A heavyweight educator springs out of the liberal corner bobbing and weaving, dealing a hail of punishing body blows to the neoconservative establishment. Botstein, the president of Bard College, is sick and tired of hearing neocons moan about how bad education is now and how good it was back in the old days of privilege. True: Education now is not so good, as he realistically concedes, but it was always pretty bad and has only been getting better over the years. Instead of indulging ourselves in such self-aggrandizing nostalgia, we must look with pride at our accomplishments (inclusion of traditionally excluded groups, programs like Head Start). We ought to be able, suggests Botstein, to set in motion a national enthusiasm for mental excellence along the order of our longstanding national craze for physical fitness. The value of learning must be emphasized in the home and community. But centrally we must transform our schools by creating ""a flexible system with new options that meet the new realities facing us."" Among the new realities he cites is the fact (or maybe factoid) that the onset of puberty is now much earlier than it used to be. Our system was created in an era when children matured later. Consequently, Botstein advocates abolishing high school altogether. At 16, students would be dispersed into different kinds of educational options: four-year college for some, community college for others; vocational and professional training or national service would also be options. Teachers should be trained in a discipline rather than in ""education,"" and they should be better paid. We must break down the irrational preoccupation so many college-bound students (and their parents) have with getting into the ""best"" schools. A good undergraduate education is a good education, no matter whether it comes from the Ivy League or a less prestigious institution. Though this book is not destined to be popular among high-school administrators, Botstein makes a strong, shrewd, sensible case for his radical proposals.