A worldly inspection of academe’s ivory tower from the top floor of tenured professors and the Ivy League to the basement of adjunct teachers and community colleges. When President Clinton in his 1997 state of the union speech proposed making two years of college as universal as a high school diploma, he was barely on the crest of a wave that, Karabell shows, has been building up in the calm waters of higher education. With college degrees becoming requirements for most jobs and the quality of high school instruction increasingly criticized, Karabell argues that higher education has become more a valuable, marketable commodity than a scholarly goal. Despite an influx of new students and need for more instructors, the profession, in Karabell’s terms, is still structured like a closed medieval guild—one particularly resistant to change—with a minority of tenured professors at the top, trained primarily to do research and not to teach, and at bottom a drove of postgraduate teaching assistants and new Ph.D.s as short-term adjunct faculty. It’s no wonder that while the culture wars over curricula and the political correctness debate wracked colleges and universities, there have been equally bitter labor disputes, such as the Yale graduate students’ attempt to unionize and the University of Minnesota faculty’s protest against tenure reform. Karabell, himself a Ph.D. but now working in journalism, takes professors to task for their isolation from mainstream America and students— real-life needs, but also sympathizes with the value of scholarly ideals. Unlike most books on university crises, What Is College For? balances its intellectual arguments with animated classroom reporting and faculty interviews, drawn mainly from the diverse university systems of California, New York, and Texas. Only in its conclusion for pluralistic reform of higher education do Karabell’s arguments go somewhat soft. Reconnoitering a new front on the culture wars, Karabell takes some well-timed and well-aimed shots at the received notions of teaching’s functions and professors’ careers.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 1998

ISBN: 0-465-08770-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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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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