A fervent manifesto for school diversity and autonomy.




An advocate for charter schools proposes bold changes in public education.

A senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, Osborne (The Coming, 2017, etc.) is a proponent of decentralization in government, including oversight of schools. Director of the Reinventing America’s Schools Project, he has amassed a great deal of data about charter schools. The book is replete with statistics, mostly defending charters’ successes; nevertheless, despite his infectious enthusiasm, he recognizes thorny problems. He focuses mainly on three cities: New Orleans, which re-created its school system after Hurricane Katrina; Washington, D.C., led by its controversial chancellor, Michelle Rhee; and Denver, whose elected school board instituted charter schools and “innovation schools” throughout its districts. Osborne asserts that overbearing school bureaucracies, insisting on a one-size-fits-all model, along with recalcitrant teachers’ unions, have undermined public education. Schools must decentralize decision-making, offer enhanced choices for students and families, give school leaders “the freedom to mold school cultures” and hire and fire teachers, and create measures of school performance. Assessment emerges as a complicated issue, since each charter school is accountable “to its own standards.” A charter, Osborne argues, “should be a performance contract, which spells out what the school intends to accomplish, how it will be measured, and what will happen if the school fails to achieve its goals.” What has happened in some cases is that schools have closed when students withdrew and teachers quit out of disappointment or frustration. The author aims to influence state and city administrators, school boards, and federal policymakers, with a nod to ways that parents can make their concerns heard. He offers myriad school models, such as “no-excuses” schools, with longer school days and years; schools that focus on science and technology; athletics-intensive schools; single-sex schools; schools offering intense therapeutic help; and schools that seek to preserve a particular ethnic heritage. Osborne, however, does not show concern about the cultural consequences of such specialized education.

A fervent manifesto for school diversity and autonomy.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-991-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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