Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City
May 2003

Jonathan Kozol’s Ordinary Resurrections:
Children In The Years Of Hope

Much has been made in recent months of the problem of fiscal inequality in school spending. No matter who raises the issue—parents, educators, school reformers, or politicians—the concept that spending $5,200 on a child in the South Bronx, while a Great Neck child receives up to $18,000 on his education, makes any sense is difficult to reconcile.

And in this compelling, provocative and utterly absorbing account of the lives of some of the children and teachers in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, author Jonathan Kozol makes it clear why this issue matters so much, for the future of public education, society, and these particular children he cares about so deeply.

This book should make you mad. You don’t have to agree with all Kozol’s arguments (yes, more money spent on teacher salaries and supplies for children in the South Bronx would help, as would smaller classes, but what Scarsdale and communities like it offer to their offspring goes beyond excellent schools and beautiful campuses) to realize that these Mott Haven children face nearly insurmountable obstacles to obtain simply a basic education.

Kozol, who has previously written about this community, if not these particular schools or children, in Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace—takes a slightly different approach here. His goal is to make the reader see these children as wondrous, distinctive, unique personalities in the process of being shaped and developed by their experiences at school, at home and in their neighborhood—and not merely as some abstract statistical reflection of an impoverished underclass.

As he writes, “Children live in a land of candy bars, pencil sets, Elmo dolls”—even these children whose lives have been the subject of so much sociological study. For Kozol, what matters is seeing these children, who live in a community plagued by AIDS, childhood and adult asthma, absent (read: incarcerated) fathers, drugs and violence, as children who can still be charmed by the arrival of butterflies in a garden, entranced by an adept teacher’s reading aloud of a story, or engaged by a sympathetic visitor to confide their dreams and struggles.

Kozol follows a group of children whom he meets at St. Ann’s, a local church’s afterschool program, whom he visits during their regular school days at P.S. 30 and other public schools. He introduces the reader to gifted and dynamic principals, as well as imaginative and resourceful teachers, who refuse to give up on these children. And he also introduces the reader to the grimmer reality of over-crowded lunchrooms, incompetent administrators and indifferent teachers, in whose hands the fate of so many of these children lie.

Perhaps most depressing about his description of these children’s lives is the inescapable economic, environmental and social racism that pervades their existence. Most of these children live near a medical waste incinerator. In nearby Hunts Point, there are some 40 garbage or recycling plants. Kozol writes, “Do children of doctors, financiers and publishers have to look outside their windows at trash burners every morning? Then why should little Mariposa (a four-and a half-year-old he meets, who has chronic asthma) have to do so?”

And he rails, rightly, against a distorted system of education that looks at schooling as a way of producing measurable “outcomes” (the wrong way to approach standardized testing) or sees children as so much “investment value.” He writes, “Why are we to look at Elio and see a future entry-level worker rather than to see him, as we see our own kids, as perhaps a future doctor, dancer, artist, poet, priest, psychologist, or teacher, or whatever else he might someday desire to be? Why not, for that matter, look at him and see the only thing he really is: a seven-year-old child?”

While Kozol is careful to point out that the children who attend PS 30, where there is a ferocious advocate in the form of their principal, Ms. Rosa, and St. Ann’s afterschool program, are luckier than many in this community, by having access to protective and caring adults, adequate food, books and art supplies, they do not escape the same problems that plague other inner-city children. Few have medical insurance, get eye exams, regular dental care—or any of the other basics that middle-class and upper-class children have to even think about.

Despite the innocence and goodness he witnesses among these children on a daily, spontaneous basis that touches Kozol, their predicament is clear. The author recognizes that “Most of these children here, no matter how hard they may work and how well they may do in elementary school, will have no chance, or almost none, to win admission to the city’s more selective high schools, which prepares these students for good universities and colleges.” Their parents, too, “when they look ahead into the middle schools and high schools of the area,...recognize the outer limits of the opportunities that this society is giving to their children.” And that’s a pity, and a shame, on the rest of us.#

City: State:

Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2003.