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Class Dismissed : A Year in the Life of an American High School, a Glimpse into the Heart of a Nation Paperback – Bargain Price, September 10, 2001


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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0312283091
  • ASIN: B000GG4FJU
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,933,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Few writers can duck inside the world of teens without resorting to clichés, but journalist Meredith Maran manages to give sideline reports from the lives of three high school seniors without relying on stereotypes or typical adult incredulity. Perhaps it's because Maran's own sons recently passed through the same halls at Berkeley High, but most likely it can be chalked up to solid reporting and writing. A reporter who followed up on a story assignment and spent the 1999-2000 school year in this microcosm of society--dubbed "the most integrated school in the nation"--Maran illustrates some of today's most serious societal problems through the three teenagers she shadows. There's Autumn, a biracial achiever whose father is long gone, forcing her to hand over paychecks to help support the family. There is Keith, a black football jock who struggles with laughable remedial courses, run-ins with the police, and his own illusions about sailing into college on an athletic scholarship. And there is Jordan, the rich white kid who battles with senioritis, as well as depression, a year after his drug-addicted father dies. Along the way, Maran examines academic tracking, school safety in the wake of Columbine, teen sex, suicide, school system politics, decaying campuses, and the everyday trials of being a teenager--and a teacher--in today's high school. There's no hype, just incredible detail and description. Maran manages to be everywhere in these kids' lives and, to her credit, the subjects become living, breathing people, not mere case studies. And readers will find themselves rooting for these teens. Even the most cynical observers will feel they've been granted an insider's view of the drama that plays out daily in our public schools. --Jodi Mailander Farrell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Having spent the 1998-1999 school year closely following three seniors at "the most integrated school in the country," Berkeley (Calif.) High, Maran delivers an altogether engrossing and often humbling account of the stark realities of public education in "a country that has yet to deliver on its founding promise of equal opportunity." While the year was overshadowed by the Columbine shootings, Maran reveals that "Berzerkeley High" faces profound problems of its own. From an inept counselor who ruins students' chances of attending the colleges of their choice to an arsonist whose fires are increasingly dangerous, "the enormity of the issues these teenagers are dealing with" makes their individual achievements sometimes astounding. Skillfully integrating multiple and quite disparate voices, Maran gives clear and chilling examples of how white and black children are treated differently by both school administrators and the police, bringing to light the "dirty little secret" of racial inequality. Her nuanced rendering of the "day-to-day do-si-do of teachers, students, parents, and community" in a school the local paper calls "the petri dish of educational theorists across the country" should awaken readers to the realities behind political posturing about "improving" public education. Maran's concluding recommendations for change are rooted in her well-documented understanding that "Where our children are concerned, we get only as good as we give. As a nation we have been giving our young people far less than our best, with utterly predictable results." (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

"A family's world is irrevocably rocked when an old female lover from Mom's past reappears, in Meredith Maran's sexy, audacious, politically charged, and sure-to-be-talked-about first novel, A THEORY OF SMALL EARTHQUAKES. Ah, l'amour, l'amour."--Vanity Fair, February 2012

"A THEORY OF SMALL EARTHQUAKES by Meredith Maran: a fictional parenting triangle that challenges assumptions."--Reader's Digest, February 2012

"Meredith Maran's wonderful new novel, A THEORY OF SMALL EARTHQUAKES, is what Franzen's Freedom would be, if it were free."--Rebecca Walker

I could not put A THEORY OF SMALL EARTHQUAKES down. Even with my eyes practically crossing at 2am, I had to know what was going to happen! And I found the ending -- the ambiguity of it -- very satisfying, even though I wanted to know more. It was true to life, painful, beautifully done. Very strong, believable characters who I won't soon forget.--Dani Shapiro

Meredith Maran is a book critic whose reviews appear in People, Salon, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several bestselling nonfiction books, including Class Dismissed and What It's Like To Live Now. The mother of two sons and grandmother of the cutest baby on earth, she lives in Oakland with her wife. A Theory of Small Earthquakes is her first novel.

To reach Meredith:
meredith@meredithmaran.com
On Twitter: @meredithmaran

For more information:
http://www.meredithmaran.com/TheoryofSmallEarthquakes.htm

Author photo ©Lisa Keating Photography

Customer Reviews

If you're a parent, read the book and volunteer in your kids' classrooms.
Leigh Bailey
For reasons that escape me the author selects as her representative sample of Berkeley High Students NO Berkeley teens!
John Anderson
Maran writes so skillfully - like a novelist, anthropologist, AND journalist - that these stories come alive.
Mariah B. Nelson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was a member of the graduating class of 2000, and I knew all three of the teens that Maran writes about, as well as most of the people she quoted. However, she gets so caught up in melodrama that she misses small things, like the fact that Mr. Skeels' name is Wyn, not Wayne. Also, she seems to invent lives for everyone on campus; the white kids are all rich and drive SUVs to school, everyone else is poor, etc. The park is filled with stoners, and no one is friends with anyone outside their "clique". Having gone to Berkeley public schools since kindergarten (and being one of the few white kids, according to her, who did), I am somewhat offended at the view she has taken of my life. I live in the flats, have never driven an SUV, and didn't slack off my senior year of high school, as apparently all my peers did. I give her props for good writing, but maybe she should have had students edit it first. Had she done that, it might have presented a more realistic picture, but as it is, this book comes off as the literary form of School Colors.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a current Berkeley resident and not-too-long-ago graduate of a similarly "diverse" high school, I was disappointed with "Class Dismissed". The three students that Maran follows around for the better part of a year serve as cardboard cutouts enacting the roles that she expects of them. She fails to discover a narrative arc in her string of anecdotes, or even to relate them in any compelling and nontrivial way to national trends. Her "research" into nation-wide problems in secondary education seems to consist mainly of reading the San Francisco "Chronicle", and the "recommendations" that close the book are trite. While the local color is amusing, Maran indulges in the same sort of apologism as the "entitled" Berkeley Hills parents she criticizes, and some of her scenes depicting students of color are painfully smug. About the only parts of the story that brought sympathetic indignation from this reader were the accounts of Keith Stephens' arrests and batteries.
It may be a good book to get angry at, or to spend an afternoon with if you can borrow it from a friend, but don't expect "Class Dismissed" to materially change the education debate.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By John Anderson on September 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anyone looking for a serious evaluation of the state of modern education will have to look elsewhere. This book is a nasty little example of a currently popular form of writing in which adults who should know better try and get teens to �tell all� and then sensationalize what they hear. I suspect that all three of the student �participants� in this experiment in journalism will look back in anger at later points in their lives when they see how they have been used. Their friends (whose lives are also exposed) are probably already furious. Now, to the content itself. For reasons that escape me the author selects as her representative sample of Berkeley High Students NO Berkeley teens! Instead we get the hard-worker from Alameda, the jock from Richmond, and the trust-fund kid from the Oakland hills. This probably won�t mean much to folks unfamiliar with Bay Area geography, but it means worlds in terms of socio-cultural differences. Although the author makes repeated snide remarks about the �children of professors� we never get to meet any, nor do we see any signs of the middle or working classes. In addition, the author�s focus on a very small school-within-a-school fails to give any real insight into the experience of the overwhelming majority of Berkeley students. Even within the modest bounds that she has set up actual curricula content constantly takes second place to the author�s interest in clothing �we hear in great detail what everyone WEARS in High School but very little about what they HEAR and still less about what it might mean. Teachers are classified on the basis of dress, and we have to find out in great detail what each of our protagonists is wearing at every stage of their final year.Read more ›
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm a senior at Berkeley High School. Her characterizations are completely off-base and every student I know who read her book was incensed. I'm not the only one who can't wait to get out of this goddamn town and away from Meredith Maran and her posse of dogmatic hippy fascists.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca T. Schwebel on November 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I graduated from Berkeley High 11 years ago. Social aspects of the school are the same, "tracking" students seems to be the same, I had 3 principals in the 4 years I was there, but are these kids learning anything? The book seems to focus on classtime being spent talking about current issues at the school (racism, crime, death) rather than the main reason kids go to school. When I went there, a paper was not accepted if it was turned in late - period. If this is the case, college (and "real life") is going to be a great big slap in the face. An accurate portrayal of the high school, but not complete enough.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "mr_fishscales" on December 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Four years ago I began teaching college students after being in the world of research and graduate students for 15 years. I experienced culture shock; it seemed obvious to me that my students had not had the same high school experience that I had had. My sister listed to my mystified stories and gave me this book for my birthday. It was a big help.
Like these students I went to an urban high school with a significant minority population, largely African-American at the time (the mid 1970s). However, we did not have "tracking" in our school system. I am a white male from a middle class family and I did well in school. I was placed in class after class with students who (if, for example, it was an English class) could not read at their grade level. At the time I found this frustrating. Instead of actually reading Native Son, for example, we read a 'teleplay' of Native Son. Looking back on the experience, however, I have seen the wisdom of putting students of varying academic ability together; it developed my empathy for people with backgrounds that were different from my own.
Meredith Maran's book is at its best when she simply reports what is going on inside of Berkeley High School. When she gets out her soapbox and starts trying to address the larger societal issues that are influencing the events at BHS she quickly bogs down.
That none of the three students whom she profiles live in Berkeley is quite beside the point. I don't remember if a number is provided, but it seems that a significant percentages of BHS students come from other parts of the East Bay. I also do not believe that any of these students will be embarrassed in the future by the way they come off in this book.
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