Jonathan Kozol | Webster University
Jonathan Kozol | Webster University

Jonathan Kozol

September 24-25, 2012

Webster University and the Office of Corporate Partnerships on September 24-25, 2012, welcomed distinguished author and educator Jonathan Kozol as the 2012 Global Leader in Residence in the School of Education.


In the passion of the civil rights campaigns of 1964 and 1965, Jonathan Kozol gave up the prospect of a promising and secure career within the academic world, moved from Harvard Square into a poor black neighborhood of Boston, and became a fourth grade teacher.

He has since devoted nearly his entire life to the challenge of providing equal opportunity within our public schools to every child, of whatever racial origin or economic level. He is, at the present time, the most widely read and highly honored education writer in America.

Death at an Early Age, a description of his first year as a teacher, received the 1968 National Book Award in Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Now regarded as a classic by educators, it has sold more than two million copies in the United States and Europe.

Among the other major works that he has written since are Rachel and Her Children, a study of homeless mothers and their children, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for 1989, and Savage Inequalities, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

His 1995 best-seller, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, described his visits to the South Bronx of New York, the poorest congressional district of America. Featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and praised by childrenʼs advocates and theologians all over the nation, Amazing Grace received the Anisfield- Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor previously granted to the works of Langston Hughes and Dr. Martin Luther King. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison wrote that Amazing Grace was “good in the old-fashioned sense: beautiful and morally worthy.” Elie Wiesel said, “Jonathanʼs struggle is noble. What he says must be heard. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference.”

Ten years later, in The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan returned to the battle with a powerful exposé of conditions he had found in visiting nearly 60 public schools in 30 different districts in 11 states. Virtually everywhere, he found that inner-city children were more isolated racially than at any time since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. “They live an apartheid existence and attend apartheid schools. Few of them know white children any longer.”

The Shame of the Nation, which appeared on the New York Times best-seller list the week that it was published, has since joined Amazing Grace, Savage Inequalities, and Death at an Early Age as required reading at most universities. In a follow-up work, Letters to a Young Teacher, Jonathan drew upon four decades of experience to guide the newest generation of our nationʼs teachers into the ethically complicated challenges but, also, “the sheer joy and passionate rewards” of what he calls “a beautiful profession.”

“What a wonderful book!” said Stanford professor Linda Darling- Hammond. “I could not put it down!”

Now, in the major book of his career, to be published in September 2012, Jonathan tells the stories of triumph of inner-city children he has known for a quarter-century in the poorest urban neighborhoods of the United States, as well as the more somber tales of those who have not survived. Hope and glory, sorrow and despair, are intermingled in these pages, but the transcendent victories of many of the children Jonathanʼs readers have already come to love have left him with a cautious optimism as he looks into the years ahead.

When he is not with teachers in their classrooms, or at universities and colleges speaking to our future teachers, Jonathan is likely to be found in Washington, where he has spent much of the past two years attempting to convince his friends within the Senate leadership to radically revise the punitive aspects of the federal testing law No Child Left Behind.

Jonathan received a summa cum laude degree in English literature from Harvard in 1958, after which he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University. He has been called by The Chicago Sun-Times “todayʼs most eloquent spokesman for Americaʼs disenfranchised.” But he believes that teachers and their students speak most eloquently for themselves; and in his newest book, so full of the vitality of youth, we hear their testimony.

Global Leaders in Residence in the News

WebsterToday: "Jonathan Kozol GLIR Event Draws Overflow Audience"