Although stronger on diagnosis than cure, this is an impassioned call for a corrupt system to heal itself.




Has the democratic ideal of a classical education, open to rich and poor alike, become a thing of the past?

That’s the scenario proposed by esteemed literary scholar Delbanco (Humanities and American Studies/Columbia Univ.; Melville: His World and Work, 2005, etc.) in this engaging assessment of how American higher education has lost its way. He starts with the American ideal, dating back to the Puritans, of college as a place that trained the whole person, taught students “how to think and how to choose” and how to question received wisdom. The examined life, in essence; a process of  “growing out of an embattled sense of self into a more generous view of life as continuous self-reflection in light of new experience, including the witnessed experience of others.” In modern America, that focus has shifted: Now it’s less about the eternal verities than chasing after dollars, more about filling seats than heads and more about science than the humanities. The research university is now regarded as “the most evolved species in the institutional chain of being.” The greater purpose founders, while “literature, history, philosophy, and the arts are becoming the stepchildren of our colleges.” Given his pedigree, Delbanco may sound like he’s protecting his own turf, but he makes a strong case that the purely materialist approach to education assures that the disparity between rich and poor students only widens, with “merit-based” financial aid and scholarships all going disproportionately to students from families with money. Scholarship reform, a classical curriculum, more real teaching (and less lecturing to crowded halls) are all in order.

Although stronger on diagnosis than cure, this is an impassioned call for a corrupt system to heal itself.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-691-13073-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet