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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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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 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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