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Polaris Magazine
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Book Reviews
College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
Author Name: Jann M. Contento and Jeffery Ross
Subject: Satire
Size of Book: 5X8
Book Pages: 170
Price: 11.95
Date Submitted: October 26, 2011
Name Of Reviewer: John Paddison Name Of Publication: Paddison Publishing October 26, 2011
Review of College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair

Jann M. Contento and Jeffery Ross, Phoenix Rogue Press 

Forthcoming January 2012

Ross and Contentos’ work is a subtle probing of a reality that is and will continue to be an enigmatic part of contemporary America culture—the community college. I use the term enigma because the “pretend” four-year college/university has come to be representative of many, if not all, institutions in our society-- and the folks who populate that two-year institution have come to symbolize Everyman.   The two co-authors, in a truly artful, skillful, and delightfully whimsical manner, satirically deconstruct the whispered truths of that American edifice. In doing so, their novel articulates and makes visual what everyone knows but doesn’t dare talk about—the phenomena of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” that occurs in all varieties of American cultural and economic institutions. I have thoroughly enjoyed the work and invite not only educators but everyone—Everyman—to participate in this sharply humorous, satisfyingly refreshing novel. One cannot help but to see him or herself, and others as well, in Guitar Bob Zontarg, Porfessor Julia Flowers, Rebecca Bitterluck-Fallingflat, or even Dr. Phil Dolly.  
In a broader sense, though, Ross and Contento’s book is reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, a masterful use of satire to critique the lunacy of war. By satirizing the organization called the “community” college, as well as its minions, the two authors’ indictment can be applied to many of the other fossilized institutions that comprise American society.   And just as Heller’s work so artfully did, the authors’ fictional situations neatly parallel the patient chaos of current economic and social events.
The lunacy of the situation they deal with lies in the schizoid dichotomy resulting from the twilight zone culture of the community college currently--  the no man’s land between the first twelve years of public education and the subsequent four or six or eight years of post-secondary education know as the university or four-year college system. To illustrate this point, consider that the American public education system is ranked a lowly 22d among the developed nations of the world. In contrast, American universities and four-year colleges are the envy of the global community; to attend American non-community college post secondary schools is the intellectual goal of a vast majority of  international students. And sandwiched in between these two juxtaposed groups  is the community college—a shifting middle ground, a place  that policy makers and theorists  have been trying to define and redefine for the past forty years. What has resulted is a plethora of instructional schemes, quality improvement programs, mission statements, and massive, top-heavy restructuring machinations.
Is the community college in actuality grades 13 and 14? Or perhaps a training institute to produce unquestioning drones for an overheated, consumption-based economy that feeds upon   its own workers? Or, as was originally intended, an egalitarian means and a springboard by which young and old can be given an equal playing field in society…an arena where people can participate in a lifelong, broad-based education that will enable them to become critical, knowledgeable participants in the broader society? Or, possible, all three of these roles are somehow combined and so create  an ongoing identity crisis. As Ross and Contento artfully demonstrate in their work, the leaders and followers residing in the two-year college have seemingly stopped asking the all-important questions. What should students not only know when they leave this place of higher education? What should they do (and be) as responsible citizens of a democracy and the world community?  Ultimately, the authors force us to ask, “What is the purpose of post-secondary education?
This point is especially salient in Section 2, when Michael Staten is plunged into Argentina and in a culture and society that he can never come to know or understand. The situation is reminiscent of the contemporary Latin American education Paulo Freire, who asked that same educational question throughout his entire life. He maintained that the commoditization of education and learning inevitably leads to intellectual oppression and spiritual usurpation…a process that uses what he call “the pedagogy of the oppressed.” Inclusion and liberation must always be the purpose of education, a point that off- spring  Phil Dolly comes to eventually realize.
Through subtle satire of that reified institution that the two authors have served in over the years, and through the artful weaving of the story and stories of the people that populate that institution, they and their novel as well have achieve the same purpose and potential of Heller’s Catch 22 . . . that is, seeking truth through hyperbole.   How many people can see themselves in the distorted fun house mirror Ross and Contento are holding up to us? 
John Paddison, Phd
Professor Emeritus
Copperfield Community College
College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair is a satirical fiction novel about the life of a small midwestern community college and the lives of those that people the institution.