On Jefferson Davis

“Well, then,” Brielle asked, “what do you think about Jefferson Davis, Mr. Magundi?”

“If Southerners want to celebrate their achievements in the Civil War,” Mr. Magundi replied, “I don’t think they should start with Jefferson Davis. I think it would be fair to say that the North had dithering generals and a strong president, and the South had strong generals and a dithering president. And I suppose it redounds to the honor of both sides that, in the end, the civilian power was more important for the ultimate outcome than the military power.”

“Okay, show of hands,” said Brielle. “Who else here has used the word ‘redounds,’ like, ever?”

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On Historians

“But no wonder Derek can’t get better than a C in history,” Mrs. Bowman was saying. “I looked at his American History book last night, and I was asleep in five minutes.”

“And that’s not surprising,” Mr. Magundi said. “The only historians worth a dime are the ones who can look back a hundred or a thousand years and get hopping mad about what they see there, because those are the only ones interested enough in the subject to write books worth reading. But no one would dare let a good historian write school textbooks. If tomorrow you printed in a textbook that Aaron Burr was a scoundrel and a traitor, the day after tomorrow your office would be surrounded by irate parents carrying placards denouncing you as a Communist or a Satanist. You would discover that somehow, in the minds of thousands who had never before heard his name, Aaron Burr had come to stand for everything that was Christian and democratic. You would never know the source of that association; you would only know that, the next time you printed a textbook, you would be sure to make it as neutral and dull as humanly possible.”