At the end of 2009 we read this headline: Detroit students’ scores a record low on national test. This is once again the sad echo of what, in his 1991 best seller, Jonathan Kozol called Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. A quotation on the cover of Savage Inequalities from New York Times book reviewer Andrew Hacker says: “An impassioned book, laced with anger and indignation, about how our public education system scorns so many of our children.” Kozol’s powerful depiction of this national tragedy is still a best-seller, ranking today at #1343 on Amazon.com.
Wave after wave of “school reform” has failed. We have not ended our scorn of many of our children. Detroit’s record low last year tells us, in fact, that the inequalities have only gotten deeper. Change does not happen. More of the same does not make anything different.
Different, though, has actually become possible. There is something new: let’s do it!
In 1991 when Kozol’s book was published, the possibility of each child holding everything known in his or her hand was still Star Trek stuff. Today it is real and is happening. The hands in the image above belong to a fourth-grader who is the daughter of one of my nephews. Making each of our children equal to her in knowledge access is just one smartphone away. [Sure, I know homes and teachers vary -- but the equality is profound for the individual child using a mobile internet browser. The reading, writing, arithmetic, history, science, technology are just out there waiting to display on the mobile, and to be learned by whoever is peering at its screen. The device does not ask or care who your daddy is or what sort of school you attend.]
It is a savage inequality of the 21st century for any child in Detroit — anywhere — who does not own an individual mobile internet browser. Making certain that children have handschooling is a new weapon against the scorn of inequality.