The reality is this: Schools in bad neighborhoods will never be fully staffed by the most desirable teachers, at least not as long as there’s a teacher shortage. Given the choice, most will always opt for the more lucrative conditions and salaries in more desirable locales. Yet, these are often the children who require the greatest teaching abilities.

At the same time, many of the brightest and most talented physicians are often employed by large teaching hospitals frequently located in some of our most blighted areas. Why? Because these facilities have been developed to meet superior challenges not afforded to physicians in areas having little crime or tragedy. The medical field prides itself on being able to meet even its most severe cases, while the staff in these facilities pride themselves on the superior skills required to succeed in these settings.

Adopting this "medical" model, Of couse, one can see that in order to address our most neediest students requires establishing some state-of-the art "Super Schools," perhaps not in every neighborhood, but situated to be accessible to those most in need. Perhaps these "super" institutions would actually contain several smaller "schools" within the schools that, like areas of specialized medicine, are each specifically geared to meet students special learning needs. Teacher would, of course, receive superior salaries at the facilities, but would have to meet more stringent criteria to be considered for employment. Suddenly, like doctors, working at the inner city facilties would be an honor.


Excerpted from: "Set Up To Fail: 100 Things Wrong with America's Schools." To order your copy send $12.95 by check or m.o. to 100 Things, 476 Estate Drive, Buffalo Grove IL 60089

I used to teach in the inner city public school which was always overcrowded and lacking resources.However, we had some excellent teachers there who cared deeply for the students. Within the last 4 or 5 years most of those teachers transferred to different schools because the situation was too stressful for some of them which resulted in health issues. Kozol and my peers comments above regarding inequality in public schools just emphasized a condition in the inner city schools that had been going on for years. The division between the "Haves" and the "Have nots" has become more apparent especially on state exam results for math and reading. How can we best fix these problems?

"A (School) Day in the Life" by k.p. loftus

A comparison of four High School students in two adjoining Chicago suburbs

(From EducationNews.org - September 27, 2005)

7:00 a.m. Brad and Amanda arrive at school and proceed toward the entrance of their high school that encourages self-expression. Brad is wearing gray warm-up pants and a blue t-shirt that reads, “Hugs, not Guns.” Amanda is wearing pink Capri pants and a coordinating pink and yellow blouse.

7:00 a.m. Michael and Janelle arrive at school and proceed toward the entrance. They are both wearing their school’s “uniform,” black slacks and white shirts, only Michael’s shirt has no collar.

7:15 a.m. Brad heads to the school’s fitness center and begins a 15 minute workout before class. Amanda meets her friends in the cafeteria, that looks more like an upscale restaurant, for a decaf latte, orange juice, and warm cinnamon rolls.

7:15 a.m. Michael and Janelle are still in a long line stretching out their high school’s front door, waiting their turns to be frisked by uncertified security staff once they pass through the metal detector.

7:30 a.m. Brad and Amanda go to their lockers, get their textbooks, and proceed to their classes, returning the friendly greetings of a number of school staff as they pass.

7:30 a.m. Michael hurries to his class while being brutally berated by security staff for having no collar on his shirt. (He can only afford one shirt with a collar and so frequently substitutes a pressed white t-shirt.) Janelle is heading to the Dean’s office to report how she discovered her locker with someone else’s lock and her belongings strewn around the hall floor.

8:00 a.m. Brad demonstrates his skills at trigonometry for the class from his laptop at his desk that is projected on the board. Amanda conducts a power-point presentation to her class comparing Communism and Marxism.

8:00 a.m. Michael takes his seat in class where he must share a textbook with another student because there’s not enough to go around. Janelle is told there is nothing the Dean’s office can do about her locker, because there is a shortage of lockers that aren’t broken and unusable.

10:30 a.m. Amanda is developing photos in her school’s state-of-the-art photography lab. Brad is swimming laps in the school’s Olympic-sized swimming pool.

10:30 a.m. Janelle is learning about Biology from a textbook, only, since her school’s science lab has not been replenished or updated in ten years.

12:00 noon Brad heads to lunch with his buddies across the street at the local sandwich shop. Amanda joins her friends in the cafeteria where they dine on chef’s salads and mineral water.

12:00 noon In their “closed campus” high school, Michael and Janelle are herded toward their school’s cafeteria in the windowless basement where they are screamed at by security staff to remain seated until their table is called, and then allowed to stand in long lines where their only menu choices are greasy French fries coated with fake cheese or a “pizza puff.”

1:30 Amanda is out on the road learning to drive in one of the school’s fleet of new automobiles. Brad is receiving a private voice lesson for his part in the school’s show choir.

1:30 Janelle has cut her hand on the broken stall in the girl’s washroom. She had been told to wrap it in tissue because the school nurse is only at her school on Tuesdays. Michael is sitting in the Dean’s office for having been “busted” for attempting to sneak a textbook into his backpack so that he may study for tomorrow’s history test overnight. (No textbooks are allowed out of the classroom.)

3:00 Brad meets with the College Counselor for help writing his application essay. Amanda is receiving a private violin lesson in the school’s enormous music studio.

3:00 Michael is serving a detention for trying to borrow a textbook. When this is over he will join his cross country team mates running laps through the school since there is no track of fieldhouse. Janelle is attending cheerleading practice on the school’s glass-strewn parking lot.

4:00 Brad finds his car in the student parking lot and heads home to where he interacts with his Sociology classmates via the class webpage. Amanda rides home on the school’s activity bus and relaxes by her family’s jacuzzi.

4:00 Since her school has no activity bus, Janelle begins her mile-long walk home in semi-darkness through unsafe neighborhoods across several busy streets, where her four younger siblings are waiting for her to cook them dinner. Michael runs to his after school factory “sweat shop” job where he is already late, hoping he will not be fired.

Both pairs of students are 17 years old. They share similar intellectual promise and hopes for the future. One pair, however, will likely never reach their goals, never realize their potential, never overcome their meager beginnings. Their dreams for a better life begin now. Do America’s public schools exist to ensure a decent beginning for all its children, or only those whose futures are already bright?

Oh, and by the way, Michael and Janelle are white, Brad and Amanda are black. Shocked? But then, why should it matter?

To order your copy of "Set Up to Fail: 100 Things Wrong With America's Schools," by K. P. Loftus, send $12.95 by check or money order to: 100 Things, 476 Estate Drive, Buffalo Grove IL 60089. Comments: [email protected]

I'm sure this Kozol rant makes just as good fiction as "Amazing Grace" and "Savage Inequalities." As someone who's lived in both white and black ghettos, I have a real problem with Kozol's playing of the race card.

Disparity has no color, at least in the formerly great state of California. In neighborhoods where there are few landlords, those priviledged few often pay property taxes based on old market values. This tax revenue feeds the school. The renters, of all colors, don't pay these taxes. Hence schools dont' get squat. Or very little.

Ironically, not all property-owners breed children, and they are paying the lin's share of public schooling. The "poor" people who feel entitled to education don't pay for it. And guilt-ridden honkies like Kozol keep us complainin' about it.

Solution: privatize schools. Let teachers hustle for good salaries. Teach our citizens that everything, including education, costs. That's a better lesson for life than bleeding-heart liberalism with people of color will never respect anyway.

That's just my two cents based on JK's previous novels. As to his insistence that whites bus their children to black neighborhoods, what is he trying to prove?

Children should be allowed to go to school in their own neighborhoods with their neighbors as classmates. Their parents should pay for it. And Kozol should send some of his profits back to the districts he's whining about, if he has any cajones.

Jonathan Kozol always hits the nail "smack" on the head with every issue he discusses in his books. I think it is absolutely true to say our schools are resegregated. It is a harsh but absolutly true reality that minority students continue to get less of an education than the white community. Honestly, our presidents No Child Left Behind is leaving so many behind. Children now go to school to learn how to take standardized tests instead of what is really important to know for life and the real world. It is the standardized tests that cause districts to loose funding from the government because the do not have the resources given to the white community to "pass" the test.

Do you know in the United States of America we have only 10 predominately Black Cities.(1990 U.S. Census). Yet, in the state of Ohio we have over 611 school districts of those 611, We have 8 large urban and they are called the Big 8. The Big 8 is followed by the Urban 21. I mention this in order to reference my point. The Urban 21 Districts have over 72 percent of all minority students in the state. 20 of the 21 Urban districts were either listed as either Academic Watch or Academic Emergency the lowest two rankings on the state report card in 2002-3. We have a segregated country and a segregated educational system and it is divided into haves and have nots. This is the design for the education of African American and now Hispanic Students in our country. One just needs to refer to the Lake Mohonk Convention in 1891 where the Negro question was presented to Pres. Rutherford B. Hayes, also of Ohio. The plan was designed to provide primary education to blacks and train them in vocational education. Just look at the graduation rates in Oakland, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, and Los Angelos for African American males. It will make you cry. Yes, Kozol is correct we have educational apartheid here in America and it is systemic by design. Thank God we shall overcome and their is still hope. We lost Rosa Parks today, but when one dies a new one comes along. Education is the Civil Rights movement of the 21st century

The problem that this nation faces, and it is a national issue is that of morals. National or family morals aren't what they once were. The teaching profession doesn't receive the respect that it did once upon a time. Teachers often don't receive family or community support of the children they are educating. Teachers serve as a tool to the family in the education of the child. The sole responsibility of educating the child shouldn't rest soley on the teachers, but it often does. True the face of the family has been redefine, many grandparents, etc are rearing children and many receive subsidies, but they didn't create the vicious cycle that they were born in. They didn't decide to be herded in inner city schools (like animals) live in below standard housing and wait for the next welfare check. When one decides to teach, than teaching should take place, regardless of skin color, socioeconomic class or location. You teach because you love teaching and you love the ones to which you are imparting the knowledge. There isn't one answer, but apartheid schooling isn't an answer.

Teaching for 22 years plus having the role of on-site professional development for 6 years in East Harlem and the South Bronx has given me much insight abouy apartheid in education.

Incompetent teaching and unwillingness to grow professionally is hidden behind empty arrogance and profound ignorance of how to respect, reach and teach underachieving Black and Latino chldren. I am embarrassed to watch and listen to grown men and women speak from such ignorance and impotence about their work and their students.

It is not a secret they are incompetente. In all schools I have visited, every adult in the school (from janitor to para-professional) knows these teachers just do not do their work well. Yet, these teachers overtake any intelligent discussion about instruction and children by cleverly blaming kids for their incompetence with the following words. "These kids are incorrigible." "These kids don't listen to me, they don't let me teach." "They behave like animals." "They don't want to learn."

Frankly, I applaude these teachers for leaving our schools, early in their careers, though have waste a child's school year in the process. The secondary damage, equally important, is that these teachers also create a revolving door that disables a school each September.

However, the real issue is that they should never have been hired. What is the matter with the educational leaders? How long will they be complicit in maintaining such teachers on staff?

The interview process must include strategic conversation and research about the teachers experiences and understanding of the children's needs. Key words, phrases and responses should help to spot such people before they enter fragile lives for a year. New teachers should be supported and monitored thoroughly through their first three years to ensure that they grow and do not abandon the profession.

My work with adolescents throughout my career has made it entirely clear that we underestimate the students' ability to "read" the adult's respect or disdain for them. These socially and emotionally impoverished adults will say the most demeaning things to and about students without discretion, as though they enjoy hurting students' feelings. Most ethically driven adults stay away from these negative, uninspiring people in and out of school. I have heard horrible things come out of teachers' mouths!

Unbelievably, these teachers have remained unchallenged by administrators or colleagues for 2 to 3 decades. These people- unworthy of the title "Teacher"- got away "teaching" by having students copy from the board for thirty years. Every day, they unleashed their hate saying to young people, "Your not going anywhere." "Why are they being taught about college, they can't make it".

These victims of their own ignorance and hate would never have survived in suburban schools with such borderless attitudes. Ironically, these teachers, retired with hefty pensions after 30 years without ever being challenged about the quality of their teachingm their openly racist attitudes and their negative influence on new teachers. One has to wonder why new teachers find it so easy to buy into these attitudes.

Apartheid barely describes the unchallenged, tacitly accepted. rampant and educationally irrespponsible behaviors that have brought down the school systems our large cities.

We have focused on the wrong parties. The focus should be teacher and administrator attitudes and competency- not the children. Children respond first to teacher attitude and competency. We should be supporting, testing and interviewing the adults regularly throughout the year, not the children. We should root-out corruption and sub-cultures in the school that undermine change and professional growth to maintain the status-quo. The children do not corrupt a school.

The work of educating the most needy of our society must never be put in the hands of those who do not care about these children. These people must want with a passion a diverse United States of America with access for everyone. True patriots.

Respecting,reaching and teaching our children is rewarded enormously. Conversely, students will not give respect to teachers from whom they feel disdain. It just does not happen. The pattern is evident in school after school. Like in any other aspect of life, one has to earn respect.
Apartheid licenses disrespect.

Uncaring, imcompetent educators can come in all colors and ages, too. However, our society is bullt on white supremacy and it is the white teachers' ignorance that is most damaging. Respecting other people's humanity and reality is not taught successfully in our country, though we keep trying. Teaching begs that educators be very special, gifted people- white, black or latino.

Ignorance and the need to flee irrationally from one's incompetency is illustrated in the following experience I had with a mature change of career woman ( a teaching fellow ). When she- a white teacher- said to me that the students do not respect her because she is white ( and only 12 days in the classroom as a teacher), I was taken aback by the way she so freely used race to whitewash her extremely poor, teaching skills and lack of knowledge.

I responded to her that most parents of children of color deliberately caution their children to NOT use their color as an excuse for poor performance. I told her that it was the first time in my careeer that a white teacher had used her color as an excuse for poor performance.

Having courage and experience to turn such conversations into a "teachable" moment, I was able to offer new thinking about her professional needs. These conversations are scary. It has taken years for me to be able to "go there" with teachers.

I could see her surprise. I was willing to challenge her paradigm w/out being hostile. Iy disarmed her but it took an enormous amount of energy. These conversations as necessary as they are become an awesome responsiblity. However, we have to be ready and able to challenge and rebuild paradigms very early in a new teacher's career. It is the only way Black and Latino children will get access to a fair share of the "pie".

For decades, we have underestimated how keen children read teachers' comfort level with them- this is our Achilles' heel. Students' continued raw behaviors speak volumes of the teacher's poor teaching skills and unspoken as well as spoken messaqges of disdain to the students.

Administrators can not be spineless and cow tow to the teacher who disrespects children or who spreads his disdain to new teachers year after year, decade after decade.

Change in our schools demands true attention to the manifestations and proponents of apartheid in our schools as we improve teacher and administrator quality. Caring, competent and respctful adults (teachers and administrators) do turn schools around.

Do you believe that the reason these students turn to these destructive behaviors is because they are poor? I don't!!!!! There are too many poor people who don't turn to these things than there are that do. My mother came from a very poor family with 8 children. She had only a few dresses that she wore to school, but those dresses were kept clean and neat and she was expected to keep herself that way also. Just being poor is not a good enough reason to me. Infra-Cultural expectations, or the lack of, is more likely the reason. A national history of prejudices, existence and abuse of welfare, perpetuated stereotyping also contribute to the low expectations for a low socio-economic class of people. Segregated populations from schools to business to churches have only continued to produce a gap between races and classes. Without sharing in the experiences, loves, deaths, celebrations of others we do not build relationships to the point that we are able to care about anyone else's difficulties or needs. Most people just think if they throw a little money or care packages their way, their responsibility is over. It is everyone's responsibility to see human life as important and worth the effort! With the deterioration of the family unit, there has been a deterioration of the value of life. If it "takes a village to raise a child" the village isn't doing a very good job. When raising children was a familial expectation, our society did a better job of caring about the welfare of those on our own streets and communities!

Mr. Kozol's casting the light on resegregation of the nation shifts the conversation from talk about changing certain schools to changing the seemingly intractable and uncomfortable reality of America's de facto apartheid education system.

Some that where inspired by the life of Rosa Parks surely might find the courage to stand up and support a rebirth of the movement for integrated education.

But, it is hard to begin that conversation when the status quo is "separate but equal". NCLB focuses on equality and in a clever way reinforces apartheid education. NCLB is fully aligned with Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Issues of race are always uncomfortable to talk about seriously. Teacher find shelter from such uncomfortable talk by celebrating black and brown heroes and sheroes for their accomplishments in their segregated classrooms.

That is why I thank Mr. Kozol for his book The Shame of The Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America and for jump-starting a conversation about this difficult, but important subject.

As an African-American female teacher, I live in a majority white town, but I moved here from another state because I liked the family-friendly area.

One of the biggest problems that I've encountered (prayerfully not THIS time!) is that the moment I arrive at a typically "White" ISD job fair--I'm not hired...even when they "talk" about diversity. I am certified in two states and have excellent teacher evaluations, but all I see who are hired are people who look like each other...white. If it is a MAJOR school district, then administrators automatically place me in a majority all-black school. Black with black. It has been this way for a long time.

I don't agree with this "policy".

Some may disagree with my opinion, but I don't mind teaching in suburban school districts because it forces white parents and their children to get out of "segregated bubbles". Like it or not, the world works with a global mentality.

Usually during the 1st week of school, some of the white children switch classes just based on my color. However, the ones that stay (around the middle of the school year) enjoy being in my room and are comfortable talking to me.

I am firm but fair teacher and when white students have questions about issues concerning my racial background, I am more than happy to answer them to the best of my knowledge. I don't know everything, but at least they're exploring outside of their racial box. Plus, it helps them get rid of common stereotypes.

Parent-teacher conferences can be tense at times because parents automatically assume that I'm white before they show up. My name, voice, speech and mannerisms do not give away my color. Plus, I teach a typically "white-male" subject.

Once in a meeting, parents tend to talk "at" me instead of "to" me. Again, I try to make the atmosphere a pleasant one and it usually works. Of course, I've had my job threatened despite being "in the right", been looked down upon because of my color and so forth--but it hasn't deterred me from leaving my career. (Oh, the last woman that threatened my job became the FIRST person to ask me for a college reference for her daughter. Why? Once she started talking TO me, it completely changed her attitude.)

Sometimes I take the heat from other African-American teachers because of my decision, but I currently work in a mostly all black/Latino urban high school. I do not treat my students any differently and give them my very best daily.

However,due to high gas prices and a really, really long commute (1 1/2 hours both ways!), I want to teach here in my hometown.

This is for ANYONE wanting to teach--be prepared to deal with students of different races, socioecomic backgrounds, etc.

Otherwise, go into private practice.

Responding to Sharon (Teacher)-

Yes, it is true that you cannot control all the variables and children (teenagers in particular) are rebellious and want to claim their independence, and all of this is occuring while hormones are raging. This is exactly why you can't always blame teachers, administators for low test scores and poor academics.

Discipline, consistency, and high standards must be reinforced by teachers and administrators, but must originate from home. Parents must have high standards for their children throughout each developmental stage of their child's life.

I believe that children do what we (parents, adults) allow them to do. Parents should be leaders and good stewards of the home teaching respect, work ethic, and responsibility.

Parents, we must stop spoiling our children. Children need food, clothing (not PRADA), shelter, and love. Children must earn what they want-clothing like PRADA.

1.Regulate video game playing and television watching in the home.

2.Implement a study hall right at your diningroom table -in your home.

3.Participate and show interest in school activities.

4.Have your children read everyday and read with them.

5.Stay on top of how your children are doing (academic & behavorial) in school.

6.Place less value on materialistic items like shoes and clothing.

7.Parents be more supportive and partner with teachers and administrators for the best interest of the child. Work together.

8.Educators, parents, be more realistic. Don't set goals to high for children, but have high standards. Encourage children to improve with less emphasis on earning A or B grades.

9.Show the relevance of what they're learning and how their education relates to their adult life.

10.and my personal favorite-spitituality,GOD in my case!

I'm glad that Joe is working where he is. We do not need that mindset in schools where the need for dedication is high. We all know the social dilemma associated with socioeconomic strata, however the Teaching Profession can and has been successful in developing young minds and turning out academic achievers. So, let Joe work where he will and the others, more dedicated and determined to make a difference, continue their work where They will.

I live in a beautiful suburban neighborhood where I send my 2 children to school. I have taught in an urban high school for 15 years. I wish I could offer my students--bright, beautiful children of color or low SES--the same experiences my own children get in their schools. I worry that my own children will never truly appreciate their opportunities because they will never truly understand poverty.

I believe my children, their teachers and my neighbors abstractly understand poverty. But poverty has a name and a face for me. In fact, poverty has far too many faces and names. I have also seen that poverty of posessions and basic needs leads to poverty of spirit. A child cannot dream of nor seek something he/she cannot conceptualize.

I also believe good teachers can teach many kinds of students. To Joe I would say. Don't let your fears get the best of you. Challenging students can bring out the the very best in you and will benefit far more from your best teaching than cooperative students will benefit from your average teaching.

We, as educators, need to look beyond the problems that our children face and see them as an individual who's crying out for our help. We have to move beyond our comfort zones of podiums, stools, and desks to reach our children where they are and not from where they come. You will never be able to teach or reach any child if you continue to focus on the child's looks, neighborhood, parents, and the likes. We have to meet the children where they hurt, hunger, and thirst.

I absolutely love teaching in urban schools. Not everyday is peachy, but what school is? Students in these schools tend to respect their teachers more. Now granted, you may not have a lot of parental support but you will be amazed of what you can accomplish once the child knows that it's all about him/her and you are focused on what he or she can do.

I am a young, black science teacher currently working on my master's in school counseling. I grew up with an older sister and no father in the household, only my mother. I had a child as a teenager but look at me now. I am more successful than my female counterparts who started off in college but quit the first semester. My class valedictorian does the same thing that I do - teach science. How do you think I made it this far? I had teachers who cared. They saw my potential and were able to tap in on my abilities. Those are the type of teachers that our children need today - caring and compassionate teachers!

I teach in the high school setting and I love it! Not all the time minority students have the opportunity to see black teachers teaching in the schools these days. When I tell my students that I sat in the same chair they sit, walked the same halls that they walk, and rode the same bus that they ride, their eyes light up! They (particularly our black children) need to know that there is hope. They don't have to fall prey to the ills of society (or teachers) that don't believe in them.

Let's show them that it's so much more to life than what they see in their neighborhoods and I guarantee they will rise to the occasion!

These contributions are very interesting. I cannot argue with any of the writers. There is no right or wrong answer here - no real black or white (just an infinite amount of shades of gray).

Each situation, learning environment, economic status, and state governace is completely unique.
I can only say that many of these students have very little when they come to us, but it is always their choice to either reach out and touch / grab the hand, or, to bite the same.

With such debacles as affirmative action and the like, there are far many more opportunities for these students to "pull out" of the incumbent, and rise to the occasion.

I do not support the government policies of taking from the "haves," and handing over to the "have nots," however. I am looking out of my window at the only school in my town that is in desperate physical shape. In the very next town they have just built three entirely new schools (one of which was not in as poor condition as the one in my town) at no cost to the taxpayer - Abbott monies, of course!

In previous generations there were those who had, and those who did not have, and there will always be that scenario. In America, there are countless opportunities for all - make the right choices.

Educate everyone together, regardless of ethnic persuasion. The only separation: Between the "doers" and the do nothings;" the "hand touchers" and the "biters."

I finished college in three years. I have national awards in speech. I am certified to teach in two areas. However, I am an African American who taught in an urban environment for seven years. The school was about 97% minorities. I was happy there for about the first five years. However, I became discouraged by the diservice the children endured. One year the children didn't even have their schedules for the first day of school and sat in homeroom for three days. The grass is always greener on the other side. So I went to a school that is about 75% white (By the way the school thinks that they are diverse). Now, The joy I had for teaching just is not there. The teachers are competitive and mean to one another. They all inflate their grades to match the inflated grading system (94-100 is an A). These kids are not that much better academically than what I experienced earlier. I had upset parents email me about their child's grades. That was before I knew the unspoken rule. Inflate the grades! I have done this and now I have no parents harassing me and no anxious administrators looking over my shoulder. I am putting my resume' out to return to a more diverse school district. I don't think it is just the kids. These kids are okay. It's not the same as with my former students but we do have a rappot. Their parents and the district are not okay. I don't know if they really just don't want me there, but I feel like an outsider. I feel like I am visiting another school. One day I will take all that I have learned and go back home to my school an urba school.

Hi Joe,
I am actually doing research paper on why new teachers choose to teach in the suburbs. I enjoyed reading your comments and I must say that I agree with some of them. I have been working in a behavioral school for the past 3 years. I am curious to know, through all of your comments and feelings, why then do you teach? You know we hear of teachers claiming they love kids and they teach because it is there passion, but is it really? I am in no way trying to slam you because I understand where you are coming from. I'm just curious to know if you will complete a survey for me for this research paper? Thanks

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