A sometimes illuminating survey of campus conflicts over bias and identity, based on interviews with 100 students, faculty, and administrators on 17 campuses. Sidel (Sociology/Hunter, On Her Own, 1989, etc.) begins promisingly, recalling the unspoken political and intellectual conformity of her 1950s college years. However, she loses momentum when she writes, in her somewhat turgid style, about two very broad topics: the historical debate over public education, and the current storm over multiculturalism and its attendant assertions of group identity (and the conflicts that often arise from them). Setting her context, Sidel offers sketches of campus incidents—a 1992 racial brawl at Michigan's Olivet College, a fraternity rape at the University of Rhode Island, and others. She goes on to profile students—including a black woman isolated on a white campus and Asian-Americans stereotyped as ``model minorities''—who have coped with bias, spoken out, and even become activists. Clearly, much insensitivity and clumsiness exists: As one student reports, professors like to ask a class's sole black student, ``So, what's the black perspective?'' Sidel's choices aren't all so predictable: She includes a conservative student, a student who sees class as more important than race, and a black student who opposes an ethnic studies requirement. But while she sensibly notes the limits of ``identity politics'' and competition among victims, her conclusions—pitting her heroic student activists against perpetrators of hate incidents—leave out the more complicated middle ground in the P.C. debates and in campus life. Moreover, her position on speech codes (free speech is good, but people should be more sensitive about what they say) is wishy-washy, and she shies from some investigations—for example, probing the differences in atmosphere between elite and nonelite campuses. Though Sidel does step beyond sound-bite reporting, fewer—and more thorough—case studies would have better explored the ironies and subtleties of this topic.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-670-84112-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1994

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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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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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