Perry views his “functionalist” approach to education as a part of what needs to be done for the country to succeed. Many of...




A leading agitator for reform of the American school system outlines what needs to be done now, and why.

CNN commentator Perry (Raggedy Schools, 2009, etc.), a former school principal in Hartford, Conn., has been on the front lines of education reform since the 1990s. He calls himself a “functionalist”—i.e., “In my mind, if it works it's right”—and endeavors to employ functionalism in all of his projects. Secondary schools work if their students are qualified in the way their certificates represent, he writes, and are properly prepared for college. More than $2.5 billion is spent yearly in remedial education at the college level, repeating what should have been accomplished before they arrived on campus. Perry examines the responsibilities of teachers and teaching, parents and parenting, administrators and superintendents and the teacher’s unions (“the worst thing that ever happened to education”). The author’s first priority, however, is the children. He is a strong opponent of those who contend that funding disparities between inner-city and suburban districts are a cause of the failures in the system, and he insists that schools and school districts fail because of low expectations and poor teaching skills. He argues that teachers who do not like their students cannot teach them, because the students will not trust the teachers. He discusses how he finds and recruits teachers who will match his outlook, and what he expects from parents. Throughout the book, the author displays an admirably action-oriented approach, with plenty of advice for parents and others on how to get involved effectively.

Perry views his “functionalist” approach to education as a part of what needs to be done for the country to succeed. Many of his arguments are controversial, but they are crucial to the debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72031-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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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