Eschewing hand-wringing and political rhetoric for close, critical observation, freelance journalist Traub (Too Good to Be True, 1990) delineates a unique—and uniquely representative- -institution: New York's City College. Traub spent a year observing classes at City College's Gothic Revival campus, which sits atop a hill in Harlem. Founded in 1849 as an egalitarian experiment, tuition-free City College came into its own when the great turn-of-the-century tide of Jewish migration provided it with cohorts of driven students. Their legendary successes—a record number of Nobelists and intellectuals such as Irving Howe—made it a beacon of educational possibility for the nation. A confluence of social and political upheavals, however, brought radical changes in the 1960s, key among them guaranteed admission for graduates of New York City high schools to the City University of New York, of which City College is a part. An exploration of the drastic results of this ``open admissions'' policy constitutes the main part of Traub's book. After limning the ideological conflicts that still continue among the faculty and in the press, he introduces us to its ramifications in City College's classrooms. We meet a range of teachers, from dedicated idealists, struggling to reach woefully under-prepared students while maintaining some semblance of academic standards, to the controversial Afrocentrist professor Leonard Jeffries, whose authoritarian anti-intellectualism Traub exposes as he captures the human, even tragic dimension of Jeffries's sway over uninformed followers. Empathetic portraits of City College students stand at the book's center. Many flounder in remedial courses; difficult family situations and looming financial disaster burden most; the dedication of contemporary immigrants provides some hope. But Traub's ultimate accomplishment is to reveal the consequences for one legendary college of the inadequacy of our urban high schools and vocational training, and our general devaluation of learning. The crisis continues—and as goes New York's City on a hill, so goes the nation. Exemplary reportage, essential for all those debating the future of American college education.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-62227-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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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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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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