Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, March 7, 2014

Week ending March 7, 2014

starred review starMettler, Suzanne. Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. Basic Bks. Mar. 2014. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9780465044962. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780465072002. ED
degrees of inequality030714In this timely and thorough discussion of unequal access to higher education, Mettler (Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions, government dept., Cornell Univ.; The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy) takes a microscope to government policies responsible for education’s current postsecondary landscape. She identifies three guidelines in particular. First, federal student aid no longer effectively encourages opportunities. With rising tuition and reduced assistance, students have no choice but to borrow funds and, thus, become indebted. Second, the declining support of state governments for two- and four-year public education programs results in increased fees, which adds to the money students already owe. Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery’s National Bureau of Educational Research (NBER) working paper, “The Missing ‘One-Offs,’” describes an unintended consequence of this rule in that the majority of high-achieving, low-income students attend resource-poor public institutions rather than selective colleges. Third, for-profit universities accept federal student aid while serving students inadequately. Many do not graduate and face large repayment figures. Mettler calls the current situation “policyscape,” an environment in which decrees created at earlier points in history are no longer as effective. Policies need periodic attention, review, and revision, tasks the current polarized legislature finds difficult to undertake.
Verdict This work is essential for students of programs in higher education policy, government, and political science as well as anyone interested in the current state of higher education.—Jacqueline Snider, Iowa City

Smith, Neil. Robin Hood. Osprey. (Myths & Legends). 2014. 80p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781472801258. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781472801272. LIT
UK-based Smith’s (Jason and the Argonauts) addition to the Osprey “Myth and Legends” series provides an overview of the ballads, stories, and historical accounts that built the well-known legend of Robin Hood. The text includes numerous tales such as “Robin Hood and the Potter” and “Little John and the Sheriff.” It also attempts a discussion of the folklore’s origins, evolution, and historical context, such as where the lawless figure may have lived, weapons of the time, and how characters and components of the story (e.g., Maid Marian) came to be added. Here Smith does not quite succeed—the majority of the book is devoted to the retelling of stories and to new illustrations with commentary by Peter Dennis, resulting in often too-short discussions on these topics. In-text citations for further reading are lacking, but a selected bibliography and source listings for historical and contemporary sketches are provided.
Verdict Written in a concise and accessible manner, this volume would be appropriate for young adult and adult readers who are looking for a new edition of the Robin Hood tales and some brief historical or critical content.—Jennifer Harris, Southern New Hampshire Univ. Lib., Manchester