IN THE CLASSROOM

DISPATCHES FROM AN INNER-CITY SCHOOL THAT WORKS

The first-person account of a neophyte history teacher in an inner-city high school: White, Republican, Ivy League, he epitomizes The Man to his mostly black and Hispanic students. What 23-year-old Gerson had going for him in September 1994 was his youth, his straightforward attitude, his skill at and knowledge of basketball, and a sense of humor. For instance, when his students pulled detention for classroom infractions, he kept them after school to listen to Frank Sinatra recordings in an unsuccessful effort to wean them from rap. The kids came to call it getting a Frank. As a teacher, Gerson labored to engage the students by embedding facts in dramatic stories of historical figures—a favorite with the students was the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. In current events, the O.J. Simpson trial was used as a springboard for discussions about constitutional rights. The school was a Roman Catholic institution in the heart of Jersey City, an enclave of civility, although it had its share of teenage pregnancies and family crises. The children came from neighborhoods rife with drug dealers and street shootings, and many had friends and relatives in prison. But their parents backed the school and the teachers and demanded hard work from their children, having made considerable sacrifices to pay tuition—conditions that are a barometer for school success, according to the latest studies. Nonetheless, what Gerson learned is that there are still two Americas, one rich and one poor, living side by side in suburb and city, respectively, yet each with its own social system and goals. Reconciling the two, Gerson suggests, takes more than tweaking educational practices. Among his suggestions: Personal contact between social classes, perhaps through a national service plan. Engaging anecdotes of a school year, leading to a thoughtful exploration of what urban and suburban cultures can learn from each other.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-82756-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

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.

COLUMBINE

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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