A compelling, instructive account regarding education in America, where the arguments have become “so nasty, provincial, and...

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THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD

AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY

Chronicle of a journalist’s global travels to visit schools, interviewing educators and talking with students and their families in order to answer the question, “Why were some kids learning so much—and others so very little?”

Ripley (The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, 2008) examines why there is a disparity in performance on tests of mathematical and scientific competence between American students and their global counterparts, even when factors such as poverty and discrimination are taken into account. She explains that America's poor showing translates into lost jobs for Americans, who cannot compete with foreign labor even in semiskilled jobs. Many of the arguments about American education fail to address the real issues behind the competitive failure of American schools compared to Finnish and South Korean schools (where students are in the top tier on international tests), as well as Poland, where the rate of improvement is remarkable. Ripley builds her narrative around the experience of three American teenagers, each of whom spent a year abroad as exchange students—in Finland, South Korea and Poland, respectively. The author describes a political consensus in each of the three countries that nearly guarantees the creation and maintenance of a highly educated workforce, from top to bottom. The importance of education is a reflection of national consensus on the respect for teachers. A large portion of their education budgets go to teachers’ salaries, and the instructors are chosen from the top third of their graduating classes and must meet high professional standards on a par with engineers. Per capita, America spends more money on education, but the money is allocated differently—e.g., to sports teams and programs that provide students with laptops, iPads and interactive whiteboards.

A compelling, instructive account regarding education in America, where the arguments have become “so nasty, provincial, and redundant that they no longer lead anywhere worth going."

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5442-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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