Class Dismissed: A Year in the Life of an American High School, A Glimpse into the Heart of a Nation [NOOK Book]


This gripping story -a year in the lives of three high school seniors and their school-takes us deep into the hearts and minds of American teenagers, and American society, today.

The seniors of Berkeley High are the white, black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial children of judges and carpenters, software consultants and garbage collectors, housewives and housekeepers. Some are Harvard bound; others are illiterate. They are the Class of 2000, and through the lives of three of ...

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Class Dismissed: A Year in the Life of an American High School, A Glimpse into the Heart of a Nation

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This gripping story -a year in the lives of three high school seniors and their school-takes us deep into the hearts and minds of American teenagers, and American society, today.

The seniors of Berkeley High are the white, black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial children of judges and carpenters, software consultants and garbage collectors, housewives and housekeepers. Some are Harvard bound; others are illiterate. They are the Class of 2000, and through the lives of three of them Class Dismissed brings us inside the nation's most diverse high school-where we glimpse the future of the nation.

Autumn was ten when her father abandoned her family; since then she's been helping her mother raise her two little brothers and keep food on the table-while keeping her grades up so she can go to college. Her faith in God gives Autumn strength, but who will give her the money she needs when she's offered the opportunity of a lifetime?

From the outside, Jordan's life looks perfect. He hangs out with the "rich white kids"; rows on the crew team, has a cool mom, applied early to an East Coast college. But Jordan's drug-addicted father died last year, leaving Jordan reeling with grief and anger that makes his life feel anything but perfect-and his future suddenly seem uncertain.

A third-generation Berkeley High student, Keith is bright and popular, a talented football player who hopes to play college ball and one day, go pro. But Keith has a reading problem that threatens his NFL dream. And the Berkeley police have a problem with Keith that threatens his very freedom.

Looking into the lives of these young people, in this American town, at this time in history, we see more than what's true---and what's possible--for Berkeley High. We see what's true and what's possible for America.

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Editorial Reviews

JoAnn Goslin
Writer Meredith Maran spent a year in the lives of three seniors in the Class of 2000 at Berkeley (California) High School. Her efforts led to Class Dismissed: A Year in the life of an American High School, a Glimpse Into the Heart of a Nation, an intriguing work of non-fiction. Because Maran focuses on Berkely as "the most integrated school in the country," much of the book is devoted to race relations, in particular how students, even in such a tossed-salad, multicultural environment, tend to self-segregate. What is hopeful is how their teachers attempt to cajole students out of their comfort zones.

A great deal of the book is devoted to the school's failures: A counselor's ineptitude shatters several students college hopes: arsons plague the school community. But much is made of its successes.

Throughout the book are excerpts from the students' award-winning newspaper, the Berkeley High Jacket, as well as original works several students perform in poetry slams. The Jacket articles and editorials are thoughtful, well-written and hard-hitting. And the poetry is fist-in-the-face powerful; it truly reveals the students' inner lives. This is the reason to read Class Dismissed
USA Today
Class Dismissed is a moving and, at times, heartbreaking, account of three kids from very different backgrounds...Maran tells their stories with great sensitivity. You can't help rooting for them and wishing for a sequel with a happy ending.
San Jose Mercury News
She's earned the right to get up on the soapbox; but it's at the front of the class, as a storyteller, that Maran best captures our attention.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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 Cahners Business Information.|
This is a must-read for anyone interested in high schools. In fact, Class Dismissed should be required reading for any education major aiming for high school. Berkeley (CA) High School is the country's most diverse—racially, economically, socially. Moran follows three students and gives faces to the statistics. They are a reflection of society—the tensions, needs, hopes, fears, successes, failures, and pressures. Autumn is a super-achieving bi-racial girl; Jordan is a well-to-do Jewish boy; and Keith is an African American athlete. We see their private lives, as well as their school personas. Senioritis is only one of the many issues explored here. Much more than a look at the students, this documentary examines the school, teachers, administration, and community. Moran ends with a one-year follow-up and a five-point plan for improvement. She says, "Everything we need to know we can learn from our high schools." You won't be disappointed in her careful, thoughtful analysis. Category: Education & Guidance. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, St. Martin's, Griffin, 313p. illus., Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Rita M. Fontinha; Lib. Media Spec., Norwood H.S., Norwood, MA
Library Journal
From parents to politicians, everyone wants to know how we can improve our schools. Maran (Notes from an Incomplete Revolution) looked for answers at Berkeley High School, CA, the nation's "most integrated school." She followed three students through what became a year of crisis resulting from a rash of arsons, criticism of the school's programs, and tension among the staff. The supporting cast of this riveting story includes teachers, students, parents, and community members, but the real star is the school itself--a 3200-student microcosm that embodies both the potential and the pitfalls of public education. Maran offers an educational improvement plan that begins with abolishing private schools, but the stories of Jordan, Autumn, and Keith show that individual attention is at least as important as institutional equality. At crucial times in each student's life, a teacher, friend, or someone in the community helped make the difference between success and failure. Everyone who cares about young people should read this revealing book. Highly recommended for all libraries.--Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A look at California's Berkeley High School during the 1999-2000 school year with all its pressures, problems, and joys. The author focuses on three seniors-Autumn, Keith, and Jordan. Autumn is black, college-directed, but not sure where the money will come from. Keith, also black, has exceptional football skills, but is poorly motivated scholastically. Jordan, white and a typical golden boy, is almost certain of acceptance to a "good" Eastern college. Month by month, readers see the differences in the lives of these three typical yet unique young people. It is easy to relate to Autumn's relationships and struggles. Keith's attitude results in the strong possibility that he won't graduate from high school, and he's in jail on prom night. Jordan's seemingly assured future becomes disjointed when an incompetent college advisor submits Jordan's ruinously low first-semester grades to prospective colleges. Disheartened by their rejections, he falls into a deep depression and, in effect, drops out of school. During the revelations of the trio's varied progress, the author gives sharp insight into the general climate of Berkeley High. She includes quotations from teachers, students, parents, and community figures. Fourteen pages of black-and-white photographs add vivid reality. This well-written, yearlong study of a typical high school offers insight on how present actions may affect future lives.-Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
USA Today
The students' conversations, whether with their peers, parents or teachers, are revealing and realistic. It's obvious the teens let Maran enter their lives, not merely observe them...Students, teachers, parents, community leaders and citizens need to hear these voices.
Kirkus Reviews
A lively, dramatic, and provocative story of one writer's sojourn into one of our nation's most diverse public high schools. Maran (Notes From an Incomplete Revolution, 1997) spent one year tracing the lives of three seniors at Berkeley High School: a somewhat troubled white boy from a well-to-do family, a biracial superachiever, and a functionally illiterate African-American football star. What emerges is a fascinating account highlighting the inequalities that characterize our nation's public schools. Although Berkeley is considered a model of integration (with African-American, Latino, Asian, white, and interracial students), it actually houses several separate and unequal schools. The white students make up 30 percent of the school system, but they comprise more than 90 percent of all Advanced Placement classes. And while 85 percent of Berkeley High graduates go to college, only 14 percent of these college-bound seniors are African-American. (Many more African-Americans, in fact, eventually go to prison than to college.) Not surprisingly, these clearly delineated socioeconomic differences result in all kinds of tensions: in the course of Maran's year, the school was plagued by arson, corruption, ineptitude, and plummeting teacher morale. The author concludes her exposé with a number of suggestions to improve Berkeley and other public schools. While her suggestion to abolish private schools in order to improve the status of public ones is at once naïve and frightening, she also suggests creating smaller classes, a more demanding curriculum, increased parental involvement, and higher teacher salaries. A passionate and intelligent account.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312271725
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/20/2000
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Meredith Maran is the author of the memoirs What It's Like To Live Now and Notes From An Incomplete Revolution and co-author of Ben&Jerry's Double Dip. She writes for magazines including Self, Parenting, Utne Reader, Tikkun, and New Woman, and lives seven minutes by bicycle from Berkeley High, where her two sons recently attended high school.

Meredith Maran's two sons recently attended Berkeley High, where she was a long-time volunteer. The school has provided her unlimited, exclusive access for this book. Meredith Maran also works as a consultant to socially responsible businesses and writes for publications as diverse as Parenting, Utne Reader, New Age Journal, and New Woman. She lives in Oakland, California.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in High School xi
Prologue--April 2000: Fire! 1
August 1999: Same Old Same Old 6
September 1999: What's Up 27
October 1999: Bling, Bling 54
November 1999: Stressing 79
December 1999: Crackdown 103
January 2000: Scandalous 130
February 2000: Breakdown 154
March 2000: On the Down Low 180
April 2000: Feelin' the Heat 208
May 2000: Ready or Not 231
June 2000: Class Dismissed 256
Afterword: Everything We Need to Know We Can Learn from Our High Schools 287
The Year After: "What Ever Happened to Autumn, Jordan, and Keith?" 297
Acknowledgments 311
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2001

    The truth should hurt

    Class Dismissed is truly a master piece. This book caputures the lives of three young and vibrant teenagers (Jordan, Kieth, and Autumn) who seem to have everything going for them, and to top it off they are attending one of the most multicultural high schools in the United States. However the probelms of these three students are abundant. Maran walks with these students through their lives, and depicits the trials and tribulations of daily life without sugar coating the ending. She makes the reader want to stand up in arms when an inept guidance counselor more than ruins Jordan's chance for attending a prestigious east coast university, by submiting his first semester grades, which in no way reflected this young mans true four year career at this institution. How chould we not cheer for Kieth and Autumn to make it, when so many Afican-American children are not. Because they are both talented,inspiring, and most defintely will achieve if given the chance. The main characters have the guts and deserve the glory after everything each has been through. Berkley High School is one in a million, this is a pilar of education that has it's faults, but stands way above the others when it comes to capturing a true tossed salad with all the fixings. Even though the students tended to hang in their own groups, they learned to except one another and exist together. I enjoyed this book, and could not put it down. I wanted to know what faith lied ahead for these three students and to the hallowed halls of Berkley High.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2001


    I am a student at Berkeley High. I walk through the stairwell in the C-building that is featured on the cover of the book everyday. I began to read Class Dismissed and was thoroughly disappointed in what I found. This book and its author are an example of the kind of reactionary stereotyping that plagues Berkeley. Some people here just want to be hippies and tell the rest of the world how they're not as intelligent as they who have found the truth in light of all the 'lies' they've been taught over their lives. There are a lot of narcissists here in Berkeley who think that they have discovered racism. I'm white, and I'm not a racist. I'm sick to death of being the target of anti-white racial slurs every time I go to school and pushed around in the hallways. I'm tired of being typecast as the enemy. I'm sick of books like Class Dismissed that tell the world that the problem with Berekely high is that the white-women-in-the-hills are corrupting the school. Yeah, right, come visit and you'll see that the 'white mothers' are trying to ensure that their students get an education, any education. This school is about to lose its acredidation because it is so disorganized. There is chaos in every classroom and a reluctance to stop any disturbance if it is from a black person. Telling a kid of African-American descent to turn off his boombox which is blasing in a classroom (which has been the case before) is deemed racist. It's a wonder that mothers and fathers of the other children in the class get worried when they hear this is their kids English class. So they go to the administration, which is mostly run by black women, and complain. The administration is highly combative with anyone who wants to make any change and cause any work, so there is a lot of conflict between the parents, predominately white for socio-economic resons I'm not going to even get into (just know that this is the only public highschool in all of Berkeley), and inevitably somebody yells 'racist.' Please, don't listen to this woman, for whatever issues of her own, she has jumped on the 'rich white people are evil' bandwagon, and has written a book about it to gain the approval of those on the bandwagon. She even attempts to back up her notion of being 'different' and better by telling about how she sold that secret udercover newspaper in the bathroom, man, in the sixties, man, for ten cents, man, and they weren't full of lies like the man, man. She didn't listen to the lies the world was telling her, man. There all out to get you. She was having sex and smoking ganja, probably with cool people, man. Yeah, she knows the truth. The rest of us are all drones. Please grow up. She does not deserve any of the credit that she is receiving and I seriously doubt that if the setting was not in Berkeley, she would be receiving as much positive feedback about how enlightening and revolutionalry her book is. For the sake of progressive thinking, ignore this woman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2003

    Inherently Prejudiced

    The author of Class Dismissed, Meredith Maran is obviously prejudiced to and a sympathesizer of 'African American' teenagers. This is for good reason but while she writes African American, in the same book she uses 'white' to refer to Caucasians. In the process for making up for the racism in the past, Meredith has overcompensate by becoming racially insensitive to Caucasians. Either refer to both groups of people as black and white or African American and Caucasian. There should not be a double standard. The first step towards equality are expectations, equal expectations. This is just one among other cited examples of prejudice on Meredith's part. In addition, the other minorities, Asians and Latinos took a backseat to Meredith's book. Somehow, Asians' outstanding academic achievements despite their poor socioeconomic backgrounds did not capture the interest of Meredith. While it might be true that Berkley High School is a mircocosm of America, it would be an overstatement to say that Meredith to protrayed it as so.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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