Jonathan Kozol is a non-fiction writer, educator, and activist, best known for his books on public education in the United States. Kozol graduated from Noble and Greenough School in 1954, and Harvard University summa cum laude in 1958 with a degree in English Literature. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. He did not, however, complete his Rhodes, deciding instead to go to Paris to write a novel. He spent four years there writing his only published work of fiction, The Fume of Poppies, and getting to know the likes of William Styron. It was upon his return that he began to tutor children in Roxbury, MA, and soon became a teacher in the Boston Public Schools. He was fired for teaching a Langston Hughes poem, as described in Death at an Early Age, and then became deeply involved in the civil rights movement. After being fired from BPS he was offered a job to teach for Newton Public Schools, the school district that he had attended as a child, and taught there for several years before becoming more deeply involved in social justice work and dedicating more time to writing.
Kozol has since held two Guggenheim Fellowships, has twice been a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, and has also received fellowships from the Field and Ford Foundations.
Kozol also has worked in the field of social psychology. Kozol is currently on the Editorial Board of Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley. Kozol's contributions include the interpretation of scientific research into the roots of compassion, altruism, and peaceful human relationships.