February 20, 2009
Contact: University Relations
Jonathan Kozol, author of the groundbreaking Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools and a consistent and committed critic of the nation's education system, will present the keynote address during the University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for Families, Children and the Courts' first annual Urban Child Symposium on Thursday, April 2. The symposium, "Solving the Dropout Crisis: Getting the Other Half to Attend and Achieve," will feature a series of panel discussions devoted to issues affecting the education of inner-city children. Kozol's speech, beginning at 5:30 p.m., will close the day's proceedings.
Symposium panelists will discuss the challenges facing urban children, the issues presented by chronic truancy, and the programs and methods that enhance a child’s likelihood to complete high school. The event will take place in the School of Law's Moot Court Room, 1415 Maryland Ave. Kozol's speech will take place in the Langsdale Library Auditorium, 1420 Maryland Ave. Attendance and registration details are listed below.
Kozol began his career as a teacher in a poor, racially segregated section of Boston, an experience he later recounted in his National Book Award-winning Death at an Early Age. Fired from his job because he read a Langston Hughes poem to his fourth-grade students, he went on to teach in a suburban school, where he was horrified to see the stark contrast between poor and rich schools. He never forgot the experience, which has influenced his work as an educator, activist, writer and commentator ever since.
Kozol delved deeper into the effects of poverty and homelessness on education. His work for the Cleveland Public Library in designing a literacy plan for big cities resulted in Illiterate America, the book that served as the centerpiece of an extended campaign to promote public and private assistance to fight adult illiteracy. From conversations with mothers and children in a New York City shelter, he wrote Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America in 1985.
Kozol's activism has gone far beyond books, speeches and op-eds. For example, he founded The Fund for the Homeless, a non-profit organization that provides homeless families with emergency assistance. He often spends months or even years with the subjects of his books, taking the time to understand their lives in different contexts before he reports about them.
In 1989, Kozol studied rich and poor schools in more than 30 communities. This led to Savage Inequalities, Kozol's groundbreaking account of decades of neglect of children, which won the New England Book Award for non-fiction in 1991. In 1995, he wrote Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation after two years of conversations with black and Hispanic children, clergy and parents from the South Bronx.
Kozol's most recent work, Letters to a Young Teacher, reflects on four decades of study and work in education, offering both a sobering look at the issues facing educators today and a sense of the joys of teaching.
Kozol continues to press for an agenda that calls for a renewed sense of purpose regarding education, funding, shelter, and access to opportunity. As other social critics have moved on to new targets, he continues to point to the issues that do enormous damage to our children, families and society, regardless of the politics of the day. His address during the Urban Child Symposium is expected to call attention to these issues, especially as they affect Baltimore and other urban environments.
The symposium is designed to spark a broad conversation about ways in which urban children can be encouraged to stay in school despite the difficult circumstances of their daily lives. The one-day session features a luncheon speech by the Hon. Catherine Curran O'Malley, first lady of Maryland and a judge of the District Court of Maryland. Judge O'Malley also volunteers for CFCC's Truancy Court Program, an early-intervention initiative designed to help students re-engage in school. In addition, the symposium will include panel discussions with leading national experts in education, law, and child and community development. (The symposium's complete agenda is available here.)
Panelists include the Hon. Donald W. DeVore, secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services; Hathaway Ferebee, executive director of Safe and Sound; Susan Leviton, professor in the University of Maryland School of Law; Andres A. Alonso, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools; Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality; Robert Balfanz, of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of the Schools; Ken Seeley, president of the National Center for School Engagement; the Hon. David W. Young, judge in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City; and Sylvia McGill, director of Experience Corps for the Greater Homewood Community Corporation, among others. (An updated list of participants is available here.)
Registration for and information about the first annual Urban Child Symposium, including an online form, are available here.
The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the School of Law, the Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts and the Merrick School of Business.