The third in a series about changing America's schools, from the noted educator who launched a successful if snail's-pace revolution that both demands more and elicits more from adolescent students. A decade ago, Sizer (Horace's School, 1992) participated in a study of American high schools that found an educational assembly line offering rote skills and a frozen curriculum left over from the turn of the century. But in today's world, where the media, not the academies, set the ``common vocabulary,'' Sizer believes that schools must give children the tools to understand and if necessary challenge their often profit-driven ideas. ``Informed skepticism'' is the goal, he believes. It can be achieved through small classes and multidisciplinary, project- oriented goals that are assessed by ``exhibitions'' (echoing dissertation defenses) rather than standardized exams. This orientation, with its emphasis on curricula driven by teachers and parents, makes a strong case for school choice. Virtually buried in the text is a modest solution to the problem of bad schools in bad neighborhoods. Sizer suggests that geographic boundaries be obliterated, with public money following the student to the school of choice. A family in a poor section of the Bronx could opt for a school in nearby, affluent Westchester County, for instance, and enrollment would be determined by lottery. Surely, Westchester parents whose children were not lottery winners would bring political pressure for quality schools in the Bronx. Except for the lottery, Sizer's earlier books set forth most of the ideas found here, and despite the book's title, the fictional teacher ``Horace'' is not much in evidence. This is instead a celebration of the successes of Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools, which supports the growing number of schools embracing the group's goals. Disarming in the defense of a new schoolroom for the 21st century, Sizer himself illustrates education at its best, setting up arguments, marshalling evidence, and reaching a convincing conclusion. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1996

ISBN: 0-395-73983-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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