Lacks the muckraking that characterizes much of Kozol’s oeuvre, but solid nonetheless.

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LETTERS TO A YOUNG TEACHER

Back to school with America’s most inspiring education advocate.

National Book Award–winner Kozol (The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, 2005, etc.) assumes the role of avuncular mentor in this winsome yet passionate collection of letters to Francesca, a brand-new teacher in inner-city Boston. The epistolary format, though somewhat disjointed, allows Kozol to range widely as he recalls his own first days of teaching and offers vignettes about the children he’s known over the years. He knocks education degrees and vouchers, assesses the fad of breaking up large high schools into “mini-schools” and gives advice about how to work patiently with those kids who are determined to hate and disrespect their teachers. Each letter to Francesca is studded with insights. Today’s obsession with tests and “proficiency” comes in for some of Kozol’s saltiest castigations, as do the teachers who bow before them. “Teachers have to find the will to counteract this madness,” he writes, because “abject capitulation to unconscionable dictates from incompetent or insecure superiors” will only teach children to likewise capitulate. Kozol also addresses the tricky relationships among teachers, principals and parents. Schools often blame parents for kids’ problems, but the schools themselves—from the demeanor of administrators to the imposing buildings themselves—subtly suggest parents are not welcome participants in their children’s education. Many themes from Kozol’s earlier books are reprised here, including his diehard defense of public education and his insistence that those public schools have become re-segregated. Indeed, he repeats approvingly Francesca’s comment that the word “diversity,” a favorite of education pundits, “has come to be a cover-up for situations to which it can’t possibly apply”—i.e., public schools with 3,000 students of whom six or seven are white. Solutions? More money and a large supply of clear-thinking, dedicated teachers like Francesca who can turn the system around.

Lacks the muckraking that characterizes much of Kozol’s oeuvre, but solid nonetheless.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-307-39371-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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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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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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