Monday, January 07, 2008

Booknote: Jonathan Kozol's Letters to a young teacher

Title: Letters to a Young Teacher.
Author: Jonathan Kozol.
ISBN: 978-0-307-39371-5
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Education

As it happens when I read one of Kozol's books, I had my angry moments. At any rate, I ended up writing a pretty long draft. So, I will post part of it now, and some specific reading notes next time. So, on to the post.

This books should be issued to every student teacher. Veteran teachers may want to read it as well to remind themselves of why they follow their calling. Teaching, especially young children, is certainly a calling. You won't get rich doing it, a lot of people will not recognize you for it (but they will bitch and moan if they see you do anything wrong, even if they themselves have no idea how to do what you do), but if you are good at it, you'll touch many lives in a positive way. So give this book to every new teacher so they never forget the significance of their work. Give this book to every new teacher so they know that they are not alone.

I have been a fan of Kozol's writing for many years now. It is strong and passionate writing that stirs emotions. I know that when I read one of his books I will probably get angry. Sure enough, this book made me angry sometimes. I get angry because I can't understand how politicians and educrats so easily segregate and disregard a large segment of our child population (actually, I think I have a pretty good idea of how they do it, which makes me hate them even more for their lack of ethics, humanity, and compassion). People who claim that you can't fix public schools with money but send their own children to high priced private schools are hypocrites. It's those people that make me angry as an educator. No, I don't care if they send their kids to a private school. It's just their hypocrisy when it comes to other people's children. And I am sure Mr. Kozol has his angry moments as well. That he manages to maintain hope is amazing to me.

When compared to his other works, this book has more of a gentle tone. The book contains letters he is writing to Francesca, a young first year teacher. Kozol offers guidance and advice, but he also looks at the state of education in the nation. He includes stories and anecdotes from his experiences, taking his correspondence with Francesca as an opportunity to reflect on himself as an educator too. I found myself at times thinking about my experience as a teacher, first in public school then in college. This is another reason why the book would be a good gift for new teachers. It will invite reflection.

So, do I recommend it? You bet I do.

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