CORRECTION: This story in Thursday’s edition of the Daily (Author: Schools remain segregated) incorrectly reported that Ecology graduate student Jahi Chappell attended the John Kozol speech in support of affirmative action. The story should have said that Chappell attended the event out of interest for the speaker. The story also incorrectly reported Chappell as saying that he supported affirmative action because it was necessary to correct historical injustices.
Half a century after the U.S. Supreme Court mandated the desegregation of public schools, the American school system has not become more integrated but is getting worse, civil rights activist and author Jonathan Kozol said last night.
Kozol garnered some controversy, with proponents and opponents of affirmative action lining up in front of the Power Center for the Performing Arts to attend and protest his speech.
In spite of about 20 protesters, hundreds of students and faculty filled the Power Center’s auditorium to listen to Kozol.
“If you took a photo of a typical inner-city school, it is indistinguishable from a school in Mississippi and Alabama in 1940,” he said.
He encouraged University students to carry on the tradition of affirmative action. From what he has seen in the country, he said, blacks and Latinos are systematically disadvantaged.
“They have the whole history against them. They have epidemic asthmas in the neighborhood. Their air’s so polluted,” he said.
The inner-city schools are overcrowded, Kozol said, because they are the most poorly funded, filled with young, inexperienced and underpaid teachers who often leave after only a few years.
“These young people come into these schools to transform the students,” he said, “I wish I could have the money to pay them enough to let them stay for more than just three years.”
The already poorly funded schools face more financial turmoil because the students do poorly on standardized exams, which affect funding, he said.
Kozol said the inner-city schools force teachers to read from scripts instead of sharing their feelings and experiences, as schools – fearful of budget cuts – designate class time to train students in test-taking.
Ben Royal, a Rackham student and BAMN organizer, said Kozol’s speech was intended to raise awareness of affirmative action’s importance in light of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which is expected to be on next year’s statewide ballot and would ban the use of affirmative action by the state and public universities.
“We want to publicize the segregation in the state’s education,” Royal said. “We want to use him to educate the Ann Arbor community to start a new civil rights movement.”
Matt Gage, an LSA senior and event chair of College Republicans, organized a small-scale protest against affirmative action with the College Libertarians and the Young Americans for Freedom.
Gage said he opposes affirmative action because it has led to minority students performing worse than others at top universities.
“I personally support the same thing that the proponents of affirmative action want, that we want more minorities to integrate,” he said. “But we want them to go to a place where they can succeed and perform better.”
Jahi Chappell, a Rackham student, attended the event to show his support for affirmative action. He said affirmative action is necessary to correct the mistakes made in the history.