I just talked with my brother Jon, who said the screening of his video about youth violence at Roosevelt University was well received.
But he seemed more excited to talk about Jonathan Kozol, the 73-year-old author and activist born into privilege who has fought for social justice for close to a half century.
I wrote yesterday about A Death at an Early Age and The Shame of the Nation.
Here are some other Kozol books:
Savage Inequalities looks at the vast inequities in school funding that stem from many states’ primary reliance on local property tax. Kozol portrays suburban communities like Wilmette, where New Trier High School is located, and poor communities like East St. Louis.
Not to toot our horn too much, but we did do a project a few years ago here at the Reporter where we found three interlocking levels of inequality that stem from the heavy reliance on local property tax.
The first is the one that Kozol describes, which is that wealthy communities generate far more money and have more control over the money that comes in, than poorer school districts.
The second level is that poor districts tax themselves at far higher rates than their more affluent counterparts, yet generate just a fraction of the money for that far higher property tax rate. East St. Louis, for example, taxes itself at more than 7 percent and generates about $1,000 per pupil, while a district in Lake Forest has a property tax rate of 1.3 percent and generates more than $20,000 per kid.
The third level is related to the second. It is that the higher property tax rates serves as a disincentive for businesses to invest in poorer communities. While residential property tax on the whole constitutes the largest share of property tax revenue, the gap between commercial property collected in wealthy and poor districts is even greater.
This means, in essence, that poor districts can never catch up to richer ones.
Rachel and Her Children was published in the late 80s and is Kozol’s look at the experience of a homeless woman and her family. As with much of his work, he draws on the experiences of individual people and families to illustrate the larger social structures.
Ordinary Resurrections is a paean to the South Bronx neighborhood, and the heart and resilience of the children who live there. I found this book a bit less dogmatic than some of Kozol’s other work, and thus enjoyed it a little more than the others.
Thoughts? Agreements? Disagreements? All are welcome.