The story of N.Y.C.'s famous District 4 alternative schools and how they changed the lives of children growing up in one of the city's most challenging neighborhoods. In the recent plethora of books about improving our educational system, District 4 is inevitably one of the shining examples of what can be done. And District 4 is inevitably linked with Deborah Meier, winner of a MacArthur ``genius grant'' for her innovations in education. As this study makes clear, Meier was only one of dozens of District 4 teachers, principals, and administrators who in 1973 began to build a series of small, tightly knit schools, each with a focused curriculum, that engaged the parents and the community and that allowed families to choose the schools where their children could learn most effectively. By 1983, there were 14 alternative schools in District 4, and by the end of this school year, there will be 29. More important, in ten years, District 4 went from being the worst school district in N.Y.C. (32nd out of 32) to number 15. Reading scores soared, violence and absenteeism dropped, and students began to be accepted in record numbers to elite high schools and prestigious colleges. Fliegel (who was District 4's director of alternative schools and then deputy superintendent) and MacGuire (Senior Fellow/Manhattan Institute) recount how the alliance of visionary administrators, principals, and teachers practiced ``creative noncompliance'' with the teachers' union and a bureaucratic board of education to make choice a reality. Fiscal and other scandals—recounted relatively unsparingly here—plagued the program, and an unsympathetic superintendent slowed its momentum, but District 4's brave and innovative example is finally spreading to other districts in New York and elsewhere. Factual and editing errors—in student biographies, for example (including that of Kirkus's own Mara Frank, whose college major, job title, and very name were gotten wrong)—mar what's otherwise a satisfying behind-the-scenes look at an experiment that has given a generation of hard-pressed youngsters opportunity and hope.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8129-2039-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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