Happy In Bag

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It's Not Debatable

I'm not a big fan of Joe Miller's blog. It's just not what I look for in the medium. (Although I'm impressed by his ability to attract such a beautiful bride.)

So I picked up Cross-X more out of local interest than from any sense of blogger affinity. I'm floored. I can't recommend Cross-X too highly.

The book is ostensibly about the debate team at Central High in Kansas City. But it's really about Kansas City politics, the criminal failure of the public school system, economic inequity and every individual's struggle for personal validation.

A massive tome, Cross-X is a veritable Moby Dick of debate. As with Melville, there's no tangent that doesn't fascinate Joe, and he digs into every detail with vigor. The subtitle on the book's cover hints at its enormous range: The Amazing True Story of How the Most Unlikely Team From the Most Unlikely of Places Overcame Staggering Obstacles At Home and At School To Challenge the Debate Community On Race, Power, and Education.

I found many of Joe's detours fascinating- including his studies of the complexities behind the district's desegregation, dismal school board meetings, and the mystery of Duane Kelly. I slogged through his digressions of less interest to me, such as the intricacies of debate and the romantic lives of his young subjects.

The book succeeds largely because Joe doesn't pull any punches. His protagonists are portrayed as deeply flawed individuals. Joe also calls out villians by name. He even chastises himself and his motivations. Perhaps most impressive is Joe's unblinking study of the cycle of poverty. It bests similar efforts by my favorite writers, including George Pelacanos and Richard Price.

There's no more pressing issue in this nation than the need to repair our public schools. And there's no more compelling work on the subject than Cross-X.


Post a Comment

<< Home