A scathing critique that grabs America's educational establishment by the scruff of the neck and shakes it until its trendy goals of building self-esteem, clarifying values, and evaluating feelings rattle hollowly where the three Rs ought to be. Education journalist Sykes (A Nation of Victims, 1992, etc.) gives no quarter to what he calls ``educrats,'' the educational oligarchy that descends from the Department of Education through the hierarchy of the National Education Association to administratively bloated school districts and undereducated teachers. Students and their parents don't fare much better. Despite studies that show American scholastic achievement has dropped by almost every measure in recent years, Americans are complacent about the quality of their education, rating themselves far higher than their employers do or than comparisons with other countries allow. Part of the blame, says Sykes, goes to schools where, in the interests of leveling the playing field, hard grades have been replaced by softer evaluations such as ``area of stregth.'' For the most part, none of Sykes's criticisms of such educational innovations as Outcome-Based Education (students repeat the material and the test until they get the right ``outcome'') or boring and politically correct textbooks are new, but marshalled together, they present a terrifying prospect for American education. He does add historical perspective, tracing the evolution of authoritarian classroom to ``child-centered education'' from Jean-Jacques Rousseau via John Dewey. There's a revolution coming, Sykes predicts, and it should begin with school choicefollowed by, among other things, abolishing the Department of Education and undergraduate schools of education. While not successfully addressing the important question of whether school choice will further ghettoize public schools, he does agree with critics who suggest that not holding poor and minority children to a high standard is racist. A telling attack. Parents and visionary educators, if not educrats, should sit up and take notice. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13474-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1995

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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

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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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