Edmundson may have strong words about culture, education and the common reader’s quest to be entertained above all else, but...




Edmundson (English/Univ. of Virginia; The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll, 2010, etc.) dispels any ambiguity about his position on his subject with the subtitle—“In Defense of a Real Education”—of this deeply felt collection of explorations and reflections on an education in the liberal arts.

The author examines the slow transformation of universities and colleges from being driven by intellectual and cultural betterment to institutions modeled on business, with a complex, and not always successful, emphasis on attracting students and making a profit. Success, Edmundson writes, isn’t as clear-cut as the bottom line or the percentage increase in applications or even in the rigor of the education being offered. Our culture rewards the system in which the professors tend to their academic business, the students check off the various boxes, and the school support staff build newer, better amenities to ensure that the students feel they are getting the best of the best. Edmundson argues that students have an immeasurably priceless opportunity to take the beliefs that have been instilled in them throughout childhood and put them under a microscope. They have the chance to ensure that they aren’t going to simply fit in, as a square peg, to the first matching hole that comes along. “Education is about finding out what form of work for you is close to being play,” writes the author—not that it should be simple and without challenge but that doing what you love (and discovering what that might be) is more important than “advancing in the direction of someone else’s dreams” and pursuing education as a means to buying your way into what you’re acculturated to think equals happiness and success.

Edmundson may have strong words about culture, education and the common reader’s quest to be entertained above all else, but he provides a bracing tonic against the decline of higher education.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-107-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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