RALEIGH—Like its public rival, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University required its incoming students to read a book last summer. Duke’s summer reading selection was Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools.
Duke’s selection committee chose Savage Inequalities by a wide margin over The House of Sand and Fog, a novel by Andre Debus.
According to Duke’s Dean of Students office, “Savage Inequalities offers a look at public school education in the U.S. and provides some very real opportunities for discussion.” Assistant Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi called the book “an eye-opener” in the Duke Chronicle.
Savage Inequalities “does resonate with pretty much everyone who has come through a public-school education,” Lombardi told the Chronicle, “but also anyone who has had a private-school education, because he compares and contrasts that.”
In May, National Review online ran a highly critical review of Kozol’s book. Reviewer Jay P. Greene of the Manhattan Institute charged Kozol in Savage Inequalities with “perpetuating the myth of school poverty [by] simply ignor[ing] the facts and repeat[ing] the myth.”
Kozol “pulls our heart strings describing New York City public schools” but “doesn’t mention that New York City public schools spend more per pupil than 95 of the 100 largest school districts in the country” (citing National Center for Education Statistics data), Greene wrote. “He can only point out that some other schools spend even more. … And he never considers that the shortcomings of New York City public schools are caused by wasteful spending rather than the shortage of funds.
UNC-CH had also considered Savage Inequalities for its summer reading program. Kozol’s book was among the many included on the list of books, published by the Herald-Sun July 11, that were considered for the UNC-CH Summer Reading Program.