IU East brings Jonathan Kozol to campus to discuss public education

Education reformist and award-winning author Jonathan Kozol will visit Indiana University East April 3 at 7 p.m. in Vivian Auditorium, located in Whitewater Hall. Kozol will present a lecture titled “Children and Teachers Under Siege: Race, Poverty, and the Public Schools.”

Tickets are free and available for pick up beginning March 1 at the Office of the Bursar, located in Whitewater Hall. Immediately following the lecture, Jonathan Kozol will be available to sign recent copies of his newest book: Fire in the Ashes. The book is available for purchase in the IU East Bookstore.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Wazir Mohamed said Kozol is a national resource. He added that his research establishes the major gap that exists in the U.S. between poor and rich communities with regards to access to quality education.

“In bringing him to this community, IU East and the Diversity Commission hope to jump start discussion in the area with regards to the issues of equal access and what can be done to address the gap in access to education between the most rich and the most poor,” Mohamed said.

Mohamed added that the Diversity Commission of IU East is hopeful that the visit will bring the community together for conversations on how to better the community.

“Through this visit we hope to begin a conversation among the people and all the interest groups in the community on the quality of public education, and how we can begin as a community to understand the problems faced by poor households, and address needs with regards to accessing the best educational resources,” Mohamed said. “It is our hope that teachers, parents, and students in the public schools will attend the lecture, in order to get acquainted with and more fully understand some of the roadblocks we confront as a society with regards to access and equal access to quality education.”

Kozol is the National Book Award–winning author of Savage Inequalities, Death at an Early Age, The Shame of the Nation, Amazing Grace, and Fire in the Ashes among others. In the passion of the civil rights campaigns of 1964 and 1965, Kozol gave up the prospect of a promising and secure career within the academic world, moved from Harvard Square into a poor black neighborhood of Boston, and became a fourth grade teacher.

He has since devoted his life to the challenge of providing equal opportunity within public schools to every child, of whatever racial origin or economic level.  He is, at the present time, the most widely read and highly honored education writer in America.

In fall 2012, Kozol published Fire in the Ashes, a powerful and stirring culmination of the stories he has told over a quarter-century about the children of the poorest urban neighborhood in the United States.  Fire in the Ashes follows these children out of their infancy, through the struggles of their adolescence, and into their young adulthood. Some of their stories are painful and heart-breaking, but others are thrilling and dramatic tributes to the courage and audacity of fascinating children who refuse to be defeated by the gross inequalities of U.S. education and arrive at last at gloriously unpredictable and triumphal victories.

When he is not in classrooms, or at universities speaking to future teachers, Kozol spends time in Washington advocating against the No Child Left Behind Act and to convince members of the Senate that an emphasis on “teaching-to-the-test” is unhealthy for children and degrading to teachers. Video interviews of Kozol are available online, including this 2011 “Save our schools” rally video.

Kozol received a summa cum laude degree in English literature from Harvard, after which he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University.

Marilyn Watkins, dean of the School of Education at IU East, said Kozol has addressed the challenging topics that many would rather overlook for decades.

“It is a privilege for our community to have the opportunity to hear him discuss his latest book, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America. As he has stated, ‘I write books to change the world. Perhaps I can only change one little piece of that world. But if I can empower teachers and good citizens to give these children, who are the poorest of the poor, the same opportunity we give our own kids, then I’ll feel my life has been worth it.’

“This is truly a community event. Everyone is welcome. We all have an investment in children’s education,” Watkins said.