Jonathan Kozol Norman Solomon - Essay

Norman Solomon

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home challenges current fashions of equivocal dissent and reform-minded "innovations." Those forces controlling public schools, Kozol points out, are the same ones perpetuating inequity and suffering elsewhere; pedagogic styles and shapes may change, but the basic parameters and purposes remain the same: desensitization, selective information, predetermined "options," indoctrination….

Kozol poses tough questions, demanding answers which are both difficult and crucial. The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home is beyond all else a profound moral statement. The pain and torment of poor people are ever-present, and Kozol's words seek to remind us, cause us to feel that pain, that torment, and the necessity for sustained ethical revolt….

Kozol relentlessly vivisects and denounces the rationalizations of those whose complacent stances ensure lucrative acceptance. He dispels the fogginess of analysis which ascribes the public school situation to "mindlessness" or "inefficiency" or "stupidity" rather than the fulfillment of the social order's needs for conditioning. "The problem is not that public schools do not work well, but that they do," he writes. (p. 43)

Somewhat debilitating, in a book preoccupied with ramifications of privilege and oppression, is Kozol's inability or unwillingness to connect the paradigms he is talking about with male domination and the subjugation of women. Kozol's only reference to the women's liberation movement comes as he is criticizing tendencies toward superficial flightiness from one "concern" to another; he does not mention any feminist analysis whatsoever.

Despite its omissions, The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home is among the most important books on education in this century. (pp. 43-4)

Norman Solomon, "Enraged Teacher," in The Progressive (reprinted by permisson from The Progressive, 408 West Gorham Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703; copyright 1976 by The Progressive, Inc.), Vol. 40, No. 2, February, 1976, pp. 43-4.