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Gates, narrow and wide

Gates, narrow and wide

“Be all you can be” was the recruiting motto for the United Sates Army several years back. It rather coyly suggested that if you joined the army, every opportunity you wanted would be available for you to fulfill.

Public education in America purports to offer the same thing. Yet through his years of teaching and observing, Jonathan Kozol doesn’t see it that way.

“Separate schools, divided racially and segregated economically, are fearful mechanisms for apportionment of destinies” (page 292). He is making the case that the school that one attends determines one’s horizons; that it inordinately shapes who one can eventually be.

Mr. Kozol quotes Matthew’s gospel: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy” (Matthew 7:14). It sounds appropriate to him that this be the case for life eternal, but “it doesn’t need to be that way on earth; and certainly it shouldn’t be like that in this land in which we live. There should not be two gates to the riches of this kingdom. There should not be a narrow gate for children of the poor, a wide and open gate for children of the fortunate and favored. There should be one gate. It should be known to everyone” (page 296).

I think Mr. Kozol has articulated a key ingredient of the Christian mission.


Unfortunately there has always been two gates. Nothing changes. We talk about it a lot but seem powerless to effect any meaningful improvement in our inner city and poor rural schools. It's so easy to read the book, wring our hands over the inequity of it all and then go on with our lives. I'm not clever enough to figure it all out but I pray someone will.

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