WHAT JOHNNY SHOULDN'T READ

TEXTBOOK CENSORSHIP IN AMERICA

A frightening look at the pressures brought to bear on textbook publishers to mollify special interests by modifying schoolbooks. DelFattore (English/Univ. of Delaware) addresses the assault on the content of textbooks—and of supplementary literature like Huckleberry Finn—from the right and the left. Particularly notable are the attacks from fundamentalist Christians, who not only continue to challenge evolution but who bring to court such arguments as the one that being nice to animals could bring about the end of the world—which certainly puts most of Disney's fairy tales on the condemned list. DelFattore reviews in illuminating detail court battles in Tennessee, Florida, and elsewhere aimed at eliminating or radically altering textbooks and classic literature used in schools. Among the offenders: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Emily Brontâ, and William Faulkner. Although courts frequently rule against protesting parents who challenge educators' choice of textbooks, often the textbook publishers have already scurried back to the page proofs and begun cleaning up ``offensive'' entries. Texas and California are the two states with the financial muscle—because of the number of textbooks they buy- -virtually to dictate the content and tone of some nationally distributed textbooks. And more liberal California isn't off the hook in this discussion—for instance, its practice of softening or eliminating discussions of past racist behavior and racist language distorts history, says the author. A disturbing report on who's actually influencing what children read in school, suggesting that parents, teachers, and administrators take a closer look at how schoolbooks are chosen— and tampered with.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 1992

ISBN: 0-300-05709-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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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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