Teachers, concerned parents, political leaders—Kirp’s book has something for everyone, and it deserves the widest possible...

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IMPROBABLE SCHOLARS

THE REBIRTH OF A GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM AND A STRATEGY FOR AMERICA'S SCHOOLS

Hopeful news from the education front.

George W. Bush’s teach-to-the-test No Child Left Behind Act has done untold damage to American education, as has the wholesale defunding of public school systems in favor of private schools that are mostly reserved for the wealthy. Kirp (Public Policy/Univ. of California; Kids First, 2011, etc.) observes that in recent years, “fewer white students and more poor and nonwhite students have enrolled in public school,” with the predictable result that public schools have in the main become uncompetitive since they are underserved. He examines the case of Union City, N.J., to show that this is not a requisite destiny: There, in an area of deep poverty (“below such famously troubled cities as Mobile, Milwaukee, and Oakland”), a committed group of administrators, teachers and parents have formed an educational community to defy the odds. “Community” is an operative word, and the secrets for forging it and bringing new life to the classroom are, by Kirp’s account, fairly few. He identifies some of the keys ones: high-quality, all-day preschool for all children beginning at the age of 3, then “word-soaked classrooms” that emphasize language skills (and therefore thinking skills). Against the prevailing English-only ethos, Union City teaches immigrant children fluency in their language, then fluency in English. The school system actively reaches out to parents to form educational partnerships, and there are plenty of abrazos—hugs, that is, to create a culture of caring. What Kirp considers an exemplary public school system that is a demonstrable improvement over what generally prevails now is replicable everywhere, requiring only fiercely hard work.

Teachers, concerned parents, political leaders—Kirp’s book has something for everyone, and it deserves the widest possible audience discussion.

Pub Date: April 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-998749-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

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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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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