A welcome operator’s manual for parents of school-age children, inside or outside the K-12 paradigm.

RETHINKING SCHOOL

HOW TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CHILD'S EDUCATION

A manifesto with a lesson plan: home-schooling champion Bauer (The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory, 2015, etc.) continues her case for educating outside the system.

“When an artificial system classifies and segregates people (as opposed to cell phones, say, or sewage), some people will inevitably fit into the system better than others.” So observes the author, who goes on to say that she was one who didn’t—and managed to get through a doctorate without the high school diploma that we all supposedly require, having gotten into college in the first place with a “mom-generated transcript.” Some children need the K-12 system, writes Bauer. Others don’t and can actually be harmed by what is, after all, something geared to “a Platonic child, one who doesn’t suddenly melt down, or get overwhelmed by a tidal wave of hormones, or unexpectedly need fourteen hours of sleep.” In any event, Bauer urges, the parent has to take charge: if a child remains in school but has problems, then it’s up to the parent to figure out why Johnny can’t read or Jenny is bored. The possibilities are manifold when it comes to why: autism may be at work, or giftedness, or otherness that the system isn’t able to accommodate. Bauer writes in a steadily reassuring tone before really broaching the subject of home schooling, which, she notes, is not for everyone—but then, she adds, if you’re battling the system because your child is lost, bored, buried, or bullied, “then you’re already spending tremendous amounts of energy fighting to change those things” and might as well take on the task of teacher yourself. On that point, Bauer offers much of practical value, urging, for instance, that we misinterpret the Common Core to mean that certain courses be part of the curriculum when it’s really certain skills that need to be mastered.

A welcome operator’s manual for parents of school-age children, inside or outside the K-12 paradigm.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-28596-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.

STRINGS ATTACHED

ONE TOUGH TEACHER AND THE GIFT OF GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Inspirational lessons from the life of one tough teacher.

Today’s parents who lament their children stressing over tests may be horrified by the themes of tough love and tenacity offered by this biographical tribute to the late Jerry Kupchynsky, “Mr. K,” a gifted high school strings teacher from East Brunswick, N.J., whose exacting methods helped spawn the careers of generations of musicians and educators. Journalist Lipman and Kupchynsky, a violinist and Mr. K’s daughter, met as children when Mr. K joined his daughter’s exceptional talents on violin with Lipman’s on viola to form half of a string quartet that would also include Kupchynsky’s younger sister, whose disappearance decades later reunited the authors. The bond forged through the intensity of creating music is but one of the storylines running through this engrossing account of Mr. K’s life. Born in 1928 in the Ukraine, Mr. K endured a litany of wartime atrocities before immigrating to the United States as a refugee in 1946. But prior to fleeing to the U.S., it was the sound of a German soldier playing the violin that sparked his love for classical music. Surviving these early hardships helped instill in Mr. K an appreciation of adversity as a motivator, an unflagging belief in the value of hard work and a willingness to fight for the underdog. With a booming Ukrainian accent and “trim” mustache, Mr. K’s battle-ax demeanor and perfectionist drive struck both fear and a ferocious desire to succeed in the hearts of his pupils. One of his more unforgiving approaches involved singling out a section’s weakest player—“Who eez deaf in first violins?”—and forcing the guilty party to play alone with a stronger player until the weak one improved. While tactics like these may not have earned his students’ immediate devotion, they never forgot him and often found they could achieve more than they ever dreamed.

Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2466-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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