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Jonathan Kozol      

Educator & Social Justice Advocate

After all these years writing about children and their public schools, Jonathan Kozol decided it was time at last to open up a private aspect of his life. Jonathan’s most recent book, The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father One Day at a Time, is about his father’s astonishing career as an eminent physician—a specialist in disorders of the brain—and his remarkable ability, at the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, to diagnose himself, explain the causes of his sickness, and then to narrate, step by step, his slow descent into dementia. Early readers describe it as a fascinating story of the bond between a father and son and the way that bond intensifies even as the father’s cogency and verbal gifts progressively abandon him.

Jonathan is best known as an advocate for low-income children. A Harvard graduate and former Rhodes Scholar, his work among young children started in the passion of the civil rights campaigns of 1964 and 1965, when he gave up the prospect of a promising career in the academic world, moved from Harvard Square into a poor black neighborhood of Boston, and became a fourth grade teacher. He has since devoted nearly his entire life to the challenge of providing equal opportunity to every child in our public schools.

Death at an Early Age, a description of his first year in the classroom, received the 1968 National Book Award in Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Among his other mother works are Rachel and Her Children, a study of homeless mothers and their children, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Savage Inequalities, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award of 1992.

His 1995 best-seller, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor previously granted to the works of Langston Hughes and Dr. Martin Luther King. Nobel Laurent Toni Morrison wrote that Amazing Grace was “good in the old-fashioned sense: beautiful and morally worthy.” Elie Wiesel said, “Jonathan’s struggle is noble. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference.”

Ten years later, in The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan wrote that “separate and unequal” had returned with a vengeance to our public schools; and, in his most recent book, Fire in the Ashes, he described the impact this had had upon a group of young adults whom he had known since they were children.

Jonathan lives today in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He continues to advocate for children and works closely with their teachers. He’s been doing that for more than fifty years. He isn’t stopping now.

Speech Topics

Public Education: Equity and Excellence

Joy and Justice: An Invitation to the Young to Serve the Children of the Poor

Race, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity in our Nation's Schools

Savage Inequalities: Education Still Separate, Still Unequal The Challenges for Teachers in an Age of Inequality, Strict Accountability, & Remorseless Testing

Letters to a Young Teacher: An Invitation to a Beautiful Profession - A Time of Hope: What We Can Expect from the New Administration in Washington (Emphasis on Children & Education)

The Shame of the Nation: Public Education Still Separate, Still Unequal

Children & Teachers Under Siege: Race, Poverty & Public Schools

The Age of Anxiety in Our Urban Schools: In an Era of Obsessive Testing, Can the Arts & Humanities Survive?

The Race Gap: Why Does It Persist? What Are the Solutions?

In Praise of a Beautiful Profession: Educators Working in the Front Lines of the Public Schools

Turning Around Low-Performing Schools: New Strategies, New Visions

Letters to a Young Teacher: The Formidable Challenges & Passionate Rewards of Those Who Teach in Public Schools (Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration)

Among Schoolchildren: The Challenges for Teachers in the Age of Tests & Severe Accountability

The Soul of a Profession: Public Education Under Siege


(1) Joy and Justice: The Hearts of Children and the Dignity of Teachers in an Age of Punitive and Relentless Testing.

(2) The Shame of the Nation: Race, Poverty, and the Corporate Invasion of our Public Schools.

(3) The Widening Gulf: Can We Reverse the Savage Inequalities of Our Public Schools?

(4) Child-centered Education: Learning for its Own Good Sake Alone. Is it Still Possible in this Age of Rigidified Instruction?

(5) Curricular Starvation in Our Urban Schools: How Can We Restore Aesthetics and the Arts and Cultural Capaciousness to Children Starting in the Early Years?

Healthcare and the Elderly

(1) Old Age and Medical Ethics: Are Economic Factors Undermining Ethics in Discussions about Determination of the End of Life?

(2) Alzheimer's: A Best-selling Author Describes His Fascinating Conversations with His Father after the Onset of Dementia -- and His Struggle to Defend His Father's Dignity.

(3) The Heart-breaking Loss of the Personal Bond Between Doctors and Their Patients in an Age of Rationed Care.

(4) Who Speaks for the Ill and Elderly? And Who will Provide for our Parents and Grandparents as Young Physicians Turn Their Backs on Geriatric Medicine?


Jonathan Kozol On Kids Who Survive Inner Cities : NPR

Jonathan Kozol has chronicled the lives of lower income children for nearly fifty years. In his new book, Fire In The Ashes, Kozol writes about families that he met  ...

Education Week: Jonathan Kozol on inequality in education ...

Award-winning author and teacher Jonathan Kozol, speaking at the College of St . Scholastica in June about education in America. He says we still have ...


Jonathan Kozol has made a career out of crying. Over the span of 30 years and nine books, the 59-year-old author has shed tears for nearly every segment of ...

Author Jonathan Kozol Describes Losing Father to Dementia

Author Jonathan Kozol, best known for his work on injustice and education, describes losing his father to dementia and discusses his time caring for him.

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