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Go Set a Watchman: A Novel
Go Set a Watchman: A Novel
by Harper Lee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.24
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You nev, July 17, 2015
"First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (3.85-87)
As I see it, its the same Atticus Finch in both books. In Watchman he pleads with Scout to consider the entire context of people's lives, climb into their skin. Ditto with Mockingbird, the context is different, Mockingbird was set in the early 1930s, the worst of the Depression years, when Scout was only 6 or 7. Watchman was set 20 years later in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision on desegregation, Brown v. the Board of Education.
Atticus was never Gregory Peck. Gregory Peck was not a southerner, and culturally very different from Atticus.
Watchman was written first, a plea to understand the South, from the point of view of a Southern young woman who had spent some time in New York City. It was authentic, a plea to consider the strife in the South from the point of view of putting yourself into the skins of white Southerners.
Mockingbird was written at the suggestion of Harper Lee's publisher because, I assume, her authentic first book Watchman was not deemed to be capable of being a great commercial success.
Harper Lee was young and she did what she was told. She then wrote a book, Mockingbird, which was a fantastic commercial success because it was a simple morality tale, and because Gregory Peck was the lead actor in the movie version.
Gregory Peck said there was no other role he played that was more authentically himself than in the movie Mockingbird.
Maybe so, but Gregory Peck was not Atticus Finch, if Peck essentially played himself in Mockingbird, he was not quite faithful to the depiction of Harper Lee's actual father, Atticus Finch.
That is the core of the problem. Most of us learned about Atticus Finch from observing Peck, but Peck was playing himself, not so much the Southern white gentlemen, Atticus Finch.
Thus, the disillusionment with the book Watchman.
Atticus Finch was a Southern lawyer, State legislature, pillar of the community in a very rural southern Alabama town.
He was asked to defend an African American man in a rape case.
Which he did conscientiously. That was impressive.
But the jury was all white. Atticus Finch made no motion for an African Americans to be on the jury in Alabama circa the early 1930s. The case was lost right there.
No where in Mockingbird was there a suggestion that this Southern white man was in favor of school integration, no suggestion that he was a racial liberal in the sense we conceive of it in 2015. That is something many of us read into it. But it was not actually in Mockingbird itself, neither the book nor the movie version.
I highly recommend both books. They are consciousness raising.
Watchman was the original work of art, with the complexities of human frailties in her family, from a white woman's point of view, certainly not written within the skin of an African American nor that of a northern white.
Mockingbird, by contrast, was original art turned into commercial art, absolutely politically correct, good and evil, from the point of view of a white child in awe of her attorney father, who was nothing but perfectly good and wise, the strange unreal phenomenon of a northern liberal somehow miraculously living in the Deep South, in south west rural Alabama in the Depression. A pure work of fiction created to sell to northern children, and did it sell!!! Forty million copies so far and still going, a great international commercial success, it made Gregory Peck's Hollywood career more than any other movie.
Likely Peck never knew Watchman existed and perhaps had he known the flawed real character Atticus really was, Gregory would never had taken the part in the movie Mockingbird.
Taken together, they are original art for adults, with all their flaws and conflicts, Wachman, versus the commercial morality play derivative for children of all ages, Mockingbird. The contrast between the three works of art, the two books and the Hollywood movie, is strictly for grown ups. It's the real world, not for the faint of heart, not for children, nor the self righteous politically correct adult.

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Science Masters Series)
River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Science Masters Series)
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.87
154 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic and accessible Summary of Dawkins' best ideas, February 23, 2015
this book is published by Basic Books, intended as a brief summary of Dawkins' work, and I think it has done an admirable job of doing just that.
This book is one of the more accessible books that Dawkins has written because of its brevity, and yet it has certain poetic beauty.
Dawkins is a brilliant science writer of course, fun to read, educational, entertaining, inspirational.
I highly recommend this book.
Of course much of what Dawkins writes is somewhat repetitive of his other books, more or less the same evolutionary ideas
with somewhat different stories and examples.
I don't know whether it is that useful to make invidious comparisons between his books, as some reviewers have done, unless you have only the time to read one of his books, read them all and enjoy!!! This book is the closest to an Executive Summary of his interpretation of Darwin's theories of evolution, and most enjoyable too.

Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed
Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed
by Jason Riley
Edition: Hardcover
39 used & new from $10.14

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Open Up Charter Schools NOW So that Every Child Can Have the Excellent K-12 Education they deserve., February 15, 2015
One recommendation Riley makes for policy is not Constitutional in America. Taxpayer supported vouchers for religious based schools is a clear violation of Church and State in America, and would be objectionable to a broad array of people. Education should be science based.
Other than that this book is a good summary of secondary research on the various subjects he covers. Not much in it that wasn't already well documented, but it is valuable to have it all in one place and accessible to the public.
Possibly the most interesting parts about the detrimental effects of the minimum wage and strong unions on many blacks, and the fact that black teenage unemployment was lower than white teenage unemployment before the New Deal. Black teenage unemployment is today a major social and economic problem, possibly aggravated by minimum wage legislation, and union restrictions.
Riley demonstrates persuasively that some black teenagers are hurt by the minimum wage, but the much larger question is if the minimum wage were eliminated
would most blacks be better off? Would most people of all colors be better off?
Riley does not ask that question, which is the alleged basis of all good legislation in a democracy. Would most people be better off?
Riley fails to distinguish between "some" and "most". A rather important distinction.
The most hopeful and probably practical policy recommendation would be the continued encouragement of good quality charter schools that provide
superior education, insofar as they do, particularly for black, Hispanic and low income students.
Such as the Success Academy in New York City.
There should be a seat in a superior charter school for every child who wishes to attend right now, the vast majority of children who wish superior and excellent schooling K-12 are turned away because they lose the lotteries for these schools. That is a crying shame and in practice racism, public district schools for blacks and hispanics are still very poor and well below the standard that is offered to white and Asian children.
The evidence seems to indicate that most people in America would be better off if more students had the option of attending charter schools, if they are excellent schools. Not only would some people be better off with greater charter school choice, but most people would be better off.
That is the main constructive public policy recommendation I get from this book.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2015 8:55 PM PDT

Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School
Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School
by Eva S. Moskowitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.39
91 used & new from $0.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Non Union Shop in public education- Great Success, January 12, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The first thing we need to understand is that this is the story of a non-union shop, these schools do not employ union teachers.
So the teachers union is going to trash Eva Moskowitz, if for no other reason than she is running non-union schools.
The second thing we need to know is that by all appearances the Success Academy is fantastically successful.
Academic performance is measured and Eva's schools are some of the best performing schools in the State of New York.
Children gain admission by a lottery, and the applicants for the lottery far exceeds the number of seats available.
For some 250 faculty openings Success Academy will typically have some 84,000 applicants.
The schools are funded by pubic funds at a level only 75% of the funding of the district public schools.
Typically the students are low income and drawn from minority groups that in the district public schools are well behind
in their academic performance.
In these schools everybody is challenged. Nobody gets paid by virtue of a union pay scale, seniority, or tenure.
Pay scales are competitive and dependent upon actual performance, not union pay scales.
Through a lot of hard work and inspirational teaching, the Success Academy charter schools seem to be working for
a growing number of children, most of whom are low income and eligible for subsidized or free school lunches.
There is a question of the rights of unionized teachers versus the need for an excellent education for the children,
which is supposed to be the whole purpose of public education in the first place.
If all the children who want to attend Success Academy are admitted because there are enough seats in the Academy's schools
to admit them all, the children and their parents will have a free choice between the public district schools and the public charter schools.
The more students who enroll in the Academy the more money there will be for the district schools because the Academy is only allocated 75%
of the cost of the district schools. When this happens the Success Academy will be an excellent role model for the district schools and excellent
competition to motivate district schools to do a better job of educating our children. That is a good thing. Excellent. The general level of education will be elevated for all students.
Before knocking this book and the Success Academy, please think twice. There is a very strong work ethic in these schools on the part of administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The kids in the Success Academy seemed destined to be solid citizens, not into drugs and crime, which tragically do exist in the public district schools.
This book and the accompanying DVD clearly shows how all of this is done in actual classrooms.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It should be thoroughly studied by parents, students, teachers, taxpayers, voters, unions, and public officials.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2015 7:47 AM PDT

Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools
Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools
by Joel Klein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.82
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mayor Bill de Blasio versus excellence in NYC schools for minority students, a tragic conflict., December 25, 2014
Tragically, current Mayor Bill de Blasio opposes excellence in New York City for minorities.
Joel Klein did his best for NY schools when he served as chancellor of the New York City Department of Education of Education from 2002 to 2011
as a Bloomberg appointee.
This book is a short bio of his life, his professional life, and experiences with NYC schools.
It does badly require an index at the end.
I highly recommend the book especially for people who would like to learn about the difficulties that the City school system has encountered
to the Teachers unions, and see the progress that Klein made possible.
He mentions only in passing Eva Moskowitz and her extraordinarily outstanding Success Academy chain of schools in Harlem and other parts
of the City. That is unfortunate.
Bill de Blasio opposes the schools and Gov. Cuomo supports them.
The success of the students under Moskowitz is truly extraordinary.
For more information I recommend a New York Times Magazine article Sept. 9, 2014, entitled "The Battle for New York Schools: Eva Moskowitz vs. Mayor Bill de Blasio".
also there is a video "The Lottery" and a current article in Reason Magazine featuring an interview with Eva Moskowitz.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2015 8:12 AM PDT

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
by Cecil B. Murphey
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.99
465 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the importance of hard work and "doing your homework" for every student, December 9, 2014
highly inspirational and yet in some sense incredible.
More than anything else this biography illustrates the absolute importance of individual effort and discipline in a successful life, and in doing what you love,
and what you are good at. also the importance of higher education or training for every child, in so far as possible.
It is understandable the a young boy having been taught religion would believe in divine intervention in his own life, even in the most trivial of ways.
and that religious beliefs have been an inspiration to Dr. BenCarson and a guiding light for his life.
that part is credible enough.
Ben apparently really believed that if he found a ten dollar bill on the sidewalk when he needed money, that was part of the divine intervention
in his life, and an answer to his devout prayers, and a reward for his prayers and his theological beliefs.
at the same time, we now know that the earth is not the center of the vast universe, and it seems just highly improbable
that a ten dollar bill dropped on the street is part of divine intervention in Ben Carson's life.
The vast universe just seems much too large for the divinity to be concerned with dropping 10 dollar bills in one section of one city
on the planet earth, which is not the center of the universe as we once thought but rather just a speck in the universe.
It is credible that this most eminent surgeon believed that as a child he had a special relationship with the divinity and that indeed
this belief was an inspiration in his life, that is the positive part,
But seems extremely strange indeed that as an adult man, now
extremely well educated, now a highly trained scientist and doctor,
and now extraordinary pediatric neurosurgeon should still actually believe that a ten dollar bill found on the street as a boy
was a sign of divine intervention in his life.
It is credible that some of his patients and/or their parents should prayer for good outcomes from dangerous medical procedures,
but at the same time it seems incredible that such an accomplished scientist and surgeon such as Dr. Ben Carson
should himself still believe that good outcomes from perilous medical procedures requiring such a high level of skill
and training and diligence, should be the result of divine intervention.
This book is a very strange mixture of great personal inspiration, enormous scientific sophistication and at the same time
the most simplistic seemingly unsophisticated and unscientific belief in divine intervention in his life, even in the most trivial ways
of leaving $10 dollar bills on the street for him as a boy when he needed money.
At one level a very strange mixture of a great scientist and doctor still believing as a grown man, now an imminent scientifically trained
most eminent neurological surgeon, in constant divine intervention in his personal life.
Albeit most probably true that his religious beliefs were a constructive driving force in his life in terms of his motivations, we now know that the earth is not the center of the universe, the sun does not circle the earth,
the universe is just so huge, despite what is said in the Book of Joshua in the Scriptures,
the sun does not actually rise in the east, and set in the west, on the planet earth,
it only appears that way to us because the earth rotates on its axis,
the Sun could not have possibly have stopped in its path from east to west
for an entire day as depicted in the the holy scriptures in Book of Joshua,
because we now know the movement of the sun across the sky is an optical illusion
stemming from the rotation of the earth. The earth is not at all the center of the universe as we believed when the Book of Joshua was written.
And divine intervention in a little boy's life on the small planet earth seems highly unlikely to have ever occurred, as much as he believed at that time that he was the
center of the divinity's attention, and however much his life may have been motivated by that illusion, with all due respect.
Although HIS BELIEF IN DIVINE INTERVENTION may have been a significant force for good
in his life, it reality it is unlikely to have been actually true.
And yet the grown man, the most sophisticated of scientists and doctors apparently still apparently believes these childhood illusions.
So the most inspirational of life stories of Dr. Ben Carson, also appears to be most weird.
A life motivated by great and humanitarian scientific insight, and also childhood illusions.
Nevertheless the Ben Carson story well worth reading (with a large grain of salt), simply because it is the story of his life apparently as he sees it.
Even devout atheists can see the power of religious belief in motivating this extraordinary man's life.
For most of us who have studied evolution and science, Ben's life is a fascinating study of how diligence and education
can transform a person's life for the better, even if we don't at all accept his theism.
I think this biography teaches us tolerance and acceptance of other people's lives and points of view.

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The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.52
418 used & new from $1.56

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Respect for the other person's privacy., October 11, 2014
This review is from: The God Delusion (Paperback)
Dawkins quotes Jefferson extensively.
Yet there is one seminal quote from Jefferson,
That Dawkins never repeats.
Jefferson wrote something to effect that
"I would not enquire of another what his religion is,
Nor would I burden another person with my religious
In its essence this demonstrates a major
Ethic of the American Revolution,
And tolerance, but much more than tolerance,
A respect for another person's privacy,
With respect to all things theological,
And a respect for individual privacy
In all things.
Not even enquiring as to another person's religion,
Nor "burdening" him with a revelation of my own religion,
Manifests a very significance difference of values and ethics
Between Jefferson and Dawkins.
There is no evidence that Dawkins realizes
Difference between his values and Jefferson's values.
Dawkins no doubt considers himself to be Jeffersonian,
But on this issue of freedom of conscience,
Respect for and tolerance of the other guy's religion,
Really there is an enormous difference between Dawkins and Jefferson.
In the American Constitution also,
There is a clause prohibiting a "religious test" for any elected office,
And for the President.
whereas Dawkins urges voters to carefully scrutinize the religious
Beliefs of candidates for office, and medical doctors as well.
I think this a serious problem with Dawkins' theological views.
I recommend this book, with these serious reservations.
In terms of future editions I would recommend a strong
Final chapter, an "executive summary"
Summary and conclusions,
So that readers can understand what
Dawkins actually wishes the reader "take away"
From this book.
At the moment, there is substantial uncertainty in my mind.
Comment Comments (39) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 18, 2014 1:03 PM PDT

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
by Lord Charnwood
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from $5.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars quaint writing style, an English view of our Civil War., March 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Abraham Lincoln (Paperback)
I don't know whether this is the best book ever written about Lincoln, as some maintain, but it is worth reading.
The style is Victorian, poetic in parts, somewhat bombastic and wordy.
The chief value of this Lincoln is that it is the rare scholarly work written about the American President and Civil War written by an Englishman.

Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power
Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power
by Kevin Peraino
Edition: Hardcover
75 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating fresh look on the Lincoln presidency, March 25, 2014
This author brought to light many foreign policy issues that Lincoln had to deal with particularly during the Civil War.
It was of utmost importance that the Union avoid war with England, France, Spain, Mexico, Canada, or any other country
during the rebellion of the southern states between 1860 and 1865.
There were many war hawks, including at first Secretary of State Steward, who advised embroiling the Union in a foreign war in order to unify the country.
Lincoln wisely resisted "fighting more than one war at a time", and that decision and skill was crucial to the Union winning over the rebellion, known now as the Civil War.
The author demonstrates the origins of the modern Republican Party were republican, that is in favor of democratic government
and against slavery. The Democratic Party of the day, ironically in terms of its subsequent history, was at least in the South the Party of slavery, privilege, southern aristocracy, and thus anti republican. Republican meaning liberal, democratic, anti aristocratic, and against the concept of monarchy.
Napoleon's nephew, Napoleon the third, made himself the autocrat of France and sought to undermine the republican Union cause by installing a French controlled autocrat in Mexico.
Lincoln understood that the Union defeat of the slave South would defeat Napoleon's plans in Mexico as well, and the important thing was to focus on winning the American Civil War - and not get involved with a war against France in Mexico.
by the end of the Civil War the Union had the most powerful army and iron clad navy in the world, and was well on its way to becoming the premier world power under Lincoln
Napoleon III withdraw his army from Mexico at the end of the Civil War, he did not to fight a united America, and his autocratic puppet was executed by Mexican republican rebel forces.
One of Lincoln's two personal assistants and close confidante, 21 years old when Lincoln originally appointed him, John Hay, went on to become Secretary of State for Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt in the early 20th century, and gained a reputation as an American imperialist during the Spanish American War.
John Hay related that Lincoln would read Shakespeare to Hay in the evening sometimes. Lincoln seemed as close to Hay as any member of his own family.
Most Americans have much to learn from this book because it covers the Civil War from a foreign policy point of view, not ordinarily taught in American elementary and high schools.

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