Rhetorically soaring but somewhat lacking in substance.



An education-reform manifesto from Rhee, StudentsFirst founder and former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools.

The author’s account of her rise as an educational policy advocate is as notable for what it lacks as for what it contains. The moments of inspiration are impressive, and it is easy to be incensed at the corruption and incompetence she describes. Rhee is at her most convincing when she relates problems with the D.C. school bureaucracy, which was so inefficient that its mismanagement kept a warehouse full of books, desks and school supplies from reaching students. At other moments, the sustainability of the reforms she champions seems more doubtful. The author lionizes teachers who spend their own time and money to help students. Though she notes that these are the kinds of teachers we need, she does not explain how that level of personal spending or uncompensated time is sustainable for older teachers with significant family obligations. While serving as chancellor, Rhee's teacher-evaluation system rewarded high performers with increased pay. However, the money that paid for the eye-popping merit amounts she was able to offer certain teachers (one teacher saw an increase of over $20,000) was raised externally. Though this is undeniably compelling, Rhee does not explain how this strategy would scale to school districts across the nation. She responds, briefly, to accusations that the rise in test scores under her tenure as chancellor were fueled by cheating on the part of teachers, who allegedly erased wrong answers and replaced them with correct ones. Her defense is unlikely to be convincing to many in light of the recent revival of the allegations.

Rhetorically soaring but somewhat lacking in substance.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-220398-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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