Friday, May 17, 2013

Weekend Reading -- Josiah Bunting

Josiah Bunting is the former headmaster of Lawrenceville, the former President of Hampden-Sydney, and the former Superintendent of his alma mater, VMI (Virginia Military Institute). Bunting was the VMI Superintendent who oversaw the integration of women into the Corps of Cadets.

1. An Education for Our Time. This book was published in the wake of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The question posed by the book is central to the survival of the Republic -- where do we find and develop leaders of character? The book consists of a series of imagined letters from a Silicon Valley billionaire to his lawyer. The letters detail the plans for an ideal new college: where it should be located, who should teach there, what should be taught, who should be invited to learn there. You don't have to agree with the entire plan (e.g., every student must serve one year enlisted service in the Army) in order to find much worth thinking about in this book. It could even help you design your own lifelong learning plan. Here is an interesting, critical review of the book, from a Catholic perspective.

2. All Loves Excelling. The setting of this novel is a New England prep school. The villians are the careerist parents who have foresworn education for credentialing and marketing. The victim is a heroic, "perfect," teenaged girl slowly dying of anorexia. (It might be more correct to say, "being murdered slowly by means of anorexia.") Not the prep school life I recall, where overt striving was considered, well, lame. O tempora! O mores!

3. The Lionheads. A very different novel of the Vietnam War, about staff officers, by a former Vietnam staff officer. An essential book to help understand the human cost of military plans, and how plans, even those initiated for the worst reasons (e.g., to impress a visiting superior), take on a life of their own.


4. Ulysses S. Grant. I haven't read this one yet (have been waiting, in vain, apparently, for it to come out in paperback). But this series on the American Presidents is excellent and brief biographies are a special favorite of mine. I will discuss Paul Johnson's excellent brief biographies of Socrates, Churchill, and Napolean in another post.

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