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Writer, educator, and activist, Jonathan Kozol, in his famous novel, Savage Inequalities, recounts on the extensive problems in America’s schools. Kozol’s purpose was to bring attention to and evaluate the disparities in education between schools of different classes and races. These issues vary in potential danger in the hazardous conditions of the schools to the teacher to student ratio. Jonathan Kozol illustrates to his readers how these schools and the lives of the children who attend them are being utterly ignored by the rest of society. He is trying to prove that discrimination is still present in the modern schooling system and not a relic of the past as many people want to believe. He uses statistics, first-hand experiences, and the reader’s emotional response to expose and call attention to the savage inequalities in the American school system.
Kozol begins his work by bringing the reader into the inequalities of East St.Louis, Illinois. As he explains the situation the small, impoverished, and predominantly black city is in, readers may feel confused and in a state of disbelief. The city is concerningly crowded and polluted with hazardous substances. Kozol uses the reader’s emotional reaction to the city to intrigue the reader and then using that advantage to comparing the city to the schools of America. In one of the schools, early on in the book, Kozol enters a boy’s bathroom, “Four of the six toilets do not work. The toilets stalls, which are eaten away by red and brown corrosion, have no doors. The toilets have no seats. One has a rotted wooden stump. There are no paper towels and no soap. Near the door, there is a loop of wire with an empty toilet paper roll’ (Kozol 36). This concerning, saddening, and frankly disgusting description of the school’s bathroom strikes a chord within the reader’s heart. A feeling of privilege, guilt, or anger may arise. Kozol does an excellent job at evaluating this emotion and bringing it out of readers to achieve his purpose. He wants the audience to understand the teachers who are giving up their paycheck to get supplies for their classes. He wants the audience to see the children who have been through so much at such a young age and have not had the opportunities other children have because of where they grew up. He adopts a patient and logical tone. He approaches and builds his argument in this tone to calmly show the readers the blatant evidence he found.
The tone also developed trust between him and his audience as he does not appear to accusatory or outraged. Kozol clearly has the credentials and experience to write this work, but he further develops trust of knowledge with his readers. For one, he relays his personal experience as a teacher in a Boston school that didn’t have enough money to provide his class with a room. He then describes his journey to over thirty neighborhoods and schools from different states and social backgrounds. This builds credibility because it shows the things he observed were not isolated incidents or problems confined to one school or area. It also demonstrates that he has thoroughly studied both underprivileged schools and privileged schools. While the book was published in 1991, Jonathan Kozol, used research and personal experience from 1964 up to the final days of its release to better inform his audience.
Kozol uses his vast experience investigating school to grabs the audience’s attention by comparing the worst schools in America to their schools in the same district who were better off. He questions the logic behind these inequalities and would then provide his audience with answers. One logical fallacy he found and expanded upon was from his experience in East St. Louis. Even though the city had been repeatedly flooded by old and broken sewage pipes, their town did not receive the grant for a sewer improvement because the governor said, ‘What in the community is being done right?’. This is a logical error because the governor was not in the position to correctly decide whether or not the money was spent correctly. He did not take into account the other expenses these slums faced that other cities did not. The governor also spent a very small amount of time in these economically depressed areas to be informed on their needs.
While Kozol used mostly his personal experiences, he also used a plethora of secondary sources. He used various types of literature, facts, televised interviews, Supreme Court cases, local legal cases, and various laws. He wrote about one school on page 69 that, ‘The graduation rate is 25 percent. Of those who get to senior year, only 17 percent are in a college-preparation program. Twenty percent are in the general curriculum, while a stunning 63 percent are in vocational classes, which most often rule out a college education’. This plethora of fact to back up his claims and argument make his work stand out. The audience can’t argue with fact and they listen and understand it all the more.
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