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

FAIL U.

THE FALSE PROMISE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

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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Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.

STRINGS ATTACHED

ONE TOUGH TEACHER AND THE GIFT OF GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Inspirational lessons from the life of one tough teacher.

Today’s parents who lament their children stressing over tests may be horrified by the themes of tough love and tenacity offered by this biographical tribute to the late Jerry Kupchynsky, “Mr. K,” a gifted high school strings teacher from East Brunswick, N.J., whose exacting methods helped spawn the careers of generations of musicians and educators. Journalist Lipman and Kupchynsky, a violinist and Mr. K’s daughter, met as children when Mr. K joined his daughter’s exceptional talents on violin with Lipman’s on viola to form half of a string quartet that would also include Kupchynsky’s younger sister, whose disappearance decades later reunited the authors. The bond forged through the intensity of creating music is but one of the storylines running through this engrossing account of Mr. K’s life. Born in 1928 in the Ukraine, Mr. K endured a litany of wartime atrocities before immigrating to the United States as a refugee in 1946. But prior to fleeing to the U.S., it was the sound of a German soldier playing the violin that sparked his love for classical music. Surviving these early hardships helped instill in Mr. K an appreciation of adversity as a motivator, an unflagging belief in the value of hard work and a willingness to fight for the underdog. With a booming Ukrainian accent and “trim” mustache, Mr. K’s battle-ax demeanor and perfectionist drive struck both fear and a ferocious desire to succeed in the hearts of his pupils. One of his more unforgiving approaches involved singling out a section’s weakest player—“Who eez deaf in first violins?”—and forcing the guilty party to play alone with a stronger player until the weak one improved. While tactics like these may not have earned his students’ immediate devotion, they never forgot him and often found they could achieve more than they ever dreamed.

Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2466-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory.

PSYCHOCONDUCTION

A sweeping new theory that puts forward a way to rejuvenate a damaged brain without using surgical or pharmacological methods. 

Clinical psychologist Litvin (Litvin’s Code, 2011) proposes what he calls a bold “new neuropsychological discovery” about ways in which a chronically underperforming brain may be improved with carefully managed mental exercises. According to the author, the brain processes information via an internal mapping system, in which received data is directed to a “book of addresses.” When the brain malfunctions, he says, it’s largely the result of damaged complex brain cells receiving “incomplete or distorted requests,” which results in the improper distribution of information. However, he asserts that the brain has a kind of organic plasticity that allows it to respond to willfully enacted repairs. Litvin argues that simple cells in the body can be stimulated in a way that either rejuvenates or replace damaged complex cells; this stimulation can overcome what he calls “neuropsychological barriers” and result in the release of a newly “balanced amount of brain chemicals”—a vague formulation that typifies the author’s overall mode of discussion. This is achieved, he says, by activating the brain’s response to various stimuli in quick succession, including tactile, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory stimuli. Litvin calls this theory of repair “psychoconduction,” and he includes a detailed series of mental exercises that ask readers to translate simple mathematical equations into various modes of expression; for example, he shows how a visual pattern may be translated into a knocking sound, or a clamping of a hand. Litvin has discussed psychoconduction in a number of other works, but here, he furnishes his most thorough and systematic explanation of it, largely in accessible, nontechnical language. However, this volume also replicates the principal vices of the others: It’s remarkably general, and it doesn’t present any empirical, experimental evidence for its claims. Also, Litvin’s promises regarding the scope of its application are equally unsubstantiated, as well as implausible; he claims, for example, that the exercises can remedy dyslexia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, anger issues, and even help people who have hallucinations. It’s never clear how it’s all possible, and the author offers no solid proof. 

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory. 

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4669-1254-0

Page Count: 129

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2019

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