Bawer is a powerful user of language relying on weak evidence and preconceived notions to create a questionable reality.

THE VICTIMS' REVOLUTION

THE RISE OF IDENTITY STUDIES AND THE CLOSING OF THE LIBERAL MIND

Bawer (The New Quislings: How the International Left Used the Oslo Massacre to Silence Debate About Islam, 2012, etc.) attacks the alleged takeover of American universities by identity studies faculty who turn students into close-minded, America-bashing semi-intellectuals.

The author devotes the bulk of his polemic to what he sees as the undesirable academic disciplines of women's studies, black studies, Chicano studies and queer studies. (Bawer is openly gay but asserts that he is not a mainstream gay man intellectually.) He believes the corruption of entire university campuses derived from liberal/radical movements of the 1960s. The college students who grew up during that era frequently became professors, individuals guided by a belief that oppressed groups should be studied as movements, with little emphasis on individual rights. In Bawer's version of American higher education, anti-capitalist, anti-American authors such as Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Paulo Freire and Antonio Gramsci dominate campus curricula, driving out more moderate scholars who celebrate the current strengths and future possibilities of the United States. Bawer offers copious anecdotes as representative of across-the-board reality on thousands of American college campuses. These anecdotes are purported to prove his already formed hypothesis, rather than allowing a hypothesis to grow organically from hard evidence. Toward the end of the book, Bawer throws in attacks on additional identity study realms, including disability studies, fat studies, men's studies and whiteness studies. He calls on parents of potential college students to examine curricula carefully and avoid campuses—even the Harvards and the Yales—that he believes have been hopelessly compromised.

Bawer is a powerful user of language relying on weak evidence and preconceived notions to create a questionable reality. 

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-180737-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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