Stotsky, a Harvard Graduate School of Education research associate, shares familiar worries about the alleged sins of the multiculturalists— —illiberal” and anti-intellectual practices—their “watering down” of the curriculum and “dumbing down” of pedagogy. Multiculturalists, as the author observes, claim to introduce non-Western, ethnic, and gender-sensitive literature in order to promote “authentic” experience. Originally, this was intended to correct longstanding sociopolitical exclusions (and academic deficiencies) and to motivate minority children. As a result, the —whole-language— movement (a context- and culture-based reading program) became multiculturalisms— most prized theory. Phonics-based reading (instruction based on recognizing sound-letter relationships) was pushed aside, and “advanced— vocabularies were replaced with dialects (Black English, Spanglish). Much (to some, excessive) emphasis was given to the literature of minority groups, with relatively scant attention paid to the majority European ethnic tradition. Stotsky complains that traditional basal readers have lost their literary standards and no longer reflect the rigor of textbooks containing the “best literature” available. The outcome, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has been a steady downward trend in the basic skills, knowledge, and analytical powers of students and a widening gap between white and minority children. Some of the author’s views contrast starkly with those of researchers who maintain that linguistically and culturally enriched backgrounds are effective in enhancing academic and social skills. The new crop of realistic multiculturalists, such as Jabari Mahiri (author of the recent Shooting for Excellence: African American and Youth Culture in New Century Schools), maintain that to filter cultural and linguistic backgrounds out of the curriculum would be tantamount to denying children’s identity and reality. Anti-multiculturalists like E.D. Hirsch and the late Allan Bloom created a debate that has lasted since 1987. Stotsky will perhaps ride its wave—and produce a splash of her own.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-84961-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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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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