Friday, July 5, 2013

Kirkus reviews TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL

Collins, Elizabeth
HBH Press (350 pp.)
$14.99 paperback, $5.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-0985093402; March 14, 2013

A nonconformist—and somewhat melodramatic—teacher fights for her freedom of speech in this impassioned memoir.

Essayist and writing teacher Collins (The Beautiful Anthology, 2012) made headlines when she was fired from her job teaching English at a Catholic girls’ high school outside Philadelphia after Collins criticized an unnamed student’s vehement anti-Obama class speech on her blog, Pretty Freaky. The author’s anguished account powerfully conveys the nauseating sense of betrayal and threat that she felt when the student’s parents—wealthy donors to the school—pushed for Collins’ dismissal and administrators failed to come to her aid. Readers feel potent forces colliding: a teenager’s oversensitivity, her parents’ sense of entitlement, the blogosphere’s power to publicize and inflame, and society’s conflicted feelings about classroom privacy. The book is occasionally overdramatic, as when the author compares her ordeal to the Salem witch hunts and the death of Socrates; she also cites a clairvoyant who diagnosed that the author had been “attacked by the forces of darkness.” She also insists that she was targeted chiefly for being a Democrat and a feminist and rather dubiously holds up her own speech “gently criticiz[ing] the George W. Bush Admin[istration]...for ecological crimes” as a model of conciliatory, nonpartisan rhetoric. Still, she makes a compelling case that she was punished for innocuous commentary because it rubbed overprivileged people the wrong way, and her story raises troubling questions about society’s growing impulse to shield children from criticism and diverse viewpoints. Collins also includes funny flashbacks to her salad days at an insufferable New York literary agency and absorbing classroom scenes in which she strategizes ways to connect with her students. She devotes the book’s third section to blog-post excerpts, which sometimes bog down in rancorous exchanges with trolls, but her best selections offer keen insights on the craft of education, writing and literary analysis.
A stimulating dispatch from the classroom culture war. 


  1. Replies
    1. I have done less than nothing to promote my book. This is all I have done (post the Kirkus Review). Real life, here and now, is too busy. Thanks for reading, EC

    2. I commend you for standing up to that bully.

    3. I considered it my civic and professional duty. But it was awful. Thanks for reading. EC