Cover image for Class dismissed : a year in the life of an American high school : a glimpse into the heart of a nation
Class dismissed : a year in the life of an American high school : a glimpse into the heart of a nation
Maran, Meredith.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xviii, 301 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
LD7501.B5 M27 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Maran chronicles the senior year of three students in the Berkeley High School class of 2000 in what was a particularly tumultuous year for a school famous for diversity, creativity, and liberality. The three students faced the typical problems of teen angst and the senior year against the backdrop of a series of arsons, challenges to their school's accreditation, and rising tensions between parents, teachers, and administrators. Autumn, a biracial teen, is smart but has few economic resources to help her with the college-admissions process. Jordan, a white teen, is from a wealthy family and is getting private counseling and test-taking preparation. Keith, a black youth, is blindly confident that his athletic ability will get him into college. Maran follows each student through the drudgery and drama of school, work, and family to record their lives and aspirations. This fascinating book highlights the current issues facing schools from the viewpoint of the most racially diverse school in the nation and gives focus to the achievement gap between whites and minority students even in the famously liberal environment of Berkeley. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 itselfDa 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.DSusan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction: All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in High Schoolp. xi
Prologue--April 2000: Fire!p. 1
August 1999: Same Old Same Oldp. 6
September 1999: What's Upp. 27
October 1999: Bling, Blingp. 54
November 1999: Stressingp. 79
December 1999: Crackdownp. 103
January 2000: Scandalousp. 130
February 2000: Breakdownp. 154
March 2000: On the Down Lowp. 180
April 2000: Feelin' the Heatp. 208
May 2000: Ready or Notp. 231
June 2000: Class Dismissedp. 256
Afterword: Everything We Need to Know We Can Learn from Our High Schoolsp. 287
The Year After: "What Ever Happened to Autumn, Jordan, and Keith?"p. 297
Acknowledgmentsp. 311