HOPE AGAINST HOPE

THREE SCHOOLS, ONE CITY, AND THE STRUGGLE TO EDUCATE AMERICA'S CHILDREN

Education reporter Carr debuts with a balanced account of the growing charter-school movement in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Deftly weaving in background on the abysmal historical performance of New Orleans public schools and the strong focus on discipline and routine of charter schools aimed at preparing students for college, the author shows how the charter approach is working on the ground through the eyes of individuals in three randomly selected schools: 14-year-old Geraldlynn Stewart, who struggles to find her way as a high school student; Aidan Kelly, a 24-year-old teacher and Harvard graduate who sees his school as an academic boot camp; and Mary Laurie, veteran principal of one of the first schools to reopen after Katrina, who asks students, “Would you come along with me on this journey?” Their closely reported experiences in schools of the national chain KIPPS (Knowledge Is Power Program) illustrate the issues, challenges and satisfactions of the demanding, no-excuses charter way. Like the other charters, Sci Academy, where Aidan teaches, emphasizes success on standardized tests; it is “a technocrat’s dream: run by graduates of the nation’s most elite institutions, steeped in data, always seeking precision, divorced from the messiness…of democracy.” With their missionary zeal and outsider status, its young teachers “resemble the settlement house workers of a century ago,” writes Carr. Principal Laurie hopes her students will journey on to college; Geraldlynn’s parents, too, hope the new charter schooling will open a longed-for door. While often repetitive, the book evokes the realities of a city school system in transition. The schools are improving and test scores are up, she writes, but only college graduation rates in future years will tell whether charters make a difference.

Detailed and thoughtful.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60819-490-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

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 ABOLITION OF MAN

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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