Puts human faces on the often impersonal and obscure college-admissions process.

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THE GATEKEEPERS

INSIDE THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS OF A PREMIER COLLEGE

New York Times education reporter Steinberg demonstrates that character is not always fate for the students who apply to elite Wesleyan University.

“Here is what American society looks like today. A thick line runs through the country, with people who have been to college on one side of it and people who haven't on the other.” The author takes this quote from Nicholas Lemann, who wrote a sobering study of the SAT (The Big Test, 1999), as the starting point for his microscopic examination of the how Wesleyan, a prestigious liberal arts institution in Connecticut, composed its Class of 2004. Running with Lemann's thesis that higher education in the US is the great determinant of class and social mobility, Steinberg takes a disparate group of high school seniors, from a cinephiliac Native American male in New Mexico to a relatively privileged female at L.A.’s prestigious Harvard-Westlake private school who has one damaging incident with pot in her record, and follows the fate of their applications through the decisions of Wesleyan's “gatekeepers,” the admissions officers. The clashing points of view of the students and the college form a tragicomic undercurrent here. One factor in particular influences Wesleyan’s admission process: the need to rank high in such influential compendiums as The US News Guide to Colleges. Since these texts rate schools partly on the number of students they refuse, Wesleyan, like other colleges, has created a mechanism for generating many more applications than it can possibly accept. Admissions officer Ralph Figueroa, whom Steinberg shadowed for this study, spends half of his year selling Wesleyan and the other half rejecting most applicants. What shines through in the portrait of Figueroa and his colleagues is their utter commitment to a Herculean, if somewhat paradoxical, task.

Puts human faces on the often impersonal and obscure college-admissions process.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03135-6

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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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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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