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Shelve Under Fiction? Steve Poizner's Book Lambasted for Misjudging San Jose Neighborhood, School

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In 2003, former corporate exec Steve Poizner had sold off his business and had some time on his hands, so he called around to several local schools to offer his services as a teacher. He'd never taught before, but wanted to reach out to school-aged kids and make a difference.

Mount Pleasant High School in San Jose, located 15 miles from Poizner's home, agreed to let him teach one US Government course for one semester, under the supervision of another teacher. Claiming he had no political ambitions at the time, when Poizner released his memoirs of his brief tenure in Mount Pleasant, residents were stunned at how their neighborhood and high school were portrayed. A year later, he ran in--and lost--the election for the 21st Assembly seat. Two years after that, he ran unopposed for the office of California Insurance Commissioner. He won. Now Poizner has his eye on the Governor's job.

"It felt like another planet," Poizner describes his drive to Mount Pleasant on the first day. Poizner reads from his tome on the latest episode of PRI's "This American Life." it's the episode titled "True Urban Legends," and in its Act 1 segment, host Ira Glass travels to Mount Pleasant to talk to locals, and to confront Poizner to ask him if just maybe he totally mis-perceived the school and that particular part of San Jose.

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Brian Leubitz of the blog Calitics also caught the broadcast, and lands on the side of the incredulous Glass, and the 6 out of 11 reviewers to date on Amazon who awarded the book with 1 star and scathing commentary (the other 5 denounce the denouncers and give it 5 stars).

In the TAL episode, Glass investigates several of the assertions Poizner makes about the school and the general safety of the area, and provides several pieces of data and statistics in an extra report published on the TAL site. Despite gently asking Poizner if he thought just maybe he got it wrong, Poizner refused to believe that, having come from his neighborhood of French bakeries and luxury car dealerships to a part of town with neglected lawns and taquerias, maybe he was just totally out of touch with how most other Californians lived.

So is Poizner's report card on Mount Pleasant accurate? Listen to the TAL episode here, and read the chapter Glass examined via Poizner's campaign site. If Poizner beats Whitman in the GOP primary, you'll have your chance to cast your vote for or against him come November.