Kozol is a prolific writer and fighter for racial equality in education.

Kozol is a prolific writer and fighter for racial equality in education.

On Wednesday night, some of us from TCS@ODU went to listen to Jonathan Kozol speak at Ohio Dominican University. He did not dissappoint!!

The evening started out with my wife and I driving to the Old Bag of Nails pub for dinner with other staff members.  The discussion at the table centered around the Kozol talk although we did discuss our school and our backgrounds.  Not too interesting for Lindsay, but I really enjoyed getting to know this side of my co-workers.

We then departed to ODU for our ‘VIP’ seats.  We were joking all dinner about having VIP seats in the auditorium because one staff member, a former ODU faculty, commented that there were no comfortable chairs in the place.  It is probably original to the university, which puts it well over 75 years old!

At any rate, the show started with Kozol giving a general welcome and thank you to ODU faculty and staff for making him feel at home.   He then mentioned a meeting that he had with 18 of our students earlier that afternoon!!  Staff just sort of looked around at one another with goofy grins on our faces.  We didn’t know what to think, but we felt flattered and a little taken aback.

The talk continued and Kozol told story after story that would break your heart.  You see, Kozol has been actively involved in truly desegregating urban schools, particularly for elementary students.  He has been active at this for over 40 years!  It was one of his books, Savage Inequalities, that lead me into urban education.  At the time that I was reading the book, I knew that I was going to be a teacher.  The only questions left in my head was the grade level (anything outside of kindergarden) and the location (urban, suburban, and rural).  I had also heard a speech by Tony Campolo, at a Christian conference, that lead me to want to work some place where there was need.  If you know anything about education in America, when you combine these two gentlemen together, you can only come to the conclusion that urban education is where I should seek a job. 

At any rate, Kozol was on a roll and was captivating us with his thoughts, wisdom, and statistics.  I cannot rattle them off right now, but suffice it to say, things are bad in America.  As Kozol was wrapping up his thoughts, he began to discuss what America needs to do in order to better prepare its youngsters to be good citizens and take leadership in our country.  That was when he said that The Charles School is really on the right track and doing the right things to prepare its students to do these things.  I was floored!!  I mean I kind of expect the first mention.  But the second was astonishing.  Here is a gentlemen that has the ear of Senators and governors.  He walked with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He has interviewed thousands of students, visited hundreds of schools, and written 9 books.  And here, at the end of a long day of travel, grip and grin, and a long speech, he mentions our school by name!  I have to admit that I have long thought very highly of Mr. Kozol, so I would never have suspected that I would have a chance to hear him speak, let alone have him mention our school by name!  It was such an amazing thing, and yet, in hindsight it seems so small.  Very significant, however.  Very significant.  I happened to look over at my boss, our principal, and he had what I can best describe as the ‘proud papa’ look on his face. 

It was a very good night for us, our school, and most importantly our students.  The very next day I took the two Kozol books that I own into the classroom and told them about the night.  I passed the books around and I saw more than one student flip through them to read his thoughts and stare at my markings.  I don’t know if I sufficiently conveyed to them, or this audience, how cool that all was, but I have a bit of a ‘proud papa’ face on myself.  Thanks for reading!

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