My advance copy of a review headed to The Substitute Amazon page. This is, frankly, better than any description I’ve ever attempted:
It takes courage to write a book. Few things are as intimidating as sitting down in front of a blank computer screen day after day and trying to fill it with something worthwhile. Perrin Lovett is doubly brave. He has given us an exciting, entertaining story. But he also had the courage to take on the most sacred cow in the vast American herd – the public schools. THE SUBSTITUTE gives us a vivid, realistic, inside look at the failing public schools based on real, day-to-day experience. Many non-fiction studies of public education have been appeared in the past few years. But THE SUBSTITUTE is the only novel on the subject I’m aware of that compares to the famous “muckraker novelists” of the early 20th Century who exposed such social evils as child labor, worker safety, and political corruption. These writers changed America by shining the light of truth on the social ills they addressed. I hope that Perrin Lovett’s novel will have a similar effect on how we look at public schools, which demand an ever greater bite of tax revenue while producing an ever worse result.
Perrin Lovett is a natural story-teller, with a superb command of language and a tone, sardonic at times, that is appropriate to his subject. And he has created a splendid protagonist, Dr. Tom Ironsides, the substitute of the title. Dr. Ironsides is also Colonel Ironsides, retired from the Marine Corps and from subsequent “black ops” with the CIA. He is an academic, trained in the Classics, and a warrior, trained to function in a world where competence equals survival.
At first I was concerned how Lovett would get such an engaging character from the battlefield against terrorism to the battlefield against ignorance. But he does it quite well, quite credibly.
Ironsides is one of those people with the self-confidence and the idealism to want to spend his later life setting things right. What better venue for his knowledge, skills, and natural authority than the schools? But since he’s not officially certified, he has to start out teaching as a full-time substitute. As a substitute, he covers many different grade levels and subjects, giving us a genuine cross-section autopsy of an unsustainable system. It’s crushed by its own bureaucracy, treats its students more like inmates of a prison, destroys love of learning, and drains the heart out of the teachers – most of whom love their kids and want to do well – burdening them with ever more testing and data-keeping and procedures instead of allowing them to instruct.
I won’t spoil the ending except to say it’s very satisfying. It’s fictional, of course, but it ends the only way the whole national public school debacle can end if America is to remain a strong, free, prosperous, self-governing nation. Only a well-educated people can keep it that way. If we do follow the new course described in THE SUBSTITUTE, we’ll have Perrin Lovett to thank.
Who writes that? Thomas Moore, author of A Fatal Mercy and Hunt for Confederate Gold. Hopefully, this will spark a string of five-stars! I’ll have a picture added, here, once the review hit Amazon. Now, if it all falls apart, am I to blame?? This is the kind of accolade one wants but then feels the burden of. Thanks, Tom!
PS: TPC “preview” – I keep waffling on ideas this week. Whatever it is, it will be good. See that, mid-week.