Affectionate and well-drawn portrait of a school year at an all-boy prep school. For more than 100 years, University School has educated the sons of Cleveland's elite, providing them with one of the best educations money can buy in America. But with single-sex schools now comprising less than eight percent of all private schools, it is also something of an anachronism. Or is it the wave of the future? Buoyed by a number of recent studies that have ``rediscovered'' the scholastic benefits of single-sex education, University School's remarkable headmaster, Richard Hawley, has emerged as a leading advocate and proselytizer for boys' schools. As he proclaims to the author, ``Gender is a big deal. Gender is deeper than race, it is deeper than culture. Deeper than humanity, all the way down to plant phylum.'' Twelve years after graduating from US, Ruhlman, a freelance writer, returned to his alma mater to study how Hawley's commitment to single-sex education was working in practice. But, perhaps because he was allowed extraordinary access, Ruhlman was soon seriously sidetracked by the minutiae of school life, the small crises and successes, the rich struggle of learning and teaching. Ruhlman's descriptions of the classes he audits are some of the best parts of his book. Despite lousy pay, most of the teachers are fiercely dedicated to providing their bright, eager students with a first-rate education. Ruhlman also lovingly captures the innumerable eccentricities and eccentrics endemic to private schools. However, some of his characterizations, particularly of the boys, seem too unfinished, a collection of quirks and attitudes that never quite coalesce. Many will also be surprised by how little emphasis he places on what, at most prep schools, is an all-consuming process, even the raison d'àtre: college admissions. Still, few works of nonfiction have captured so much of the spirit of the prep school experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-3370-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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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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