A lively, provocative contribution from an outsider with his own way of addressing the problem.




Filmmaker Shyamalan makes his nonfiction debut with this engaging presentation of the results of his research into methods for closing America's education gap.

The author begins with his visits to two Philadelphia high schools: the top-performing magnet school Masterman and its neighbor Overbrook, where only 54 percent of students got their diplomas. These differences prompted Shyamalan to begin an extensive investigation of common beliefs about the problems with American education and how they can be fixed. He interviewed experts nationwide and toured schools where leading-edge work is being done. Many believe that smaller class sizes are a key to success; others take up the cause of parental choice and vouchers. The state of Tennessee's STAR program has been promoting smaller class sizes since the 1980s, while Milwaukee has been sponsoring voucher-paid programs, which increase parental choice about which school their children attend. Shyamalan finds evidence that the Tennessee program “has a minimal positive result,” while the biggest measured effect of the Milwaukee program has been on parental satisfaction, which Shyamalan considers “a poor proxy for improved student performance.” Two of the five keys the author found are tied to fostering the positive impact of good teachers. The author claims that those who defend the concept of tenure have the problem “completely upside down.” It is not possible to know what kind of teacher someone is going to be until they have been on the job for at least two to three years. The tenure system can therefore serve to protect the positions of bad teachers whose earlier departures would strengthen the longer-term contributions better teachers can make. The author also wants principals to be engaged directly in improving classroom quality.

A lively, provocative contribution from an outsider with his own way of addressing the problem.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1645-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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