A valuable book containing valuable research that goes a long way toward proving that humans are a lot more fallible than we in our so-called enlighteA valuable book containing valuable research that goes a long way toward proving that humans are a lot more fallible than we in our so-called enlightened postmodern society would like to believe when it comes to stereotype constructions. His premise is basically that groups that are historically stereotyped as doing something poorly (blacks are less intelligent, whites are less athletic, women are bad at math, etc.) often overcompensate for that stereotype and ultimately end up affirming it, what the author refers to as "stereotype threat". It's a compelling, and plausible, hypothesis for which there is plenty of evidence, much of which is provided by Steele's own research, which he shares copiously throughout. This research, and Steele's deductive process in general, is the "heart" of the book.
This is both good and bad. On one hand, it's quality original research, with damning implications. On the other, because this research is basically the entire point of the book, it ends up becoming a bit repetitive and goes on for too long; Steele cites study after study after study to the point that my eyes were glazing over by the end, and I feel as though often the points he's trying to make aren't worth the amount of words he uses to make them. Ironically, I think this is mainly the fault of the author working under a "stereotype threat" of his own: that of the "Ivory Tower intellectual" attempting to appeal to a non-intellectual audience. Accordingly, it really feels as though the entire substance of his argument is only about 30-40 pages long, inefficiently interspersed with semi-related anecdotes (some of which are effective, some not) and forced attempts to "introduce" us to his colleagues, which fall flat both because it's no substitute for actually meeting someone and because there are so many of them I couldn't keep them straight anyway. This entire book could be condensed into a 40 minute keynote, and would probably be more effective in that format than it is as a book.
Ultimately, this is a boring book with interesting conclusions. I'd like to see Steele speak, and have no doubt that he's a perfectly fine academic writer - plus, as he has noted, his achievements as a social psychologist in spite of being a black man in a sea of white people are really pretty impressive given the social pressures he faced in the 1960's. However, this really isn't the sort of book you can read from start to finish without being bored unless you're an activist in this area or have pretty much unlimited patience. It's a book that deserves to be cited repeatedly, but as a work for popular consumption it's pretty hit or miss and the "Cliff Notes" version would be just as effective. ...more
There's only one reason to read this book: to prove that the 20th century "Old West" mythos starring John Wayne & co. was completely full of it. TThere's only one reason to read this book: to prove that the 20th century "Old West" mythos starring John Wayne & co. was completely full of it. The reality is that the West was dull. So is this book.
This is the late 19th century memoir of an actual cowboy, a frontiersman with dubious morals and something equivalent to a 4th grade education. It is an invaluable portrait of what life in the West was actually like: hard, dull, and dusty, filled with great opportunity for a few people to get rich on the backs of others and the rest to be taken advantage of.
The only thing I really appreciated about this book was its honesty. Siringo has absolutely no problem with telling the reader, "for posterity", exactly how things were, including talking at length, and with little remorse and less pride, about the people that he cheated himself. From that perspective, it's fascinating to compare these sorts of accounts with the mythologizing of the "Old West", from Buffalo Bill shows and John Wayne movies on one hand to more realistic intermediate works such as A.B. Guthrie's on the other. Ultimately, this book is a testament to the business savvy of Buffalo Bill and his Hollywood successors, who managed to turn the dull, hard world actually described in this book into the exact opposite and made a load of money doing it. ...more
**spoiler alert** I had Okey as my creative writing teacher many, many years ago, and enjoyed Arrows of Rain at the time. Maybe it's just that 12 year**spoiler alert** I had Okey as my creative writing teacher many, many years ago, and enjoyed Arrows of Rain at the time. Maybe it's just that 12 years have passed since then, but despite some good moments I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much.
To start with, I think the concept is intriguing, and there's a lot of great cultural exposition to be had. However, the plotting overall is pretty uneven; there are in particular some scenes near the beginning (the cab driving scenes) and when Ike is in the village near the middle/end that don't really move the plot forward and could have been tighter, especially any scene in which he interacts with people he used to know in the distant past. Ike's conflict with Pastor Uka is also unresolved despite a lot of extra exposition about Uka's past that seems to imply that something is going to happen. Maybe Ike's total passivity toward his former life and inability to change anything in the village was part of the point, but it left me slightly frustrated as a reader. Also, the "twist" at the end was pretty obvious. Though there were some very poignant moments throughout, especially near the end, I saw this book more as an educational resource for learning more about the Nigerian experience in America than as a novel in its own right. I also felt as though the style of writing was inconsistent; much of the opening chapters had Okey's unusual and evocative use of language the way he wrote Arrows of Rain, but the later chapters are much more flatly written by comparison; it seems like a manuscript that was worked on piecemeal over time and sat in a drawer for too long before it could be published. Overall, I'd say that Okey has a lot of great life experience that makes for some good stories, but the overall product isn't quite as good as his ambitions, I think. ...more
This is an adequate capsule history of America's most overlooked region, unfortunately written by someone who has never actually lived in the Dakotas,This is an adequate capsule history of America's most overlooked region, unfortunately written by someone who has never actually lived in the Dakotas, since people from the Dakotas with those sorts of academic credentials are few and far between.
Risjord obviously put *some* effort into this book, though after writing histories of Wisconsin and Minnesota he seems a bit tired and often overwhelmed as to how to approach the histories of a place he admits in the introduction to knowing nothing about before he started writing. However, the coverage, while comprehensive, is often incomplete and very uneven. Parts are really great, parts are rushed, and other parts are simply boring the way he covers them....but I think the biggest mistake he tried to make is discussing North Dakota and South Dakota in the same breath. These states are so different from each other that they really needed to be talked about entirely separately past a certain point in the early 20th century; South Dakota is basically a rectangular Wyoming with Mt. Rushmore, less oil, and more Indians, while North Dakota is a weird conservative Scandanavian/Russian German socialist experiment that's culturally more like Minnesota and structurally unlike any other state in the country (it has its own bank, lots of unusual socialist laws on the books from the 1940's, etc.). Though Risjord mentions these differences, I don't feel as though he fully understands them, and it's really to the detriment of the work.
The organization of this book is also very choppy apart from that issue. I feel as though he's jumping around between sources trying to weave a coherent narrative, but he's got a few pieces missing. Proofreading could also use some work. The text is fine, but every single one of his maps is missing the "c" in "Bismarck" - a common error for people who don't actually live in the Dakotas, but one that really wouldn't be hard to spot, or to correct, with a little more diligence. It's a bit embarrassing, really. I also wish he'd used sources beyond texts, which are fairly lacking in a culture founded by farmers, many of whom were illiterate or nearly so until the 20th century, and many of whom, especially in North Dakota, wouldn't have even spoken English at home until after World War II. He needed a lot more emphasis on oral history and travel to historical sites to pull off a comprehensive history of this region, and that's not work that he did.
There are some great stories here, or at least introductions to them; his coverage of things that are more "on the radar" nationally, such as Lewis and Clark and the history of Mount Rushmore, are very well covered; however, these are the things that are enough in the national consciousness that there are plenty of sources. The bits in the middle covering the more obscure or mundane history really degenerate quickly into "so and so explored such and such" or "such and such an election was decided in this way", and those parts really tend to be unmemorable. One gets the feeling that he found the one handful of North Dakota-related sources available at the University of Wisconsin library, drove through North Dakota on I-94 without really stopping much, popped down to Mount Rushmore, and fudged the rest.
Overall, this is a solid effort with scholarly sources, and currently the only history of the Dakotas that exists in-print anywhere. I'm grateful that Risjord tried. However, because conventional historical methods are not ever going to show a complete picture of either Dakota, but especially North Dakota (at least not without some in-person visits to local historical archives that are still very much in the last century), there's a lot of room for a better history to come along someday if someone has the motivation to write it. ...more
A relatively interesting book about the early days of id Software, focusing on the lives of the "two Johns", Romero and Carmack. The book focuses on tA relatively interesting book about the early days of id Software, focusing on the lives of the "two Johns", Romero and Carmack. The book focuses on their early collaborations from the "Softdisk era" of the late 80's and very early 90s through the bankruptcy of Ion Storm in the early 2000's. It does a masterful job of showing how Romero ("the ultimate gamer who could program") and Carmack ("the ultimate programmer who played games") initially worked very well together, but were driven apart by their personalities, resulting in professional disappointment for both once they became estranged. Throughout, it paints a slightly more hyperbolic picture of its subjects than is really appropriate, and Kushner is disproportionately focused on Carmack and Romero's relationship to the degree that some of the id team's early collaborators (especially Bobby Prince, often considered the John Williams of that era of game music composers) are barely mentioned at all. However, it's really the only "official" book that's been written about the early id Software, so for that reason it's still an invaluable read for anyone who grew up with id's games and wants to learn more about the guys behind them. It's a fast, easy read that's written in an engaging tone and full of information from Carmack and Romero themselves that's not available anywhere else. Just expect a little bit of journalistic slant for your trouble. ...more
I really wanted to like this book. Kohn's thesis is that American attitudes toward other peoples' children, and toward children in general, are unneceI really wanted to like this book. Kohn's thesis is that American attitudes toward other peoples' children, and toward children in general, are unnecessarily conservative and punitive. He argues that the media argument that the millennial generation is uniquely spoiled and narcissistic is basically bull; all older generations since Socrates have written negatively about the younger generation because peoples' viewpoints change as they age. He also argues that liberals and conservatives alike practice a very narrow and small-minded definition of parenting that focuses on Darwinian punitive measures "for their own good" instead of providing them with the support they need to be mentally healthy and successful. These are refreshing points. However, that's really as far as I could get in this book before he just started making those same points over and over again, chapter after chapter - this seems more suited to extended article form than to a book. The first two chapters are good, but then he's just stretching out variations of the same theme over and over again, with barely any new content moving the argument forward. I like where Kohn was going with this, but he gets stuck along the way. If he'd done a better job of being concise and stripping out a lot of the redundancy in the middle instead of following the same formula for every chapter, I'd have rated this a lot higher, but the way it is now I couldn't finish it. ...more
This is a book written by two senior faculty at the Arizona State University School of Education and their "associates" (Ph.D students). The profs getThis is a book written by two senior faculty at the Arizona State University School of Education and their "associates" (Ph.D students). The profs get about 10 "myths" each, and their stable of doc students handle the rest. As such, this is a book with close to 30 authors, and as a result it's a very inconsistent reading experience. The essays vary wildly in quality; the best are chiefly in the "general myths" and "myths about college and career readiness" sections, while the worst are undeniably the exclamation point-and-enthusiastically-bias-laden "myths about teachers", which read more like the talking points of an NEA publication than they do objective research. There are also a few examples of simply awful scholarship (e.g. an essay trying to make a point about the modern educational system by using an article written in the 1970's as its primary source); or essays that directly contradict each other (e.g. one of Berliner's early essays argues that PISA scores are bunk, but one of his students later cites them directly as evidence in his argument; which one is it?) Finally, there are instances where it seems as though the profs are just pushing their own opinions rather than citing balanced fact, such as Berliner's far-too-short and inadequately cited article about group work.
Overall, I thought some of this information was relatively useful scholarship, especially when it talks about corporate disinformation campaigns to change public education for the sake of making money (e.g. hyperbole about international competitiveness and STEM graduates). However, it also overall demonstrates the low quality of research that comes out of schools of education; I couldn't help regularly thinking back to Labaree's critiques of ed schools as I read this. The authors' decision to avoid citing all of their sources is also odd, and seems suspicious, as though they're hiding something. While the more solid essays paint a good picture of the 21st century American educational system that anyone with children or who works in education should know about, this is still very much a book that I can't take seriously past a certain point. ...more