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.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-47555-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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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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