Jonathan Kozol

I went to a lecture by Jonathan Kozol this past Tuesday night at Central High School in Kansas City, MO. I didn't know anything about Mr. Kozol until the day before the lecture when I looked him up on the Internet. When I got to the lecture Tuesday evening, I still knew very little about him. I knew that he had written some books, and that he had gone to Harvard, and that he had spent most of his life as an activist teacher in Boston and New York.

His lecture was captivating. It reminded me of why I want to become a teacher. It also pointed me in the direction of activism. Mr. Kozel explained in forceful language the inequality of education that exists in America today. The lady that introduced him told the crowd that Mr. Kozel has a simple purpose for writing--he wants to change the world.

Mr. Kozel effectively used humor and passion to make his points. He really connected with his audience. He told us that he is especially drawn to elementary teachers. He wonders in awe at those willing to take on the responsibility of helping a young "half-pint" size child grow.

We learned a little bit about his background at Harvard. He was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, but he didn't complete that program. Instead, he wandered around for a couple of years before returning to the United States to begin pursuit of a literature Ph.D. Among the personalities he met in Europe were Richard Wright, William Styron, James Jones and James Baldwin. He also told of how one of his fellow Rhodes scholars was a folk singer named Kris Krisofferson.

He was planning to begin the pursuit of his literature Ph.D. at Harvard when the summer of 1964 occured, otherwise known as "freedom summer". He was profoundly impacted by the events in Mississippi that summer. He was challenged by his friends to do something about it if he was so angry.


Sean said…
yes. i had heard Kris Kristofferson was a Rhodes Scholar. i mistook him for Christopher Cross one time in a conversation, much to the delight of my friends :-(
Eric said…
Ha! That is hillarious that you say that you mistook him for Christopher Cross, because I did just the same thing today. As I was writing the post, I looked up Kris Kristofferson in my search engine, and I realized my error before too much embarrassment overcame me. If you ever get a chance to hear this Kozol guy, take it. He is passionate about education. He is somewhat partisan, but I suppose his life in the trenches of American ghettos give him that right.

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