The Poorest Children In America

Jonathan Kozol tracks the lives of the poorest children in America, and where they go.

Author Jonathan Kozol in the On Point studios. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Author Jonathan Kozol in the On Point studios. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Writer and teacher Jonathan Kozol has spent most of a lifetime following America’s poorest children.  Not in statistics or test scores, but in person.  In their schools and neighborhoods, homes and homeless shelters.

In book after celebrated book, he has brought their lives home to a nation quite willing to look the other way.  Now, as Chicago teachers strike and the country thinks again about what it really takes to build a ladder up, Kozol is reporting in again.  On who made it and who didn’t.

This hour, On Point:  Jonathan Kozol on twenty-five years among America’s poorest kids.

-Tom Ashbrook


Jonathan Kozol, writer, educator, and activist, best known for his books on public education in the United States. He has been working with children in inner-city schools for more than 40 years. His new book is Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America. You can find a link to his upcoming speaking events here.

Ariella Patterson, resident of the South Bronx, profiled in the book Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America.

From Tom’s Reading List

Slate “She also blamed him, a little angrily, for dawdling in the bathroom. The boy’s teacher testified that she’d tried to help by giving him an alarm clock. Also that when he came to school dirty and smelly, she talked to the whole class about washing and doing laundry, so as not to embarrass him. The boy listened to all of this, looking clean and pressed in a turquoise polo shirt.”

Boston Globe “Boston-born education activist Jonathan Kozol has been following the lives of marginalized children in the South Bronx for decades and through a dozen books, describing in award-winning detail how this nation’s “savage inequalities” have devastated the individuals, families, and communities he has observed firsthand.”

Washington Post “The inequalities are greater now than in ’92. Some states have equalized per-pupil spending but they set the “equal level” very low, so that wealthy districts simply raise extra money privately. And, even within a single urban district, parents in rich neighborhoods cluster together at a single school, then hold fund-raisers for that school, using celebrities to pull out a wealthy crowd, and raise as much as half-a-million dollars in a single night. No one forces them to share this money with the schools for poor kids that might be just three blocks away. The system is more savage now than ever.”

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