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Culture Books


Weary of well meaning

On most public-policy issues, good intentions aren't enough

There are many good reasons to keep one's children out of the public school system. One of the most important is to lessen the opportunity for state indoctrination. The problem is not just moral miseducation. It is also environmental scaremongering.

The latter phenomenon has simultaneously terrorized children and turned them into little terrors when their parents seem insufficiently dedicated to avoiding the use of styrofoam and carrying out whatever other fads are being promoted by extremist environmental activists.

Facts Not Fear is a wonderful antidote to the misinformation being spread in schools today. In it Michael Sanera of the Center for Environmental Education and Jane Shaw of the Political Economy Research Center review many of the irresponsible claims commonly made in textbooks and offer relevant facts about the issue. The book covers everything from wildlife to global warming to recycling. It's an invaluable resource for parents and children alike.

Another government fraud is foreign aid. For 50 years Washington has funded some of the worst socialists and tyrants abroad. In The Road to Hell, Michael Maren, who previously worked for Catholic Relief Services and the Agency for International Development, details how even so-called humanitarian aid has frequently harmed its recipients. Many private voluntary organizations that are essentially adjuncts of the U.S. government perform no better than public agencies.

An interesting book about the War Between the States is Two Months in the Confederate States. In it English businessman W.C. Corsan writes about his travels throughout the Confederacy in the fall of 1862. It offers a portrait of a bustling and prosperous nation at war, along with Mr. Corsan's judgment that &quotthere is no reason in the world why the South and North should not live amicably and prosperously apart."

Those culture wars did not have an amicable end. In the middle of the 19th century fray was Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. Although the outcome of the war and today's clearer understanding of the evils of slavery make a dispassionate analysis of Davis difficult, he is worth serious study. He was a leading American political figure even before secession, and he demonstrated great dignity, if not commensurate success, in leading the Lost Cause. In Jefferson Davis, William Davis provides what is probably the most detailed biography of this tragic figure.