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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 277

In researching for the book, Jonathan Kozol noticed that the children's voices were largely absent in the debates about schools.

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The children are often more interesting and perceptive than the grownups are about the day-to-day realities of life in school. For this reason, I decided...to attempt to listen very carefully to children and... to let their voices and their judgments and their longings find a place within the book.

One area where he looked at school and community interaction was East St. Louis, Missouri. Poverty and public health issues directly and indirectly affected the schools. In old buildings with decayed infrastructure, sewage would back up and flood the halls. Lack of funding affected teachers in East St. Louis in several ways:

Teachers are running out of chalk and paper,and their paychecks are arriving two weeks late.

Public schooling, because it is compulsory and most children attend schools in their neighborhoods, does not challenge social inequality. Resources allocated from government funding do not fully support the schools.

[T]he state, by requiring attendance but refusing to require equity, effectively requires inequality. Compulsory inequity, perpetuated by state law, too frequently condemns our children to unequal lives.

While the author looks closely at schools in specific areas of the U. S., he is also concerned with nationwide trends that have become commonplace, such as teaching to the test. One result is that children are not encouraged to think.

We are preparing a generation of robots. Kids are learning exclusively through rote. We have children who are given no conceptual framework. They do not learn to think, because their teachers are straitjacketed by tests that measure only isolated skills.

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