Early in this survey of inequities in the public school system, Jonathan Kozol reveals why he went into the field of education. It was not a love of math and science, a desire to implant cultural legacies in young minds, or an interest in child development. It was the murder of three civil rights volunteers in Mississippi in 1964. When the news broke, Kozol dropped out of graduate school, drove to a black neighborhood in Boston, and “signed up to be a reading teacher in a freedom school.”

Forty years later, the fervor of that commitment and the injustice at its root suffuse every page of The Shame of the Nation. For decades, Kozol has toured inner-city schools, interviewed students, teachers, and administrators, and recorded his impressions in acclaimed books. In this one, too, we read about crumbling facilities, rat-infested classrooms, dangerous schoolyards, demoralized instructors, and principals harassed to produce...

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