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Editor's Page

"Loser" is one of the ugliest epithets in current use. Applied indiscriminately, it diminishes the worth of people who are often merely unfortunate, but even those who bear some responsibility for their plight deserve a measure of simple charity which such terms deny. Still, even if the word is avoided, most of us at one time or other are inclined to think of both individuals and groups from a bottom-line perspective of winners and losers. David Marsich's essay on the Shakers powerfully illuminates this theme in connection with a deeply committed people whose way of life ensured that they would remain a small group who were strangers and sojourners in an alien world. He turns the focus of attention away from what may have been regarded as a pitiable, inevitable decline to an explanation of their courageous and creative fidelity to their sacred mission. There are no losers here.

Kentuckians have been debating issues of public education about as long as there has been a Kentucky. Richard Day's article on the Council for Better Education explores the events leading up to one of the most pivotal events in the history of Kentucky public education: the ruling of the Kentucky Supreme Court in the case of the Council for Better Education et al. v. Martha Layne Collins, Governor et al. (1988) which at last ended the longstanding scandal of grossly unequal funding of public elementary and secondary education.

This may well have been the finest hour in the long and distinguished career of former governor Bert T. Combs who agreed to take the case, though he had "no great desire to work for nothing" and needed to sue the governor and General Assembly "about as [End Page 1] much as a hog needs a sidesaddle." But there were, as Richard Day makes clear, many other heroes as well.

Glenn W. LaFantasie's essay on the "Mystic Chords of Memory: Thoughts on the Impending Civil War Sesquicentennial" is an excellent introduction to the commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial. He notes the extent to which the Civil War has been romanticized over the years. To some degree, it was romanticized at the time, at least in the beginning. This is an all-too-common phenomenon. In 1739, as England was about to go to war with Spain, the British minister Robert Walpole, who opposed the war, heard bells joyously announcing it. "They now ring the bells," he observed, "but they will soon wring their hands." Most wars, certainly including the most destructive war in American history, follow this grim trajectory. Glenn LaFantasie urges us to look past the "moon glow" of romanticism to the terrible impact the war had on all Americans, North and South, and to its profound effects on American society.

We are now planning a Civil War issue of the Register, with John David Smith, the Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, serving as guest editor. This issue will explore the Civil War in its various aspects, for which Glenn LaFantasie has effectively set the stage. [End Page 2]