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A Class Apart: Prodigies, Pressure, and Passion Inside One of America's Best High Schools Paperback – August 12, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"If Stuyvesant High School's students can embrace learning so enthusiastically, why can't everyone? Alec Klein, a young Stuyvesant alum familiar with the culture, devotes a year to diving back into the school's daily life in search of answers to that question. Klein's conclusions are surprising and have meaning for public schools everywhere."

-- Jay Mathews, Washington Post education reporter and columnist

"Alec Klein, a masterful reporter and writer, weaves a spellbinding, sympathetic narrative about one of America's best high schools and how its remarkable students and teachers change each other's lives. A Class Apart also teaches an important lesson: that even the brightest youngsters -- whom other schools often take for granted -- need guidance and nurturing from caring adults."

-- Dan Golden, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Wall Street Journal and author of The Price of Admission

About the Author

Alec Klein is an award-winning reporter at The Washington Post. His previous book, Stealing Time: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Collapse of AOL Time Warner, was a national bestseller that The New York Times called "a compelling parable of greed and power and hubris." He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743299450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743299459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Like the author, I am an alumnus of Stuyvesant.
Jordan Sonnenblick
The book is real, yet it reads like a story book, drawing us into the lives of the characters, while anchoring us in the reality of the plight of gifted students.
Lauren B. Davis
For that reason, I highly recommend those with children in Stuy (or considering sending their kids to Stuy) to read it.
Y. Leventhal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Anna W. on August 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a very recent graduate of Stuyvesant (class of 2005), I find that in his book, Klein swiftly misrepresents the majority of Stuyvesant's student body. How? By neglecting to represent them at all.

Klein's representation of Stuyvesant as a hotbed of intellectual activity, where the students excel and the teachers encourage, is certainly not false. But it is extremely narrow. Klein writes of the spattering of advanced math and science courses; the exemplary English classes; the self-sacrificing and highly dedicated teachers; the student who brings a textbook to Senior Prom. He writes of the students and parents who fret over grades of 98 and 97, and the intense competition to get into highly-coveted colleges. But not everyone at Stuyvesant is a genius, a Milo or an Andrew or a Romeo. Not everyone at Stuyvesant is as strung-out, competitive, and over-achieving as Klein portrays them to be. And not every student is as caught up in the illusion of Stuyvesant as Klein himself gradually seems to become.

To his credit, Klein has no pretenses that all the students at Stuyvesant are extraordinarily gifted (although he does have a slightly annoying habit of quoting a disproportionate number of Ivy League-bound seniors - how about a little liberal arts action?).

It is true that at Stuyvesant, teachers go out of their way help and encourage their brightest students. This is apparent in the wide array of course offerings and in the abundant resources and support offered to those who excel in certain subjects, often math or the sciences. Brilliant students are rewarded - as they should be, particularly at a school like Stuyvesant. That's part of Stuyvesant's promise, and to a select few, it delivers.
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43 of 58 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In 1859 Charles Darwin concluded his "Origin of Species" with a memorable, truly moving, paragraph that includes this famous phrase, "There is grandeur in this view of life....". Had he met the brilliant students and teachers of Stuyvesant High School described by Washington Post reporter Alec Klein in "A Class Apart: Prodigies, Pressure, and Passion Inside One of America's Best High Schools", he might have also said, "There is grandeur in this view of education..". A view of education in which high expectations are not only desirable, but are required, from students. A view of education that promotes freedom, fostering the development of a meritocracy based solely upon intellectual curiosity, not wealth or other societal privileges. An educational philosophy recognizable not only to Thomas Jefferson, who advocated the establishment of an aristocracy based solely upon talent, but to Charles Darwin, granting him the very intellectual tools required for transforming a vague hypothesis on the origin of species into a firmly rooted, well-established Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection by the time he was ready to publish "Origin of Species". An educational philosophy that may seem elitist and outdated, but one which could easily transform the very nature of American public school education if it was applied throughout the country, at no additional financial cost, by school administrators, teachers, students and parents. This, in essence, is the story which Alec Klein has told remarkably well in "A Class Apart"; an exceptional, exhilarating piece of well-written journalism which covers the lives of the administrators, faculty and students of Stuyvesant High School during the Spring Term of 2006.Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Big Daddy on August 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Alec Klein's A Class Apart examines Stuyvesant High School from the inside. Klein spent a semester sitting in on classes and talking to students, teachers and administrators. What emerges is a fascinating study of an institution that really is an Anti-High School: A place where students care more about a theater competition and studying, than they do about football games. These kids are for the most part from modest backgrounds. Many are first generation Americans whose families could never afford the cost of private school.

Stuyvesant makes an ample target for critics of the magnet school system. While Klein addresses some of these issues, he thankfully stays away from easy, dogmatic arguments. Yes there are many Asians at Stuyvesant and few African Americans. Yes the school is funded with taxpayer dollars and only a select group gets to attend. Yes the competition is fierce and debilitating for some. There is no question that these are important issues that need to be addressed in a serious and thoughtful manner. Still, for those who call the place elitist, there is one extraordinary, irrefutable fact: You can not buy your way in. You have to take the test.

Klein ultimately supports the school's version of meritocracy, but more importantly he goes deep into the lives of his subjects and his affection for them is palpable. This humanistic approach is far more effective and enlightening than the usual dry analysis of Public Education. The book reads like fiction and you find yourself wanting to spend more time with the characters (really people struggling through their lives). By the end you start to miss them - in the same way that Klein, in his epilogue, says he misses them.
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