This insightful, often charming book has much to offer anyone seeking to improve how learning occurs, whether one shares...

Breakthrough To Brilliance


A utopian manifesto for replacing compulsory education with self-driven, lifelong learning.

In this erudite but quixotic debut, Hamilton offers a blueprint for franchised learning centers aimed at supplanting traditional schools and revolutionizing society. Physically, her “prepared learning environment” blends elements of libraries, museums, theaters, fitness clubs, and shopping centers to create what she calls a “mall for the mind”—storehouses of knowledge categorized into 33 “loggia,” or galleries, around a central atrium. A bucolic campus features organic farming, unspoiled woodlands, dormitories for students, an inn for visitors, and cottages for seniors, who serve as mentors. Functionally, it abandons regimented classrooms, curricula, and tests that Hamilton persuasively argues suffocate youngsters’ inborn thirst for discovery. According to her plan, learners set the focus and pace of their own studies. She writes that she received this vision while observing her own two children as babies in 1968. After decades working as a teacher, earning a master’s degree in educational administration, and serving on a Tennessee state school board, she gave up on reforming the existing educational model to invent a new one. Here, she deploys a wealth of pedagogical research in the main text and a feast of on-point quotes in the margins. She skewers the status quo with clear examples, cogent analysis, and gentle humor. As she describes her alternative, her prose acquires a dreamlike quality; indeed, she paints scenes so idyllic that they may seem unattainable to readers lacking her passion. Learners “will never feel a single moment of boredom,” adolescents in the dorms “are up early and to bed early, and “ ‘Havenotness’ will become a distant memory of our culture.” Building even a single prototype appears daunting, though she makes a reasonable feasibility pitch. Imagining these centers replacing more than 129,000 K-12 schools in the United States, though, is harder. Unlike the current 98,000-plus public schools, center memberships would be conditional (“based upon training and proven mastery of the two rules of respect and order”) and available to children of all ages. Overall, though, it’s difficult to conceive of them as ever being more than luxury alternatives. For society to embrace such educational autonomy, an absence of grades and standardized credentials would seem as much a precondition for their growth as a result. Still, her remedies shed light on many current problems.

This insightful, often charming book has much to offer anyone seeking to improve how learning occurs, whether one shares Hamilton’s vision or not.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 9780983011552

Page Count: -

Publisher: Periploi Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2016

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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