Champion of public education to speak at graduation ceremony

By Staff Writer
March 27, 2003

Bonnie Weller/Philadelphia Inquirer/KRT

Nationally acclaimed author Jonathan Kozol will deliver the 43rd Commencement address to Cabrini College graduates on Sunday, May 18, at 10 a.m.

For more than three decades, Jonathan Kozol has been a passionate voice and champion for the cause of quality public education for America’s poorest children. Executive Director Nancy Santos Gainer said, “He is quite a big name in terms of everything we stand for. He is the type of person Cabrini College is all about.”

Jonathan Kozol was born in Boston in 1936 into a traditional middle-class Jewish family. Kozol’s mother worked as a social worker, and his father was a neurologist and psychiatrist. Kozol attended Harvard, and later Oxford for a Rhodes Scholar, and then lived in Paris in poor neighborhoods for several years while he worked on a novel.

Gainer said, ” He is a true Cabrini type of person in terms of what he has done in his life, his commitment to his mission, children, education and to educating others about the inequalities that our world has created.

Jonathan Kozol was the young white teacher in a poor, black section of Boston who was fired for reading a Langston Hughes poem to his students. Death at an Early Age, was a reflection of Kozol’s experiences which allowed him to write a nationally acclaimed novel, and put urban schools on America’s political agenda. Kozol has since tackled illiteracy, homelessness and educational inequality, earning the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and the Conscience in Media award.

From the start Kozol combined teaching with activism. He taught at South Boston High during the city’s desegregation crisis. In 1980, the Cleveland Public Library asked him to design a literacy plan for the nations large cities. His plan became the model for a major effort sparked by the State Library of California. The book that followed, “Illiterate America,” was the center of a campaign to spur state, federal and private action on adult literacy.

Nightlong conversations spent in a homeless shelter in New York with mothers and children who befriended him during Christmas of 1985 were the result of Kozol’s next book. Out of the experience came Rachel and Her Children: Homeless families in America, a narrative portrayal of the day-to-day life struggle of some of the poorest people in America.

In 1989, Kozol revisited America’s schools. He went to rich and poor schools in over thirty communities. This experience led him to write “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools,” which received The New England Book Award in non-fiction. Recently Kozol has authored “Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Concscience of a Nation,” published in October 1995.

Gainer said, “He has written a lot of books about injustice, the education system and how it sometimes structures for the haves and not necessarily for the have

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