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Real Men: Ten Courageous Americans to Know and Admire

By R. Cort Kirkwood
Cumberland House Publishing

Alzheimer's has been described as an autobiographical disease because it robs people of their personal histories and life-long memories. Its victims do not remember who they are or what they have done; indeed, they do not know that they do not know. Journalist and author R. Cort Kirkwood contends that Americans are suffering from a type of educational Alzheimer's, for we have forgotten the past and the deeds of those who came before us. He contends that children need to know the exploits of heroic men so that they may imitate and aspire to their greatness.

Written for young adults, Real Men: Ten Courageous Americans to Know and Admire chronicles the lives of once famous, but now mostly forgotten, Americans. It brings names like Francis Marion, Eddie Rickenbacker, Rocky Versace, and Audie Murphy back from the not so distant past. Kirkwood presents much more than a compilation of entertaining and enlightening biographical sketches. He asks tough questions about the nature of manhood and why these exemplary role models are now largely omitted from the education of our children.

Some names he resurrects are vaguely recognizable: Vince Lombardi, Lou Gehrig, Wild Bill Hickok, Davy Crockett, and Robert E. Lee. Yet even among monikers with a familiar ring, we find that revisionist historians and the adaptations of the entertainment industry have often distorted the stories and tarnished the reputations of these worthy men.

Kirkwood writes clearly and convincingly about manhood and what it looks like. He finds his evidence in the lives of real men--not perfect men, but men who understood honor, courage, and duty. He has little patience for defining courage as being willing to "come out of the closet," and he deplores the effeminacy of many men in today's society.

A number of Kirkwood's heroes are warriors, and he firmly believes that there are principles worth dying for and worth passing on to the next generation. Kirkwood thoughtfully ponders why modern America rarely produces the caliber of valiant and fearless men it once had in abundance. Real Men questions why some of our greatest leaders, such as Andrew Jackson, would now be disdained and disqualified by the same character traits that once propelled them to the highest office in the land.

Historical ignorance is symptomatic of our cultural illness, yet it is largely a self-inflicted wound. Aldous Huxley, who famously predicted the brave new world that America increasingly resembles, once remarked, "Most ignorance is vincible ignorance; we don't know because we don't want to know; we remain uninformed because we refuse to read." R. Cort Kirkwood has given us an antidote for our educational Alzheimer's. Parents should buy it and administer a large dose to their children.

Product review by Bradley Heath, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, January 2008

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