Of some interest to curriculum-reform advocates and policy planners but without the fire and grace of Ivan Illich, Neil...




Public education is underfunded and undervalued. An education expert and a venture capitalist look to improve the situation.

In the spirit of creative destruction—as opposed to the mere destruction wrought by state legislatures everywhere—Harvard Innovation Lab’s “Expert in Residence” Wagner (Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, 2012, etc.) and venture capitalist Dintersmith argue that we must make the system more appropriate to the needs of the present era. Gone are the summer breaks and civics lectures of yore; in are scenarios in which students “attack meaningful, engaging challenges” and “form their own points of view.” For all its good points and positive intent, this book is mostly bullet lists and screened boxes, tables and charts, with a tediously long windup before a pitch is ever thrown. When that pitch is delivered, it lands pretty solidly: yes, education is a mess, and yes, retooling parts of the system are in order. But get down to it, and things get arguable. If an apprenticeship in auto mechanics involves a working knowledge of how an engine is assembled and the functions of its constituent parts, then why shouldn’t a class in English discuss how a sentence works? Not on the authors’ watch, for by their account, “teachers spend an inordinate amount of time teaching the mechanics of writing—parts of speech, grammar, spelling, punctuation—without giving students any reason whatsoever to want to write.” Wagner and Dintersmith’s program would seem to be Horace Mann’s industrial education refocused for the post-knowledge-worker set, the argument often repetitive and plaintive: “We tell our kids that they will be abject failures without a high school diploma, but fail to provide them with relevant or engaging challenges during their four years in high school.”

Of some interest to curriculum-reform advocates and policy planners but without the fire and grace of Ivan Illich, Neil Postman, and others.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0431-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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