A valuable compendium of responses to the shallow, classist hostility to public education.



A methodical dismantling of the coordinated tenets of the free market assault on public education.

Education professors William Ayers (Univ. of Illinois, Chicago; To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, 2010, etc.), Laura (Chicago State Univ.; Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, 2014), and Rick Ayers (Univ. of San Francisco; An Empty Seat in Class: Teaching and Learning after the Death of a Student, 2014, etc.) bring formidable progressive rhetoric to the reform debate. They argue against the conservative refrain that "unruly students, lazy and incompetent teachers, and apathetic administrators together destroy an adequate academic environment." They view this outlook as specious and so multilayered that it demands a fully structured response. Consequently, they debunk 19 "myths" contributing to this free-wheeling scorn toward public education. The authors touch on many aspects of this discussion, including controversies around charter schools, privatization initiatives, and inequitable allocation of resources. In each chapter, the authors point out the slick bombast of figures like Michelle Rhee and Donald Trump—e.g., the assertion of “the disastrous consequences of allowing the teachers’ unions and their special interest bosses to hold sway over future generations.” They rebut these conceits with a “Reality Check,” evidence-based narratives contradicting each purported reactionary viewpoint. It’s an effective approach, as when they argue that high-pressure standardized testing does not give education a high-priced corporatized sheen but confers advantages to the privileged and amplifies stress for all students. Furthermore, the myth that “Good Teaching is Entirely Color-Blind” is alluring because it “fails to take aim at the institutional and societal structures of privilege and oppression based on race.” The authors also attack the pernicious idea that “Teachers Have It Easy” by explaining how experienced, compassionate instructors “are being driven out of the profession in record numbers.” The authors render their arguments with strong rhetoric, but in emphasizing multicultural awareness and unorthodox teaching methods as solutions, they may not sway the mainstream conservatives whose views they ably counter.

A valuable compendium of responses to the shallow, classist hostility to public education.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-3666-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.



Inspirational lessons from the life of one tough teacher.

Today’s parents who lament their children stressing over tests may be horrified by the themes of tough love and tenacity offered by this biographical tribute to the late Jerry Kupchynsky, “Mr. K,” a gifted high school strings teacher from East Brunswick, N.J., whose exacting methods helped spawn the careers of generations of musicians and educators. Journalist Lipman and Kupchynsky, a violinist and Mr. K’s daughter, met as children when Mr. K joined his daughter’s exceptional talents on violin with Lipman’s on viola to form half of a string quartet that would also include Kupchynsky’s younger sister, whose disappearance decades later reunited the authors. The bond forged through the intensity of creating music is but one of the storylines running through this engrossing account of Mr. K’s life. Born in 1928 in the Ukraine, Mr. K endured a litany of wartime atrocities before immigrating to the United States as a refugee in 1946. But prior to fleeing to the U.S., it was the sound of a German soldier playing the violin that sparked his love for classical music. Surviving these early hardships helped instill in Mr. K an appreciation of adversity as a motivator, an unflagging belief in the value of hard work and a willingness to fight for the underdog. With a booming Ukrainian accent and “trim” mustache, Mr. K’s battle-ax demeanor and perfectionist drive struck both fear and a ferocious desire to succeed in the hearts of his pupils. One of his more unforgiving approaches involved singling out a section’s weakest player—“Who eez deaf in first violins?”—and forcing the guilty party to play alone with a stronger player until the weak one improved. While tactics like these may not have earned his students’ immediate devotion, they never forgot him and often found they could achieve more than they ever dreamed.

Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2466-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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