An often-charming love letter to a storied institution, but offered with a grain of salt.

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A CLASS APART

PRODIGIES, PRESSURE AND PASSION INSIDE ONE OF AMERICA’S BEST HIGH SCHOOLS

What happens when your high-school crush isn’t another student, but the high school itself?

Klein (Beast of Love, 2006, etc.), a reporter for the Washington Post and an alumnus of New York’s acclaimed Stuyvesant public high school, spent a semester roaming the halls of his alma mater, hanging with the students, dressing like them and observing their mating and academic habits. No, this is not the plot of Never Been Kissed. Klein was looking for the secret to Stuyvesant’s astounding academic success (the school, as Klein points out several times, has produced four Nobel Laureates). And indeed, Stuyvesant, an institution to which students from all over New York City may apply, has achieved remarkable things: It’s reported that at a time when math and science classes are being cut from schools around the country, Stuyvesant maintains an outstanding program. The author’s admiration for the school often results in a portrait of the students that verges on the hagiographic: There’s the star football player and A student who does homework until 4:00 in the morning every night, the ten-year-old math prodigy and his brilliant college-dropout mentor, the romantically portrayed heroin-addicted poet who maintains an above-average GPA. But Klein isn’t entirely the class cheerleader. He dispels the illusion that the school is open to anyone (while any student can take the entrance exam, not everyone can afford the years of tutoring that many parents pay for in order to prepare their children for the test). Klein’s descriptions of the pressures that students face is also chilling. Parents hound children for slipping a fraction of a grade point, students sleep little, teachers load on homework. The most intense pressure seems to come from the students themselves—when one girl starts a petition to reduce homework loads over school vacations, virtually none of the student body agrees to sign it.

An often-charming love letter to a storied institution, but offered with a grain of salt.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9944-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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