/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
There is a new book by Jonathan Kozol, “Fire in the Ashes.” It revisits the youth from his previous book, “Amazing Grace.” Kozol is known for books that provide a look into the neighborhoods where poverty and education intersect. His conversations with children, families, educators, and administrators are told without a scathing diatribe. The words echo a truth that is usually missing from most books. The stories are always honest and inhibited. We are allowed to view the front lines through the eyes of those who are in the trenches. His stories may not focus on Philadelphia public schools, but the stories transcend to include all urban areas that are marked by a deep set class system and inequities in public education.
According to “Philadelphia: The state of the city (2012 update), “The murder rate rose from 306 to 324.” 26.7% of Philadelphians are classified as poor. Despite the numbers those that reside in the city are hopeful that the city will continue to improve. “Fire in the Ashes” may be the story of youth from the South Bronx, but their stories parallel the lives of those who reside in Philadelphia. Poverty may not have a specific address, but it does have a certain look, expectation, and outlook.
“Fire in the Ashes” opens up on Christmas Eve of 1985 when the poor and homeless of New York City existed in the homeless shelters located in old hotels in midtown. One of the most famous was the Martinique Hotel. On an average day more 1,000 children and 400 parents fought off hunger, drugs, and the lack of cleanliness. We are re-introduced to some of the children that were a part of his book “Amazing Grace” and we are allowed to see how many of them started in those shelters before being re-located to the South Bronx, where drugs and poverty followed.
This book is a must read for parents, educators, administrators, and all individuals that work with children or in social work. Jonathan provides us the narratives, and it is up to us to ask the important questions when it comes to all of our children. It is a timely read when the School District of Philadelphia plans on closing approximately 35 schools by spring. The financial and academic gap continues to widen.
Who determines how our children are educated? Do the dollars spent match the outcomes? How can we measure social equity next to generational poverty? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind and I know that there are many more with or without answers.