Few teachers deserve the word “educator”. Most are competent technicians who never mine the internal landscape of their students, who never really sit down and ask penetrating questions or take deadly serious the toxic environment which occludes the personal and social life of the student. Jonathan Kozol is a true educator. He connects, befriends ,keeps in touch with the young people he writes about in his several books. See for yourself. His latest book is classic Kozol, Fire in the Ashes. The author enrages you with his description of the structural violence and socio-economic justice in the poorest parts of America. In Canada, simply visit a reserve to taste the analogue. But he never stops there.He writes of the “fire in the ashes”. the phenomenal resilience in the lives of the poor. Kozol breaks your heart—then puts it back together again. Here he is again on Tavis Smiley’s wonderful PBS show. You can quickly smell his disdain for charter schools,the testing mania which enriches corporations and leaches imagination from the inner lives of kids.
Newt Gingrich is dead wrong, I don’t want to waste too much time tonight on rehashing the voucher argument, the right-wing John Birch Society voucher argument. We killed that 20 years ago, so now the conservatives don’t call it vouchers anymore, they have other sweeter terms for it.charter schools are not the the answers for children There are a few good charter schools that get the lion’s share of attention because they’re cleverly selective in who they admit, and they’re also self-selective in who hears about them and gets into them in the first place. Charter schools, especially the ones that are getting private corporate money from right-wing foundations, what they represent is a narrowing of civic virtue to the smallest possible parameters. I’ll fight for my kid in this little boutique school of 200 children, and I won’t raise my voice on behalf of all the millions that I’ve left behind. (Applause) But more important to me, if I can is to follow up on Cornel West’s point, where he spoke of all of those billions or trillions of dollars sitting there on Wall Street. I want to make a concrete, specific, useful suggestion to President Obama.
Get hold of that kind of money, here’s the best preventive medicine that I know of to rescue children from hereditary poverty, and that is to give them absolutely rich, full, exciting, enticing, not drill-and-grill but developmental preschool starting when they’re two years old. I’m sick of people, and I won’t say who, but one member of Congress who is with us here tonight mentioned to me, “There’s no proof that Head Start worked.”Well, ask any kindergarten teacher in America which kids in her class had Head Start and you’ll find out whether or not it worked. Every kindergarten teacher, every first grade teacher knows right away.
The crime today is that even with some modest increase in Head Start that the congresswoman referred to by President Obama, very modest increase, more than half the poor eligible children in this country don’t even get a single year of anything at all resembling real preschool education. Now I happen to know what the rich get for their children because I grew up in privilege. They can’t fool me. (Laughter) They tell me. They don’t think I’ll tell you, but I will. (Laughter)
Here’s what I’m saying. If I were the president I would take all those billions of dollars that are being wasted right now on the testing corporations and I would pour that money into three full years of the best preschool education in the entire world. If this nation can’t afford to do that – it costs about $40 billion – if we can’t afford to do that, I don’t see what hope we have of upholding any sense of dignity