“Our nation is at risk,” the National Commission on Education reported in 1983. “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war… .” And here is Robert Coram of Delaware, on the same subject in 1791: Schools are “completely despicable, wretched, and contemptible”; the teachers, “shamefully deficient.” In the years between, the public perception of our schools has swung from approval to dismay and then back again. Carl F. Kaestle, an eminent historian, traces the course of all the cycles of school reform in this country and discovers that neither conservative nor liberal movements ever fully achieve their aims—which may be just as well.
It was Col. William Wilson who was doing the praying, and the thing he hoped was fiction was a massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops at a place called My Lai. Wilson was the Army man charged with investigating and confirming the truth or falsehood of the My Lai rumors, and now, twenty years later, he tells for the first time about his grim detective work.
The finest satirical artist working today is also a highly competent historian of a highly specialized sort. Here, in bright, barbed sketches, he shows the great as they get caught on the horns of strange, little-known (but absolutely authentic) dilemmas.
George Washington’s greatest living biographer says good-bye to his subject … a look at the various fates that befell the thirteen significant buildings we said, in 1970, were doomed … the Creek Indian whose collection became a monument to the American West and his people’s place in it … and, to usher in the new decade with distinction, generosity, and panache, more.