Little’s enthusiasm and passion for the potential of progressive schools burn on every page and offer hope for a better way...




One of the leaders of the progressive education movement reflects on ways to improve more than just standardized test scores.

The urgency of this book comes from two directions. The first, most obvious direction is the need for change in our American education system; every semester brings more news of disinterested students and harried teachers struggling to make a difference while guarding their backs against the threat of termination if the test scores don’t add up. The second direction is Little’s personal fight; diagnosed with bone cancer in the summer of 2013, he felt a new urgency to finish writing what he’d learned. The author died earlier this year, leaving behind his legacy of work at Park Day School in California and in this book, which examines successes and challenges at that school and many others like it. Little traveled around the country, visiting “progressive schools,” a loose moniker for schools that structure lessons and the direction of learning based on where the interests of the students take them. Emphasizing critical thinking, open communication and collaboration, and hands-on learning, the model works to prepare students to leave school capable of self-directed learning. With the assistance of Pulitzer Prize winner Ellison, Little explores the different movements forming to protest the government-driven “testing mania,” noting that corporate interests have lobbied furiously to convince legislators that using standardized tests to measure student achievement and teacher efficacy has in fact hampered both. Little also writes about the accountability and rigor that critics claim progressive schools lack. When we talk about the ways children learn, it is accepted wisdom that different people learn in different ways, but with standardized testing, we’re looking at one small piece of their educations and extrapolating too far.

Little’s enthusiasm and passion for the potential of progressive schools burn on every page and offer hope for a better way forward.

Pub Date: March 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24616-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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