This optimistic, anecdotal book offers useful ideas for changes in education.




A veteran journalist and progressive educator presents a critique of America’s school system and a call to action.

In his debut book, Nelson, a principal at a progressive Manhattan school, tackles many of the issues in American education, from the achievement gap to standardized tests. He begins his treatise by reminding readers of the grave existential threats the world faces, from climate change to nuclear war, and the importance of education in the face of these dangers. He goes on to outline how progressive education can create students who will be more active participants in America’s democracy and who can cope with these perils. Despite his strong opinions about education, Nelson maintains a humorous, self-deprecating touch: “So-called reformers want rigid accountability, more structure…longer school years, more tests and more discipline. Undoing the damage of those loosey-goosey progressive practices is arduous work!” Part history lesson, part professional memoir, the work outlines the roots of America’s current “conventional,” “factory” educational model as well as the history of the progressive model. He advocates for the education of the whole child and seeks to remove stereotypes about project-based, community-oriented progressive education. Throughout, the text maintains a readable, conversational tone: “Beginning in the ’50s and ’60s, America has steadily moved away from intellectualism and toward business-focused pragmatism.” Nelson sprinkles in heartening anecdotes about success stories from his work in progressive schools. He also includes idealistic, flowery adages like “Seeds of brilliance need a dose of aimlessness to flower.” The author makes a concerted effort to maintain a balanced perspective on the place of privilege he writes from, noting that “privileged schools are also immune, in whole or in part, from the misguided public policies that drive bad education.” Occasionally Nelson’s suggestions and opinions are surprisingly simple and radical, such as “It is not hyperbole to suggest that millions of American children might be better served to skip school entirely.” After making his case for progressive education, the author concludes by urging educators to take action and agitate for more funding and smaller classes.

This optimistic, anecdotal book offers useful ideas for changes in education. 

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942146-48-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Garn Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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