An ambitious and visionary examination of American universities and “how to develop them still further so that they may...



A distinguished Columbia University sociology professor and former provost examines how American universities must evolve to maintain their global pre-eminence.

By most accounts, the United States has the best system of higher education in the world, with “roughly 80 percent of the top twenty universities.” However, as Cole (The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected, 2010, etc.) argues, that system faces many difficult challenges. Funding from federal, state, and private sources, for example, is decreasing every year. K-12 schools are teaching students to pass standardized competency tests rather than helping them to expand their “creativity and curiosity.” Furthermore, college educations at selective schools are becoming too expensive—and of questionable relevance—for students who come from middle- or working-class backgrounds. Drawing on his many years as both a high-ranking university administrator and research professor, Cole methodically examines the ways that universities can remake themselves in coming decades. He argues that those involved with traditional liberal arts programs must rethink how to best use what those disciplines teach to young people to succeed in a world dominated by science, technology, and commerce. Professional schools should look more closely at how their programs and curricula prepare students and open themselves up to “cross-fertilization” with arts and sciences divisions at both their home and similar outside institutions. The government must work in tandem with universities to rebuild what the author sees as a “compact” that has been damaged by mutual distrust. All schools, especially those without large endowments, should actively work to curb administrative costs, reduce reliance on adjunct faculty, and collaborate with like universities. Eminently well-informed and pragmatic, Cole’s work not only offers a cleareyed analysis of the current state of higher education in the U.S. It also provides a detailed starting point for dialogues about the function and shape of the great American universities of the future.

An ambitious and visionary examination of American universities and “how to develop them still further so that they may maximize their full potential.”

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61039-265-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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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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