A worthy attempt to highlight the common good of public education that for all its blisters and boils, is at least a stab at...




This earnest tie-in to a PBS series provides a solid introduction to the roller-coaster ride that has been public education in the US for the last 200 years.

The goals and aspirations, and the contentions, that have shaped public education, write the authors, find their reflection in a wider societal context as to who we are as a nation. As the notion of a common school arose after the Revolutionary War, there was little doubt that schooling was for the common good, but would the different states find in it a common purpose? No—the schools would more likely display the social diversity of the country, showcase ethnic and racial bias, and serve as arenas for political struggles. It is fascinating to watch here as the public-education agendas rise and fall like great waves. The common-school movement—with its grassroots governance and consensual curriculum (meaning republicanism braced with Protestant moral teaching)—gave way to the policy elites in the early 20th century, when the exaltation of the expert meant out with the lay teachers and rural school trustees, in with the education know-it-all. Then, in a rush, the democracy of difference, extolling big schools with grand centralized planning, followed closely by the small-is-beautiful movement, calling for a return of standards and greater parental involvement, breaching the buffer that had protected school administrations from participatory democracy. Running through the whole process, now quietly, now with vigor, were the needs of cultural and economic democracy. All of this is amply illustrated here—including essays by education historians Carl Kaestle on common schools, Diane Ravitch on the immigrant experience, James Anderson on questions of race, and Larry Cuban on the insidious idea of education as a consumer product—including most remarkably that government-distrusting, tax-pinching, independent Americans have any public education at all.

A worthy attempt to highlight the common good of public education that for all its blisters and boils, is at least a stab at democracy.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-8070-4220-X

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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