PreviewsBooks, music, art, theater, film, and dance
by Anne Downey '95G
The State Boys Rebellion: A True Story, by Michael D'Antonio '77
Divided Union: The Politics of War in the Early American Republic, by Scott Silverstone '85
Also of note:
Dave Kress '86G
Denise & Scott Davis '76
Dana Dunnan '73
Elise Juska '77G
Laurence Armand French '69, '70G, '75G
John E. Carroll
R. Dan Reid
Patricia M. Hughes '85
Bernard W. Balser '63Music:
Scott Lemire and Seth Warner '01G
The State Boys Rebellion
A True Story
See at amazon.com
A new book by Michael D'Antonio '77 tells the appalling stories of children—primarily orphans, truants or delinquents—who, in a shamefully unenlightened era, were branded "feebleminded" and institutionalized.
D'Antonio focuses on the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham, Mass., and follows the path of Fred Boyce, who was incarcerated from age 7 to 19. As part of a group of "high functioning" boys known as the Science Club, Boyce was fed radioactive oatmeal in a secret experiment.
The experiment with its consequences was only one of the many wrongs perpetrated against the boys, beginning with the flawed IQ tests they took upon entry. D'Antonio traces how schools like Fernald stemmed from a eugenics movement that took hold in America in the early- to mid-20th century. The boys were subject, at best, to neglect, abuse and desperate loneliness, and at worst, lobotomy, sterilization, shock therapy and psychotropic drugs.
Drawing on school archives, government documents and extensive interviews, D'Antonio shows how Boyce and many others had native intelligence well within the normal range. Complaints about the abuse they suffered went unheard, and the boys began to rebel, running away, and in 1957, rioting. In one poignant incident, 16-year-old Boyce asked a school psychiatrist, "If you had a kid, and even if that kid were retarded, for real, would you put him in this place?" Taken aback, the doctor demanded of an attendant, "What's this kid doing here?" Then he turned to Boyce and said, "You're right. I wouldn't do it."
Years later, Boyce organized fellow State Boys and brought a successful lawsuit against Massachusetts, MIT and Quaker Oats for using them as unwitting experimental subjects.
D'Antonio's book has created a stir: the State Boys' story was featured on "60 Minutes," and Steven Spielberg has acquired the film rights. But read the book. D'Antonio, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, is a sensitive storyteller and a writer with great integrity. His book is a fascinating tale of good intentions gone terribly awry.
The Politics of War in the Early American Republic
See at amazon.com
What prevents a nation from going to war? When Alexis de Toqueville visited the United States in the early 1800s, he noted an American "mildness of manners" caused, he thought, by the social equality of democracy. He concluded that democracy must be responsible for a predisposition against warfare as well. Since de Toqueville, foreign policy scholars have divided into two camps over this question. Some argue the democratic process itself contains constraints, while others believe that leaders base war decisions on an assessment of their adversary's power base.
An insightful and well-argued study by Scott Silverstone '85 joins the debate by analyzing the political conflicts that arose in the half century before the Civil War. While the United States entered into war twice during this period—the War of 1812 with Britain and the Mexican-American War of 1846—there were seven "near miss" conflicts as well. In all seven, the United States backed down despite its superior strength. Although each case has complexities specific to the situation, Silverstone shows that the government stopped short of war because of "federal union," the mechanism in the Constitution that gives individual states a say in national policy.
Silverstone looks to the work of James Madison and John Jay in the Federalist Papers to show that the founders believed the diverse interests of individual states would make it impossible to declare war unless a widespread consensus was reached. The fact that the United States was not a single republic, but "a republic of republics," in Madison's words, would ultimately decide questions of military conflict.
The political significance of federal union has declined over time, as competition between the states eroded and America's role became more global, but Silverstone's main argument is certainly timely: that the study of situations in which war was avoided tells as much about political systems and international relations as the study of war itself.
Anne Downey '95G, a freelance writer who lives in Eliot, Maine, received her Ph.D. in English from UNH.