Sexton clearly shows how less shouting and more listening can lead to a reclaiming of a lost middle ground.




A forceful argument on behalf of the modern university.

Having established himself as a visionary when he was president of NYU (2002-2015), Sexton (Baseball as a Road to God, 2013, etc.) argues that a university that returns to basic principles and extends its horizons offers a remedy to the madness of our current political discourse. Well before he became a scholar of religion or a law school dean, the author honed his analytical skills as a debater and debate coach, thriving in a competitive arena in which he learned the importance of listening and carefully considering opposing views in order to sharpen the response. It was an exchange where “participants lived in a world of ideas and were committed to testing their views.” In contemporary discourse, that world has been reduced to memes and slogans, sacrificing nuance and complexity, and opposing views are too often ridiculed or silenced rather than considered. We now live in a world that suffers from what Sexton terms “secular dogmatism…a close-mindedness, or lack of intellectual openness.” Universities, he maintains, “should serve as incubators for a new secular ecumenism,” which does not merely accommodate a variety of different political viewpoints and religious faiths, but embraces the diversity of the world at large, reflecting an increasingly globalized culture. In a time in which there are strong inclinations toward building walls against such diversity, Sexton believes that higher education must re-establish itself as a “ ‘sacred space’ for critical reflection” and “the meaningful testing of ideas.” The university must be a space where rigorous debate and intellectual exchange can flourish. The author shows how NYU has developed into a global institution with international portal campuses, and he suggests that higher education as a whole can be a powerful force for a better world.

Sexton clearly shows how less shouting and more listening can lead to a reclaiming of a lost middle ground.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-300-24337-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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