Hacker’s arguments may convince some anxious students and be welcomed by their parents, but the reaction from academics is...

THE MATH MYTH

AND OTHER STEM DELUSIONS

A lively argument against the assumption that if the United States is to stay competitive in a global economy, our students require advanced training in mathematics.

In this book, Hacker (Emeritus, Political Science/Queens Coll.; Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men, 2003, etc.) expands on his piece, “Is Algebra Necessary?” which appeared in the New York Times in 2012. The author is dismayed that students are required to pass mandated mathematics courses, pointing out that it is the principal academic reason for the high dropout rate in American high schools and colleges. He shows how the requirement filters out talented liberal arts students, that math in the workplace bears little relationship to math in the classroom, and that the claim that studying math instills desirable modes of thought is built on unverified premises. Further, he alleges that there is no shortage of qualified Americans to fill positions in the computer industry but that the industry prefers to hire foreigners at entry-level positions to keep wages low. To bolster his arguments, the author sprinkles his text with pages of speech balloons containing quotes from former students who agree with him, and he inserts difficult-to-read white-on-black math problems made to look like an exercise in chalk on a classroom blackboard. Such devices are superfluous; Hacker’s prose is direct and clear. The final chapter, “Numeracy 101,” one of the most fascinating and rewarding in the book, features samples of the kind of material on quantitative reasoning Hacker believes should be taught and that he developed for an experimental introductory mathematics course. Readers who never took algebra, geometry, or calculus, or who have no recollections of what they learned in those courses, will be challenged and engaged by the exercises.

Hacker’s arguments may convince some anxious students and be welcomed by their parents, but the reaction from academics is sure to be mixed.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62097-068-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION

THE DECLINE, THE DECEPTION, THE DOGMAS

American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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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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