Reflections From the Executive Office

Death at an early age

When I was in college, I read Death at an Early Age, and, like The Feminine Mystique and Black Like Me, all written and published and read (by me) around the same time, it changed my life forever.

Death at an Early Age was inspired by Jonathan Kozol’s experience as a privileged white teacher working in a Roxbury school, part of the highly segregated Boston public education system. Today I heard Dr. Kozol, now in his late 70’s, give the keynote presentation at the Urban Health Institute’s symposium about trauma. He was as insightful, inspired, and irreverent as ever, and I was greatly moved, as I think most of the audience was. Many in attendance may never have heard of Kozol until this event– it looked to me like most were of college and graduate school age – and he got a rousing standing ovation at the conclusion of his talk.

Jonathan Kozel

Jonathan Kozel

He concluded with this thought: racial segregation and discrimination play a major role in the failure of our democracy to deliver equal opportunity, and we won’t be able to eliminate them in our lifetimes. But within our reach – something politically doable – there is something that would go a long way to leveling the playing field, and that all parties agree is desirable: high quality early childhood education. Yes, it’s expensive, he said – especially when it includes the additional services he recommends: health, mental health, and dental care, plus parental training and coaching – but it’s worth it, and it’s what upper income people are more than willing to pay for because they know it’s important.

When I get my hands on the recording of the speech, I’ll publish the link and devote a blog entry to it. In the meantime, it’s a wonderful boost to know that my hero is behind what we’re doing at MFN! In fact, it makes me want to push even harder.