Bias notwithstanding, particularly against what's called the "elites" of the legal profession, this is an intriguing look at...

AGAINST THE TIDE

A spirited account of how the relatively recent establishment of the Massachusetts School of Law struggled to survive despite the concentrated opposition of the American Bar Association.

In a style reminiscent of Tracy Kidder, freelance journalist Hagan conjures up a number of the colorful characters who helped launch MSL in the late '80s. Among the more flamboyant actors in this legal drama is Michael Boland, who founded MSL's immediate predecessor, the Commonwealth School of Law. Although it quickly shut down, due to Boland's mismanagement, he made at least one good move in hiring Lawrence Velvel as dean. By Hagan's account, Velvel, who has made a career out of his contrarian positions, was ideally suited to be dean of the fledgling school. After Commonwealth collapsed, Velvel and a cadre of motivated students formed MSL to take its place, offering a new model of legal education that targeted older, working-class students, offering them a practical education in the nuts-and-bolts of practice. With Boland out of the picture, Velvel and his partners still encountered opposition from the ABA, which refused to accredit the school. The central charge here against the ABA is that it seeks to maintain the status quo of the legal profession by stifling innovation and denying an affordable legal education to non-traditional students. Although MSL went as far as bringing an antitrust suit against the organization, it never received the accreditation it needed for perceived legitimacy. Nonetheless, Hagan, whose subjective viewpoint should be assumed, highlights what she considers the school's successes. (MSL, not Hagan, holds the copyright to the book–it's certainly a good piece of recruitment material.)

Bias notwithstanding, particularly against what's called the "elites" of the legal profession, this is an intriguing look at the near-insurmountable hurdles in creating a new breed of law school.

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7618-2838-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2011

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INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION

THE DECLINE, THE DECEPTION, THE DOGMAS

American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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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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