"Our Lot" provides a good synopsis of the national obsession with real estate. The early chapters explains how housing advocates pushed for greater le...more"Our Lot" provides a good synopsis of the national obsession with real estate. The early chapters explains how housing advocates pushed for greater lending to minority and other underserved communities that were subjected to historic discrimination through red-lining and "blockbusting." It also explains how greater home ownership by minorities was promoted as a national goal by successive administrations, i.e, Clinton and Bush. For a better explanation of how subprime lending lead to the current economic crisis, I would recommend "Chain of Blame," which better explains the role of exotic mortgage products and derivative securities promoted by home lenders and Wall Street. The later chapters of "Our Lot" discuss such varied topics as shoddy construction in California, mortgage fraud in Atlanta, dubious land schemes in Florida, and efforts to abolish rent control in New York. The last chapter discusses how government policy has promoted home lending over renting by, for example, employing the mortgage tax deduction (which the author views as a regressive tax) and lack of protection for renters. Overall, I would recommend this book to those interested in learning more about the book's subtitle, "How Real Estate Came to Own Us."(less)
Stories about nice middle to upper middle class kids striving to get into college with good, if common sense, advice about the application process, e....moreStories about nice middle to upper middle class kids striving to get into college with good, if common sense, advice about the application process, e.g., e.g., take both the SAT and the ACT, don't underestimate the application essay, fall in love with your safety. (less)
I really wanted to like this book more, but found it too technical and wonkish. I really liked the fact the author challenges the assumption that just...moreI really wanted to like this book more, but found it too technical and wonkish. I really liked the fact the author challenges the assumption that just because people are living longer that they necessarily should be working longer and spend fewer years in retirement. The author also makes an excellent argument about how Social Security is highly progressive, i.e., those with less income have a higher pecentage of their pre-retirement income replaced by Social Security than those at higher incomes. She further argues rather persuasively that the current 401k system has failed as a method of securing a decent retirement for most workers either because people don't save enough for retirement, withdraw funds prematurely from their retirement accounts, or make poor investment decisions. The author's solution is the creation of government retirement accounts and ending the preferential tax treatment of 401k accounts over pensions. Overall, some excellent policy arguments about pensions and the retirement system, but a tough slog of technical jargon, statistics, and numbers.(less)
This is a highly readable book about an important public policy issue that affects us all. The author explains how pensions became prevalent during an...moreThis is a highly readable book about an important public policy issue that affects us all. The author explains how pensions became prevalent during and after World War II in response to wage freezes and tax policy as a way to compensate and retain highly skilled employees. Employers did not offer pensions as a matter of corporate beneficence, but rather because it was in their best interests to do so. The central defect with pensions, however, is that it is almost impossible to accurately predict pension liabilities for up to fifty years in the future. This particularly hurt industrial employers such as GM, that once essentially owned the entire auto market with few competitors. As explained by the author, it is also far too tempting for politicians and employers to underfund pensions to divert revenues to current projects because the day of reckoning when pension obligations would come due would be far off in the future. Rather than relying on the 401k and other forms of retirement funding, the author calls for a greater federal role in securing pensions and in perhaps creating a government-funded pension system to co-exist alongside social security. Overall, the author does an excellent job of explaining the demise of the pension system.(less)
The author makes some valid and interesting points about public schools, but these are negated by over-generalizations, dubious claims, and lack of an...moreThe author makes some valid and interesting points about public schools, but these are negated by over-generalizations, dubious claims, and lack of any supporting evidence.
Some of the author's views may be summarized as follows: (1) children in schools are segregated by age and school children segregated from other members of society from whom valuable lessons can be learned, e.g., the elderly; (2) schools reinforce hierarchy and structure at the cost of independent thinking; (3) schools regiment behavior at the cost of individuality, e.g., bells, whistles, standing in line; (4) self-esteem is provisional, e.g., gold stars, prizes, honors, creating emotional dependency; (5) there is a lack of privacy in schools. In place of public schools, the authors mostly proposes children learning through apprenticeships, parents, and schools using a "congregate" model (an amorphous concept apparently centered on children learning through independent church congregations).
Among the author's more dubious claims are that literacy at the time of the American Revolution was greater than it is today (untrue, literacy at the time was measured by whether someone could read or write his or her name, whereas today, literacy is measured by functional literacy, i.e., can one function in society); learning to read and write takes no more than 100 hours to learn (no evidence is cited for this claim); and that compulsory schooling is responsible for a host of today's social pathologies, e.g., drugs, materialism, pornography (more opinion than fact, but again no supporting evidence is cited).
Those already predisposed to homeschool their children for religious or other reasons may find their views validated by this book, but for those interested in a more balanced and reasoned perspective of the benefits or drawbacks of public schools versus homeschooling, I would suggest looking elsewhere.(less)
Great points about the textbook industry and how the myth of American exceptionalism has skewed the public school curriculum. I particularly liked the...moreGreat points about the textbook industry and how the myth of American exceptionalism has skewed the public school curriculum. I particularly liked the anecdotes of how Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller have been whitewashed for the masses. I have seen several reviews noting that the book itself has a liberal bias and focuses only on the negative aspects of American history, e.g., Columbus's oppression of the Native Americans, treatment of African Americans during slavery and the Reconstruction era.
I think these reviewers miss the point. The narrative of American history as taught in public schools is so one-sided that students are bored and turned off to inquiry and further study. Yes, Helen Keller was naive about the Bolsheviks, but she was also a committed Socialist deeply influenced by the plight of women and the common laborer (syphilis and industrial accidents being a common cause of blindness in her era). Great, rather than just presenting her as someone who overcame a disability, give students the full picture and let them debate the role of women and class in our society. Yes, Native American tribes went to war and enslaved other weaker Tribes, but does this excuse Columbus' enslavement of Native Americans? Great, let's trust student enough to present a broader picture of history and let them ask questions for themselves. Rarely are people complete heroes or villains, but no one would know that from reading your average history textbook. (less)
Susan Jacoby discusses the historical origins and current trends of anti-rationalism (distrust of scientific evidence and reason) and anti-intellectua...moreSusan Jacoby discusses the historical origins and current trends of anti-rationalism (distrust of scientific evidence and reason) and anti-intellectualism (distrust of elites). Highly recommended.(less)
This books is concerned with how to introduce students to academic discourse. A worthy subject, but I found the presentation rather dry, and well, ove...moreThis books is concerned with how to introduce students to academic discourse. A worthy subject, but I found the presentation rather dry, and well, overly academic. Very dense with ideas and many good points, but not a light read.(less)
The author begins with Plato's cave allegory that we view the world around us as if we were all chained within a cave and misunderstanding the illusio...moreThe author begins with Plato's cave allegory that we view the world around us as if we were all chained within a cave and misunderstanding the illusion of projected shadows on the walls as reality. I have always been intrigued by this allegory and believe that it sadly seems more applicable to today's infantile, irrational, and distracted culture. Perhaps it has always been this way, but it seems that we've reached somewhat of a tipping point in the last few years.
Starting from this premise, the author contends that our social, cultural, and political realities have devolved into illusions of love, culture, education, and democracy. While I found myself agreeing with many of the author's points, his shotgun approach covering such diverse topics as professional wrestling, Jerry Springer, the adult entertainment industry, "infotainment," corporate influence over higher education, threats to civil liberties, corporate greed, etc., somewhat overwhelmed the central premise of his argument. While the book would likely appeal to those with more progressive political views, I would recommend it to anyone interested in the author's central argument.(less)
This book was a major disappointment. I got so tired of the author proclaiming how her boomer generation is better than the current x/y generation and...moreThis book was a major disappointment. I got so tired of the author proclaiming how her boomer generation is better than the current x/y generation and how her parents constant belittlement helped her build character. Complete and utter nonsense!(less)
I was hoping this would be more about the modern prison system, in particular the growth in incarceration and mandatory minimum sentences beginning in...moreI was hoping this would be more about the modern prison system, in particular the growth in incarceration and mandatory minimum sentences beginning in the 1980's. The book is mostly about the history of the prison system in Texas, especially the "convict leasing" system beginning after the Civil War. Not a bad read, but not really what I was looking for.(less)
This is really a thought provoking book on how to parent without rewards or punishment. Many users didn't like the book because it offered few practic...moreThis is really a thought provoking book on how to parent without rewards or punishment. Many users didn't like the book because it offered few practical tips on parenting. Yes, there are no checklists or simple formulas of if you do x you will get y result. The book is on how to build a relationship; more listening, working with kids on solving problems in a mutually satisfying way, and treating each other with respect.(less)
I think his technique of colloborative problem solving is very good, but it could have been stated more concisely. The book becomes very repetitive ve...moreI think his technique of colloborative problem solving is very good, but it could have been stated more concisely. The book becomes very repetitive very quickly. I found myself having read half the book and then skimming the last few chapters. (less)