Though Sykes’ Limbaugh-esque project scores some good points along the way, his shrill denunciations don’t get at the core...



Ah, college, a time for beer blasts, casual sex, and, ahem, “bizarre cultural intolerances.”

Talk radio host Sykes has built a literary legacy of alarmed books with titles such as A Nation of Moochers, Dumbing Down Our Kids, and A Nation of Victims, all jeremiad rather than paean. Sure enough, here he finds everything to complain about and nothing to exalt in the once-vaunted American system of higher education, which has fallen victim to corporatization and—well, Sykes wouldn’t dare blame the free-market dismantling of what used to be free education and free thought. Instead, he elects as his bad guys the professorial elite, who get paid big bucks not to meet with classes, a cry he sounded in his ProfScam (1988), and who hold an “active contempt for teaching.” Granted that this is true of large research universities, where salaries are more often than not the product of soft money—see Hope Jahren’s recent book Lab Girl for the grim details—but where teaching is emphasized, Sykes denounces the plethora of tailor-made majors, the dance studies and Anthropology of Play courses and the like, which are, one supposes, less rigorous than the curriculum he would seek to offer in their place. What to do, in a culture of trigger warnings and hyperextended student loans, further entries in Sykes’ long list of complaints? Why, let fewer students in the doors, of course, and downsize the modern university, which “has sought to be all things to all people, endlessly multiplying programs, centers, majors, and degrees.” Also, let’s get rid of tenure, which “creates a class of untouchable aristocrats,” a description that most faculty, tenured and otherwise, would find laughable unless ideologically invested otherwise.

Though Sykes’ Limbaugh-esque project scores some good points along the way, his shrill denunciations don’t get at the core of the real problem or at a solution.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07159-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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