by Charles Murray (Crown Forum, $25)
It’s hard to know what to make of an influential scholar who argues that too many Americans are attending college, said Ben Wildavsky in The Wall Street Journal. Charles Murray seems in earnest when he suggests we use universal IQ tests to funnel 10 percent to 20 percent of students toward a rigorous higher education and the rest toward quality vocational training. But when Murray tells us that he’s deeply worried about the dangers of overestimating students’ abilities, it’s necessary to ask, “Aren’t the dangers of underestimating their abilities vastly worse?”
The Trouble With Boys
by Peg Tyre (Crown, $25)
This report on why boys lag behind girls in school is fairly “textbooky in style and form,” said Dan Zak in The Washington Post. It comes with “a gut-punch of a conclusion,” though. Apparently, education in the U.S. is simply not boy-friendly. Unless recess, phys ed, and books about snakes make a comeback, we can expect a long parade of male students who “disengage as early as preschool” and “never quite recover.”
Whatever It Takes
by Paul Tough (Houghton Mifflin, $26)
Journalist Paul Tough is the right kind of realist, said Sara Mosle in Slate.com. After years of following one educator’s effort to boost educational achievement in Harlem, Tough has produced an account that’s both “inspirational” and “sobering.” Success with teenage students so far eludes his do-gooder hero. But in a way that simply proves that sustained, cradle-to-college support programs are the only way to change the fortunes of an entire community.
Mother on Fire
by Sandra Tsing Loh (Crown, $23)
A comic memoir this biting shouldn’t end happily ever after, said Lydia Millet in The Washington Post. When comic performer Sandra Tsing Loh grows comfortable with the public school her young daughters eventually enroll in, her “droll rant” about the educational anxieties of urban parents loses its kick. But “funny trumps all” here: Loh has a gift for dialogue and for blunt takes on her own foibles. This book “made me laugh out loud more than once.”
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