In many ways, a laudable template for restructuring education, but unlikely to have much impact.

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MAKING THE GRADE

REINVENTING AMERICA’S SCHOOLS

A sweeping if muddled plan to reshape the nation’s educational system—beginning with the community, not the classroom.

A veteran of 30 years in the education system, Wagner (How Schools Change, not reviewed) is now co-director of a leadership group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a senior advisor on education to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here, he decries the call for “reform” that has politicians, business leaders, and even educators in a scramble to standardize testing, tinker with curricula, and micro-manage teachers in the classroom, among other stopgap measures. In the past hundred years, the world has changed radically, Wagner says, but America’s educational system hasn’t really been modified at all. Educators, politicians, parents, business leaders, and students must set aside their special interests and in “civil discourse” at the local level set new goals for schools tied to the information age, not the industrial revolution. Wagner is all over the lot—perhaps rightly so—in discussing such widespread social problems as lack of motivation, lack of commitment, fear and cynicism about change, plus the isolation of children from adults and the isolation of teachers from each other. As a prime example of a school that solved many of these problems, we once again have the Central Park East Secondary School in New York City, the darling of visionary educators. CPESS used what Wagner dubs approvingly the “merit badge” approach to education, that is, students were required to prove their proficiencies in subjects by doing, not testing. Wagner’s most valuable contribution here is reporting on his own work with communities whose school systems were in disarray and how, through forums and focus groups, common goals were established and successfully implemented on the local level, creating what he calls the “New Village School.”

In many ways, a laudable template for restructuring education, but unlikely to have much impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-415-92769-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

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.

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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