No matter the real-world glitches in her proposals, Kopp’s insistence on aiming high should make it required reading for all...




An optimistic narrative about school reform from an author with an unusual perspective.

Kopp (One Day, All Children...: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way, 2001) founded Teach for America 20 years ago, and currently serves as its chief executive. Because of her vision, tens of thousands of young men and women decided to instruct the neediest children in schools across the United States, both in decaying urban cores and isolated rural areas. Despite—or possibly because of—their lack of teacher training within colleges, those trained by Kopp tend to improve classroom learning. The author mostly remains in the background as she distills lessons learned from Teach for America enrollees. Although numerous attitudes and skills constitute superb teaching, perhaps the foremost attribute is the belief that disadvantaged children can learn well enough to attend college. Then it becomes a matter of persuading those children about what they can achieve. As Kopp seems to be veering into the never-never land of outsized optimism, she reins herself in by showing how far most schools need to travel to deliver on the promise of a first-class education for every student. A large percentage of the author’s examples derive from New Orleans, where school administrators started fresh after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina; Washington, D.C., during the controversial tenure of superintendent Michelle Rhea; and New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools chief Joel Klein refused to believe that good was good enough. Kopp labels the desirable educators "transformational teachers." She has observed many such educators, especially those she knows from Teach for America, and interviewed many of them while composing this book. Transformational teachers tend to raise the overall learning abilities and standardized test scores of every student in the classroom, despite the seeming improbability of such an outcome. However, Kopp emphasizes that there are no shortcuts. Even the most successful teachers need time, counted in years, to hone their leadership skills and sell their ways of functioning to suspicious, by-the-book administrators.

No matter the real-world glitches in her proposals, Kopp’s insistence on aiming high should make it required reading for all professional educators.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58648-740-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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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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