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THE CLASSMATES

PRIVILEGE, CHAOS, AND THE END OF AN ERA

Likable and frequently moving.

Sparked by a flurry of e-mails among former classmates during John Kerry’s run for president, Douglas (The Game of Their Lives, 1996, etc.) explores what happened to St. Paul’s class of 1962.

In the spring of 2004, the author watched in amazement as his inbox slowly filled with names he hadn’t contemplated in more than 40 years. They had all attended St. Paul’s and were fascinated by the presidential bid of fellow alum Kerry, who hadn’t been well liked at the elite boarding school in Concord, N.H., but earned their admiration during the run-up to the election. Douglas fondly recalls the frantic e-mail exchanges that eventually prompted him to meet with a few of his former classmates, including Kerry. He discovered that St. Paul’s alumni had endured a broad range of experiences since graduating, and he eloquently chronicles those experiences. The narrative frequently returns to Arthur, a class clown mercilessly ridiculed at school who suddenly died while the e-mail reunion was in full swing. The outpouring of grief following his death makes for one of the most touching moments in a book saturated with the emotions unleashed by a group of middle-aged men’s miraculous reconnection. Douglas describes meetings between himself and several other graduates, including Chad Floyd, a successful architect and Vietnam vet whose wife was crippled by depression, and Philip Heckscher, a Harlem high-school teacher who took a long time coming to terms with his homosexuality. Surprisingly, the passages about Kerry are among the book’s least interesting. The author admits that their interview was perfunctory, full of rote answers that the senator from Massachusetts has trotted out on numerous other occasions. But it matters little, because the reunion he inadvertently sparked opens a gateway for Douglas to muse on such larger concepts as identity, loss, expectation, failure and idealism.

Likable and frequently moving.

Pub Date: June 3, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4013-0196-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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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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