Current Problems and Weaknesses of Education in America


The book The Shame of the Nation discusses current problems and weaknesses of the education system in America. Kozol states that racism in the education system is one of the main problems faced by racial minorities and blue-collar workers. The main problem is that stable work and full employment cannot help 3.4 million people to escape segregation in schools. Usually, sociological and economic statements concern the nature of wealth and poverty. The central proposition is that government intervention has changed behavior in all of the social classes and thus brought about disruption in society. The values of the education system have been forgotten, as society has become more interested in short-term benefits.

Discussion section

Kozol supposes that segregation at schools is a direct result of economic policies, cultural values, and class structure which prevent many people from coming to form low classes to obtain a higher paid job. The belief that education results from institutional discrimination lie behind much state policy aimed at the reduction of poverty. The human capital model assumes that the inadequate incomes of the working poor are the result of characteristics of the labor market rather than the inadequacy of the poor. High standards of living and the low income of millions of people lead to poor education facilities and racial envy. Unemployment is more likely to be seen as a social problem than is poverty. At no time during the years examined have poor educational achievements of rural students been seen as one of the crucial problems facing the nation by more than one-third of the population. The results of these problems are high criminal activity in low-income regions and an increased prison population. Lack of social support and poor welfare policies lead to underachievement among low-income populations. It is difficult to eliminate barriers and cultural prejudices existing in society. In other words, a cultural and social minority is destined to live in poverty working full-time.

Kozol pays special attention to the differences between urban and rural systems of education and students. Changes in demographics and poor education lead to increased poverty among racial minorities and immigrants. Culturally, blacks and immigrants are seen as marginals because they are not easily assimilated into the mainstream culture. The consequences of marginality are second-class citizenship and social alienation. It is possible to say that changes are needed which will bring these poor workers into the mainstream of society and will expand horizons to a broader self-definition. Mexican-Americans are part of the fastest-growing minority. They have the disadvantages of being Mexican-American and immigrants. Also, it is important to say that many women have a double minority status. It means that they work full-time but earn minimal wages in contrast to working men. These problems lead to poor health and high mortality rates among low-income people. Inadequate diet and unhealthy lifestyle lead to heart diseases and late treatment of incurable disease.

Using an innovative measure of earnings capacity and economic status, the authors attempt to demonstrate statistically that poverty is not the result of incompetence on the part of the poor. It is indicated many of the poor are working full-time and still not earning adequate incomes. “These people “fail to see,” he wrote, “that the two systems are inextricably linked; each exists, in part, because of the other” (Kozol, 2005, p. 141). The difference in perception in terms of a theoretical framework that considers ideology about work and social policy are closely connected and reflected in the current system of social stratification. The problem is that structurally society consists of different classes: owners and non-owners, with the latter, again divided into white-collar, blue-collar, and the poor. Basic studies in stratification suggest that full-time working poor have no chance to cover all the family expenses including food, housing, health care, etc.

Today, still many black citizens and other minorities do not believe in equal education opportunities. They think that different standards are used for minority communities, i.e. who have more money can expect a higher level of education. To begin with, the education system shall teach their officers how to communicate with ethnic groups and to change the way they deal with minority communities today. Teachers in their work shall break the wall of race difference. In their communication with minority groups, teachers shall break distrust, show patience for people and provide reliable information for them. Teachers have to show tolerance to minorities regarding language barriers, ignorance, or misunderstanding of laws by a member of minorities. Teachers shall try to understand the attitudes of all members of the community, including minorities. By joining with the many citizens who want a fair and equitable education system, teachers will find that the real minority is not defined by race or class. The prejudices are a part of the negative image of different ethnic groups associated with racial differences and the dominance of the white population. Still, it cannot always be predicted on the basis of whether it is culturally shaped or socially learned, it is probable that employer recognition considerably encourages acceptance of diversity. Overt behavior is likely when there is a willingness to accept the Arab Muslim ethnic group as a part of the staff. Some companies act out their anti-diversity attitudes no matter how negatively management reacts to them. Segregation and racism are interlined and become apparent in all social spheres of life. These negative attitudes are learned mainly from mass media and negative publicity. The American society learns most of the attitudes from TV news and the press. As ego-deflating, as it may be to accept, it is a fact that a few political leaders invent attitudes for most people. An attitude about racial diversity, for instance, is a complex perceptual invention, and society is not perceptually creative.

Kozol supposes that the state should intrude into this situation and introduce new policies he calls “standard-based reform”. Still, this approach was applied many years ago but was not successful. The weaknesses of this approach are that state policies and equal rights are accepted by the constitution and the law but they do not work and do not protect immigrants and racial minorities from racism and segregation. The superiority of native citizens or inferiority of Arab-Muslim groups (as contrasted to that of a person is not obvious; not many casual observers can perceive significant group differences. Also, there are more differences within racial or ethnic groups than between them. Unfortunately, most education system institutions and agencies bring racial differences to work with the–bags packed by other people. This behavior is magnified when foreigners come to the United States. The education system should focus first on Americans who work and live in foreign countries. The strength of the approach is that it is better to reform the education system than do nothing at all. Specifically, it is their negative attitudes, stereotypes, prejudices, and ethnocentrism that become barriers to including foreigners in diversity plans.


In sum, Kozol tells that the nation neglects and ignores the problem of segregation and racism in schools. poor education opportunities are a great social problem that can be eliminated by full-employment of the poor. Research studies show that full-time employment of women and men does not guarantee improved living standards and high earnings. Segregation at schools is a social problem connected with the social structure of the society, class differences and cultural prejudices prevented many full-time employees to receive high wages in order to cover increased expenses.


Kozol, J. (2005). The Shame of the Nation. Crown; First Edition edition.