Jonathan Kozol to speak

Tuesday March 23, 2010

NORTH ADAMS -- The modern public education system in the United States has fallen away from the child, according to Jonathan Kozol.

The Massachusetts-based author, educator, activist and one of the foremost critics of U.S. educational policy, shared his thoughts -- as well as his humor -- with about 30 area educators and college students on Monday afternoon at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

During his talk, Kozol largely criticized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was reauthorized by former President George W. Bush as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002. The bill is currently up for reauthorization and redesign by Congress under the administration of President Barack Obama.

No Child Left Behind is the multi-billion dollar law that currently dictates public education by holding schools and students accountable to national standards and goals, most of which are measured through standardized testing.

"I've looked through nearly all of 800 pages or so of No Child Left Behind and saw nothing about happiness. There is not a word about children having the theological entitlement to enjoy childhood. But it leaves us to believe that it's never too soon, too early to drill students to fill in the [answer] bubbles on a test," said Kozol.

During his presentation, Kozol argued that socioeconomic inequalities and classroom environments will inevitably have an effect on a child's ability to learn and a teacher's ability to teach.

"A teacher working in a shabby environment leads to an increase in turnover. And the funding inequalities between school districts are simply unacceptable," he said. "A teacher who is pretty good at teaching a class of 40 kids would do twice as good with a class of 20."

When a woman from the audience asked Kozol, "What is the answer to this era of NCLB accountability," Kozol replied, "Bring it to an end."

He continued, "If these tests are so valuable, why doesn't every school take it? Why don't they make people of Congress take them? There are better methods of holding people accountable."

Monday's talk was in advent of tonight's Public Policy Lecture at the college, which holds a discussion between Kozol and Lisa Cortés, the executive director of the award-winning film "Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push' By Sapphire." Tonight's talk will be moderated by Carole Simpson, a former ABC news journalist now a leader in residence and instructor at Emerson College in Boston.

If you go ...

What: "Changing Lives: Precious, Policy, and Education," a panel discussion with Lisa Cortés, Jonathan Kozol, and Carole Simpson. They will address issues regarding race, class, economic and social oppression in terms of education, and the roles of government and charity in changing these conditions for the better.

When: 7 tonight

Where: Church Street Center at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, 172 Church St., North Adams.

Info: This Public Policy Lecture series event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Ruth Proud Charitable Trust. Learn more: or call (413) 662-5185.


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