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Stop Scaring Teachers, Start Helping Kids: Education Speaker Jonathan Kozol
Education | November 02, 2012

Stop Scaring Teachers, Start Helping Kids: Education Speaker Jonathan Kozol

Fresh off the release of his most recent book, Fire in the Ashes, education speaker Jonathan Kozol gave an interview with The Huffington Post about what his time embedded in the public school system has taught him—and what the presidential candidates need to do to preserve education in America. In his book, Kozol revisits the lives of students he wrote about in previous books. These students lived in some of the poorest communities in America—specifically Mott Haven in the South Bronx—and faced tremendous adversity in life and in learning. Sadly, many never continued on with their schooling, for a variety of reasons. "But there were other kids—a far larger number—who managed to rise above the odds," he explains, "partly because of their own grit and guts, but also because of the well-timed intervention of grownups."

Paul Tough would be right on board with this statement. The author of How Children Succeed is helping to pioneer an education movement built around character trait development and positive reinforcement to help children from adverse situations succeed both academically, and in life. Kozol also notes that many of the kids he interviewed and worked with hated standardized testing. The idea that grades and test scores should be the determining factor of traditional success is now something that will be perpetuated even further with Obama's Race to the Top initiative (which assesses teachers based on the test scores of their students). While Kozol said that he thinks Obama does believe in the sacrosanctity of education, "measuring teaching ability by the test scores of the students is the worst possible way to understand the quality of a teacher." Not only that, but it is not the best measure to assess a student, either, according to Kozol and Tough.

What does Kozol, the founder of Education Action and the author of many books devoted to improving the education system, suggest? "Take all those billions of dollars that you are giving to the corporations and pour that money into ensuring three years of rich developmental preschool for very poor children," he said, "and put the rest into cutting class sizes in half at the elementary school level, and offering really strong, intelligent support to teachers instead of scaring the daylights out of them." It's passionate and outside-the-box thinking like that that makes Kozol such a well respected speaker, and such an influential voice in the fight to preserve everyone's right to a quality education.

Photo credit to tbfurman.
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