Award-winning journalist Tyre (Journalism/Columbia Univ.; The Trouble With Boys, 2009, etc.) adds new perspective to the depressing state of American education with real-world lessons for parents.

Many parents assume that affluent schools and small class size provide the best education for children. This is not necessarily true, writes the author. Interspersed with dreary anecdotes and myth-busting studies, the author’s latest focuses on early education (preschool through junior high) to help parents make good school choices. Dismal facts include the National Center for Education Statistics’ finding that “about a third of children in our public schools fail to become proficient readers.” Thankfully, Tyre offers solutions. With a splash of history, the author discusses pedagogies, as well as what to look for in a good preschool teacher (highly verbal teachers are most effective). In addition, parents should not be afraid to ask about a teacher’s degree or a school’s number of first-year instructors. Tyre outlines many red flags, such as the derogatory “widget” mentality—i.e. administrators who view teachers as interchangeable cogs with identical skill sets. She cautions against using standardized test scores as accurate indicators of school performance. Scores broken down by subgroups and long-term trends offer more information. Not everyone has the luxury of choice, but the author provides respectful ways for approaching—or changing—the system. She also emphasizes working with children at home for a greater educational experience. This is not an indictment of teachers, but rather an eye-opening tool for parental involvement.


Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9353-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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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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