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Another Planet: A Year in the Life of a Suburban High School Hardcover – October 2, 2001

3.3 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Not many adults would be willing to go back to high school voluntarily, but Elinor Burkett was driven by the question that has been haunting Americans since the Columbine shootings: What's going on in our suburban high schools? To find out, she actually spent a year at a suburban Minneapolis high school, sitting in on classes, eavesdropping on gripe sessions, attending pep rallies and concerts, and insinuating herself into the lives of students, teachers, and officials. The result is a first-hand and first-rate account of the myriad factors that are alternately paralyzing and pulling apart public schools. In a vivid lesson in high school social geography, we meet preppies and partiers, hip-hoppers, jocks, and Christian kids, and especially, the loners and outcasts who were harassed and feared after Columbine--kids like Roger Murphy, the school's only black student who quotes Dante and wears chains and spikes; Ashlee Altenbach, a hyperactive cheerleader who uses her ADHD diagnosis as an excuse for her behavior; and Reilly Liebhard, the misunderstood and sorely underchallenged school genius. Even more enlightening, Burkett talks to those on the frontlines, the teachers, as they debate the need for greater discipline and higher standards, complain about being made "the clothing-and-drug police, the lateness brigade and the parent hand-holders," and voice their anger over being the first to be kicked in the game of political football. Over the course of the year, this cast of characters amply illustrates the impact of such hot-button issues as zero tolerance, grade inflation, Internet plagiarizing, and the self-esteem movement. In the end, this one school throws adult society--and the tangled web of social changes that have helped undermine public education--into bold relief. Burkett has brought a keen ear and a fresh approach to a topic freighted by contradictory exhortations and political rhetoric, and penned a valuable and telling contribution to the debate over education reform. --Lesley Reed

From Publishers Weekly

In the wake of Columbine, journalist Burkett (The Baby Boon) attempts to plumb the mysteries of suburban high school by spending the 2001-2000 school year at Prior Lake High School in Prior Lake, Minn., near Minneapolis. In expanding what could have been a two- or three-part magazine article into a full-length book, she adds little to the national debates on school safety or education. Each chapter not only has a date, but a time, and each also focuses on a different aspect of school life, from Friday night sports to segregation in the school cafeteria. While many of the phenomena Burkett describes have been written about before, she does deal sensitively with administrative and parental fears as the first anniversary of the Columbine shootings draws near. She shows that the students are not brave for overcoming their anxieties and coming to school on April 20, but foolhardy for driving stoned; the date was also Smokers' New Year, the international pot holiday. An accomplished writer, Burkett occasionally loses her way when she tries to take readers inside the minds of teachers and students. Similarly, footnotes or endnotes to support blanket statements such as schools with "zero tolerance" rules are less safe than those without, or teenagers are not looking forward to freedom and independence as their parents' generation did would have been a helped. Still, this snapshot of one community's struggles to educate its kids will dispel preconceptions of suburban high schoolers as violent and ill-prepared.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Series: Education
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (October 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066211484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066211480
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,072,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At first, Another Planet seems to be a polemic against the current state of American suburban high schools. Yet despite giving too much credence to student whiners and rebels most of what Elinor Burkett has written is painfully true. Though the book lacks the voice of so many students who are quietly doing well, one can't ignore the signs that our schools have lost their way. High school education flounders as an entrenched bureaucracy fights an endless battle against students whose interests are more for personal freedom than learning. Ms. Burkett shows us on all levels how our "me first" society has permeated to the core of our schools. As a teacher in a nearby suburban high school, I can oly attest to the veracity of her book and hope its revelations lead to positive debate.
Comment 14 of 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I went to Prior Lake High School and knew all of the people she wrote about, I actually refused to sign one of her consent forms allowing her to use my name in the book (she mentioned it once anyway). Roger Murphy, Jayne Garrison, and Randy Henke were my best friends. But, contrary to what she wrote, Roger was NOT the only black student, just the only one of his friends who was black. To be honest, it wasn't a big deal, to him or anyone else. Ellie came to Prior Lake seeking out a handful of personality types to write about, as far as the students were concerned. She sought out the "alternative" kids and the "popular" kids, and completely ignored the middle ground where most of Prior Lake is, the silent majority in her book. Also, Prior Lake is NOT a typical high school. Prior Lake is an affluent community due to the lake and the casino nearby, making the school a powderkeg for dysfunction. Also, the town boasts more bars and liquor stores than gas stations. When I was in school, Prior Lake had the highest per capita arrests for underage consumption in Minnesota or Wisconsin. The kids she chose to fill her stereotypes were misrepresented most of the time, and what remained was complete fiction. Some of it, yes, is true, but written about in such a light as to be taken the wrong way. On another hand, kids put on a show for her, some of the people she wrote about all but reinvented themselves for her. Nick, the "young James Dean" as she put it, was never like that at all until she came along, he was a quiet, studius, well-behaved kid with slightly above average intelligence. The only saving grace of the book was the parts about the plight of the teachers.
For all its negativity, Prior Lake does have some amazing teachers.
Read more ›
Comment 28 of 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I think this is a WONDERFUL book! I am a parent of a student in the class of 2000 in Prior Lake. Yes, it does use real names and real situations, and many of our staff members are not portrayed the way I, personally, would want to be portrayed if I were an educator, but I believe it also shows the real care, concern and dedication that some of our teachers have on a daily basis. Ms. Burkett shows the frustration of many of our students by an administration that uses control and intimadation to "control" our children. These are young people who are suppose to "obey' their teachers until graduation day in June, when they are suddenly suppose to think for themselves as adults. Maybe some of the anger in schools would lesson if we start treating students with the same respect that administrators expect. Ms. Burkett and her husband were a welcome addition to our community and I think it is a shame that she is getting bashed by the same administration who invited her into our school because she told the truth.
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Format: Hardcover
I was also a senior when Elli Burkett came to our school. I was interviewed, but not used in this book. However, I would like to express my opinion that this book is very honest. The book is accurate on how I remember highschool. I was one of the students in Ms. Corey's College Prep Comp classes and I was there through all the events. I was also in Mr. Carr's classes. She skillfully and honestly represents events of that time and place and I truly enjoyed the book. It is very well written.
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Format: Hardcover
When I finished Burkett's book, I said to my husband "Is there anyone out there who still disputes this is what high school is like"? Judging from the letters to the editor of the Prior Lake local newspaper, which inspired me to buy this book, there is. I'm 37 years old and the high school year Burkett describes could have been any one of my own, my 8 years younger husband's or my 20 year old nephew's. Burkett spoke with real people, and let her description of their actions color our judgments of those people. Any factual errors disputed by the Prior Lakers are irrelevant to the reader with no personal knowledge of the events.Prior Lake is no different than hundreds of other schools across America. Burkett has all the contradictory rules, regulations and expectations perfectly laid out for anyone to see the insanity which we've created. I have to wonder if the typos, spelling and grammatical errors of some of the previous reviewers aren't a reflection of their education in America.It's a solid book, well worth reading.
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