A probing examination of the strengths and weaknesses—but mostly the weaknesses—of our nation's top-rated and best-funded public high schools. Washington Post education reporter Mathews (A Mothers Touch, 1992) paints a compelling portrait of the educators, parents, students, and curricula of wealthy Mamaroneck High School in suburban New York, while also offering running commentaries on the other elite schools that he has visited during the past three years. While he does grant these schools their victories, he is extremely critical of their approach to students who arent overachievers. Mathews is especially perturbed by the school's enthusiasm for the tracking system, which relegates economically and socially disadvantaged students- -particularly blacks and Latinos—to the lower educational ranks and denies them access to the school's most challenging courses. He is concerned, too, with the lack of scholarly research thus far into the ``odd and potentially harmful ways these schools have stratified their students.'' Since the elite schools seek mainly to benefit their majority constituency—which happens to be the upper-class and motivated students—it should come as no surprise that this constituency's parents and the educators who establish school policies are reluctant to change their ways. The school budget in Mamaroneck is also designed to accommodate the most productive students. Though Mamaroneck offers more advanced- placement courses and science options than most of the college-bound students will ever have the time to take, those are the last classes to fall off the roster, even if enrollment is slim. Theyre also the least welcoming classes to the suburb's disadvantaged students. Fact-filled and engaging, a trenchant study, indispensable to the policy-makers for America's top 230 high schools (as ranked in the book's useful index). (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8129-2447-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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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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