When rote equals rot

Jonathan Kozol has spent decades hunting for inequities in American education, and his tune - which is 99 percent off key - hasn't changed much over the years. In an interview with New York Times Magazine, Kozol rages against today's testing requirements (such as those mandated by No Child Left Behind) as "sociopathic" and designed "to highlight failure in inner-city schools as dramatically as possible in order to create a ground swell of support for private vouchers or other privatizing schemes." But setting aside conspiracy theories for a moment, one can find in Kozol's vast body of work the occasional sonorous note regarding schools' misguided responses to test pressure. In a recent Harper's Magazine piece, for example, he describes a school in the Bronx whose classrooms are so focused on boosting test scores that they resemble academic boot camps more than centers of learning. Teacher Magazine profiles a similar situation - in this case, where a middle school raised its test scores at the expense of the campus basketball league. While apologists like Kozol use such examples to argue for the overthrow of accountability systems, real reformers must acknowledge that some schools will do bone-headed things under the pressure to perform. We should all be able to agree that our children deserve a well-rounded education that is more akin to an orchestra than a nonstop flutophone.

"School Monitor," interview by Debora Solomon, New York Times Magazine, September 4, 2005

"Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid," by Jonathan Kozol, Harper's Magazine, September 2005

"One-Track Minds," by Wesley F. Sander, Teacher Magazine, September 1, 2005

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