CITY ON A HILL

TESTING THE AMERICAN DREAM AT CITY COLLEGE

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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An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory.

PSYCHOCONDUCTION

A sweeping new theory that puts forward a way to rejuvenate a damaged brain without using surgical or pharmacological methods. 

Clinical psychologist Litvin (Litvin’s Code, 2011) proposes what he calls a bold “new neuropsychological discovery” about ways in which a chronically underperforming brain may be improved with carefully managed mental exercises. According to the author, the brain processes information via an internal mapping system, in which received data is directed to a “book of addresses.” When the brain malfunctions, he says, it’s largely the result of damaged complex brain cells receiving “incomplete or distorted requests,” which results in the improper distribution of information. However, he asserts that the brain has a kind of organic plasticity that allows it to respond to willfully enacted repairs. Litvin argues that simple cells in the body can be stimulated in a way that either rejuvenates or replace damaged complex cells; this stimulation can overcome what he calls “neuropsychological barriers” and result in the release of a newly “balanced amount of brain chemicals”—a vague formulation that typifies the author’s overall mode of discussion. This is achieved, he says, by activating the brain’s response to various stimuli in quick succession, including tactile, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory stimuli. Litvin calls this theory of repair “psychoconduction,” and he includes a detailed series of mental exercises that ask readers to translate simple mathematical equations into various modes of expression; for example, he shows how a visual pattern may be translated into a knocking sound, or a clamping of a hand. Litvin has discussed psychoconduction in a number of other works, but here, he furnishes his most thorough and systematic explanation of it, largely in accessible, nontechnical language. However, this volume also replicates the principal vices of the others: It’s remarkably general, and it doesn’t present any empirical, experimental evidence for its claims. Also, Litvin’s promises regarding the scope of its application are equally unsubstantiated, as well as implausible; he claims, for example, that the exercises can remedy dyslexia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, anger issues, and even help people who have hallucinations. It’s never clear how it’s all possible, and the author offers no solid proof. 

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory. 

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4669-1254-0

Page Count: 129

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2019

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A much-needed review of the American educational system and an examination of the techniques needed to improve the teaching...

"MULTIPLICATION IS FOR WHITE PEOPLE"

RAISING EXPECTATIONS FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN

A call-to-action book on how to close the racial achievement gap in the American educational system.

Despite having an African-American as president, MacArthur winner Delpit (Education/Southern Univ.; Other People’s Children, 1995, etc.) writes that African-American students are still not being treated as equal to their white peers. Using numerous examples from school situations and her own daughter’s experiences, the author shows that stereotypes and racial prejudices still abound, with many teachers teaching “down” to their black students. To counteract this negative effect, teachers need to understand the cultural backgrounds of their students and connect the curriculum to this background so that learning has relevance to the student. Instead of asking “do you know what I know?” Delpit says the question to ask is “what do you know?” “This is the question that will allow us to begin, with courage, humility, and cultural sensitivity the right educational journey,” she writes. When good teachers incorporate this method and learn to identify with each individual child, test scores and self-esteem rise and disobedience and absenteeism fall. Delpit feels her work in education is two-fold: She is “charged with preparing the minds and hearts of those who will inherit the earth…as a sacred trust…and the second purpose…is to build bridges across the great divides, the so-called achievement gap, the technology gap, class divisions, the racial divide.” If all teachers adopted these ideas, the American educational system would be vastly improved for all students. Covering age groups from preschool to college, Delpit offers advice to new and veteran teachers, advice that applies not only to African-American students but to all ethnic and minority groups.

A much-needed review of the American educational system and an examination of the techniques needed to improve the teaching methods of all involved in that system.

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59558-046-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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