Keeping Faith with the Kids: An Interview with Jonathan Kozol
For nearly 50 years, Jonathan Kozol has documented the landscape of impoverished America. Since the appearance of his groundbreaking memoir Death at an Early Age, which detailed his experiences as a teacher in the Boston public school system, Kozol has produced perhaps the most influential body of work illustrating the links between broken schools and the perpetuation of socioeconomic injustice for the poor in America. At the heart of this campaign are a series of books looking at life in the South Bronx. The portrait Kozol paints is as harrowing in its descriptions of institutional failure and structural violence as it is hopeful in its stories of the resilient children that populate New York City’s streets, schools, and churches.
Fire in the Ashes, Kozol’s latest effort, returns to the lives of the children featured in previous books, and traces the trajectory of their journeys from little kids to young adults. Some have survived and are thriving. Others are dead. Yet whether celebrating their successes or mourning their loss, Fire in the Ashes underscores the moral necessity of educational opportunity for all children, and makes a persuasive case that the future of our nation’s democracy depends on it.
I recently talked with Kozol about his new book, the privatization of public schools in the United States, the education policies of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and the lives of his closest friends in the world–the children of Fire in the Ashes.