The five essays in this book are powerful reminders that currently popular ideas of school choice may be only another trendy veneer disguising the deeply rooted problems of public education. Teacher Kohl (From Archetype to Zeitgeist, 1992, etc.) is an ardent spokesman on behalf of students, the people most neglected in debates about failures in the classrooms. The title essay explores the provocative idea that ``not-learning'' is a conscious choice made by children who observe, sometimes very early, that the school system is trying to impose on them values and behavior that are foreign and sometimes repugnant to them. Diagnosed as learning- disabled, stupid, or disciplinary problems, children who appear not to be able to learn to read or do math may simply have opted out of the system, choosing instead to put their intelligence and creativity to work outside school. In ``The Tattooed Man,'' he asserts that, before anything else can be accomplished, teachers must challenge the hopelessness felt by students. The ``norming of excellence'' and political correctness are the subjects of two other essays, accompanied by a devastating critique of E.D. Hirsch, Jr.'s Cultural Literacy and Core Knowledge series. Kohl attacks Hirsch's material as not only racist and sexist, but ``pernicious, stupid, and dangerous.'' Martin Luther King, Jr.'s call to be ``maladjusted'' to injustice and inequity is the theme of the last essay. ``Creative maladjustment'' consists of ``learning to survive with minimal moral and personal compromise in a thoroughly compromised world,'' says Kohl. In such a world, he argues, the failure of schools and teachers is often pinned on children—by diagnosing them with Attention Deficit Disorder, for example. He challenges teachers to take action by, for instance, refusing to turn such children over to special education classes. Some anecdotes and examples are repeated from earlier works, but this is must reading for Kohl fanciers and anyone looking for the humanity buried in the long debate about why Johnny can't read.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56584-095-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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